Choose healthful oils and fats for your cooking needs

Published on Friday, 6 October 2017 11:29 - Written by PATRICE DUNAGIN, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Are you confused by all the oils on the grocery shelf? Oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature. Some oils have distinct flavors and properties that make them a perfect match for certain recipes. For heart health, nutrition experts recommend replacing saturated and trans fats with oils high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. The names of these fats refer to their chemical structure.

Fats are chains of carbon atoms, and “poly” means the fat has many double bonds in the chemical structure. “Monounsaturated” means the fat has one double bond in the chemical structure. Oils are a mixture of polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and saturated fats. Here are some tips for choosing oils:

- Use the Nutrition Facts label when selecting foods including fats and oils. Compare the fat, saturated fat, and trans fats content among your choices.

- Use oils containing monounsaturated fat, such as olive oil, canola, peanut and sesame oil, instead of oils high in saturated fat, such as coconut and palm oil. Despite the publicity for coconut oil as a healthful solid fat, the research-based evidence does not support all the claims. Use it in moderation if desired, and follow the guidance from the American Heart Association ( ) regarding fat intake.

- Use oils high in polyunsaturated fats, such as corn, soybean, safflower, sunflower and cottonseed oil instead of coconut or palm oil or hydrogenated vegetable fats.

- Use liquid oils instead of butter, lard or hardened vegetable shortening. For best results, use recipes developed with the particular fats as an ingredient. In some cases, you can substitute 3/4 cup of oil for 1 cup of solid fat (such as butter).

- Choose foods higher in unsaturated fats, such as fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, and tuna) regularly.

- Incorporate foods high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, such as avocados, nuts, seeds (such as sunflower seeds and flax seeds) and olive oil, into your salads instead of using products higher in saturated fats, such as mayonnaise-based dressings.

- Store fats and oils to maximize shelf life. Be sure to buy what you will use in a reasonable amount of time. Store oils in a cool, dark, dry place away from heat sources, such as near your stove. Unopened containers retain quality for one to two years on the shelf. Opened containers retain quality for a few months to a year. Consider refrigerating oils to extend their shelf life.

For more information contact Patrice Dunagin, Smith County FCS agent for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, at 903-590-2980.