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Diabetes Developments - A blog on latest developments in diabetes by David Mendosa

The Best Oils

September 16th, 2008 · 20 Comments

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Almost everyone says that organic, cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil is best for salads and for cooking. But almost everyone is wrong.

Of course, you could do a lot worse. Some oils are high in trans fats. Some may be contaminated with pesticides. Some knowledgeable people even have serious doubts about canola oil.

“Canola oil is a poisonous substance, an industrial oil that does not belong in the body,” write Sally Fallow and Mary G. Enig, PhD, in “The Great Con-ola.”

The problem with olive oil is that it has an unfavorable omega 6 to omega 3 ratio. It has about 12 or 13 times as much omega 6 fats as omega 3.

High oleic sunflower oil has an even worse omega 6 to omega 3 ratio — 19 to 1 (regular sunflower oil is 200 to 1), according to a valuable table in Susan Allport’s book The Queen of Fats: Why Omega-3s Were Removed from the Western Diet and What We Can Do to Replace Them. Corn and palm oil each have a 46 to 1 ratio.

Two of the better oils, walnut and soybean, have 5 to 1 and 7 to 1 ratios respectively. The worst are safflower oil, which has no omega 3 at all, and cottonseed oil, 259 to 1.

With all the publicity about the importance of omega 3 oils for our health, we are eating more fatty fish like sardines and salmon and taking fish oil or krill oil capsules. That helps to improve our omega 6 to omega 3 ratio. But it leaves out the other side of the equation — the need almost all of us have to reduce how much omega 6 oil we use.

Whether we have diabetes or enjoy perfect health, we can do our bodies a great favor when we concentrate on reducing our omega 6 intake. We can reduce our risk of heart disease and certain forms of cancer. A lower omega 6 to omega 3 ratio also reduces inflammation.

By reducing and eventually eliminating junk food from our diet we can improve that ratio the most. But even a so-called healthy diet is out of balance.

“The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in the typical American today stands at more than 10 to 1,” writes Michael Pollan in his book, In Defense of Food. “Before the widespread introduction of seed oils at the turn of the last century, the ratio was closer to 3 to 1.”

Our paleolithic ancestors may have had an even closer ratio. “The ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fats in Paleo diets was about 2 to 1,” writes Loren Cordain in his book, The Paleo Diet.

Professor Cordain writes that, “For the Paleo Diet, you should try to achieve an overall balance of dietary fats from all foods, in which the omega 6 to omega 3 fat ratio is less than about 3 to 1, preferably closer to 2 to 1.”

“The best way to do this is to eat fish and seafood regularly and to use good kinds of oils,” he continues. “Flaxseed oil is, hands down, the best oil for you. It contains a very low omega 6 to omega 3 ratio of 0.24.”

Certainly, flaxseed oil is the best oil for salad dressing. I like my own flaxseed vinaigrette dressing better than any store-bought dressing I ever found. It’s absolutely worth the extra two to three minutes it takes.

For starters, I use a garlic press to mash a clove of garlic. Then I add a little salt, a dollop of Grey Poupon Dijon mustard, and rub them together with a spoon. I use a double splash of the best vinegar that I can find. My current favorite is B.R. Cohn’s Raspberry Champagne Vinegar, which some Whole Foods stores carry. Then, I add a double splash of flaxseed oil and mix them up. While the traditional proportion of oil to vinegar is 3 to 1, I have come to prefer a ratio of about 1 to 1. Finally, I add some freshly ground pepper. Wonderful!

But flaxseed oil isn’t perfect. The better known problem is that it quickly goes rancid. That’s why stores usually sell it from refrigerated cases.

The second problem tripped me up. I baked my fish with it. Bad idea. Several websites wised me up.

So, what’s the best oil to use in cooking?

After flaxseed oil, the oil with the best omega 6 to omega 3 ratio is perilla oil. Until I read about it in Professor Cordain’s book, I had never heard of it.

“Perilla oil (made from the Asian Beefsteak plant) has a healthful omega 6 to omega 3 ratio of 0.27,” he writes. “But is rarely found in the United States except for stores specializing in Korean and Chinese foods. Get if if you can.”

I can’t. My local Asian store is currently out of perilla oil. The only Internet sources that I’ve found sell it in capsule form.

If I ever find perilla oil, I wonder how much I’ll like its taste. “In parts of Asia, perilla oil is used as an edible oil that is valued more for its medicinal benefit than its flavor,” Wikipedia says.

Meanwhile, I cook with a great tasting oil that I discovered thanks to Regina Wilshire’s “Weight of the Evidence” blog. She has a great post about how much omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are in a food or oil.

That brought macadamia nut oil to my attention. While it has little omega 3 or omega 6 oil, its ratio is just fine — 1 to 1. I now use it on fish when I bake it.

This is a mirror of one of my articles that Health Central published. You can navigate to that site to find my most recent articles.

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20 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Pat Thomson // Dec 28, 2008 at 10:02 am

    What about coconut oil?

  • 2 David Mendosa // Dec 28, 2008 at 10:33 am

    Dear Pat,

    Thanks for asking! A lot of people swear by coconut oil.

    But coconut oil has no omega 3 fats. So it ties safflower oil (along with almond, apricot kernel, hazelnut, peanut, and sunflower oils as being the worst possible oils in terms of omega 6 to omega 3 ratios.

    Best regards,

    David

  • 3 Dale Hubbard // Mar 13, 2009 at 5:43 am

    Is there no other benefits than those omega 6 and 3 to coconut oil? If so, as a diabetic can I benefit from using it?

  • 4 David Mendosa // Mar 13, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    Dear Dale,

    I can’t think of any particular benefit of coconut oil, except maybe that using it is better than using an alternative oil.

    Best regards,

    David

  • 5 Elaine C // Mar 26, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    What about Grape seed Oil?

    How does Grapeseed Oil stack up in comparison to macadamia oil?

  • 6 David Mendosa // Mar 26, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    Dear Elaine,

    I don’t have those references handy any more (I got them from our local library). But grapeseed oil has little or no omega-3 and is not a good choice.

    Best regards,

    David

  • 7 Elaine C // Mar 26, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    Dave,

    Thanks for getting back to me so quickly. Looks like I need to switch my cooking/baking oils again LOL

  • 8 Dave Noel // Aug 28, 2009 at 9:33 pm

    for my omega’s i eat chia seed.
    but in Canada the company Flora has UDO’S oil.. it is supposed to be a perfect omega 3-6-9 blend. And its expensive. Other than that i was surprised about olive oil. i thought the greeks swear by it and is why the meditaranian diet is considered health. Oh well…. we are misinformed by many things these days

  • 9 Scott Gillies // Feb 27, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    I don’t know where you live but if you can find a Super H Mart (a Korean company) – they carry perilla oil. You’ll find it near the sesame oil. Or, better still, buy it online: http://www.hmart.com/shopnow/shopnow_newsub.asp?p=8801831400159

  • 10 David Mendosa // Feb 27, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    Dear Scott,

    Thank you! We don’t have Super H Mart in Boulder, where I live, but I will check the website.

    Best regards,

    David

  • 11 Jean Pacholek // Jul 31, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    My understanding is that rice oil is the best oil by far and healthiest.

  • 12 David Mendosa // Aug 1, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    Dear Jean,

    Rice oil does have a very high smoke point so you can fry with it. But my understanding is that it is quite high in omega-6 fatty acids, which compete in our bodies with the healthy omega-3 fats.

    David

  • 13 Dale Hubbard // Aug 4, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    Well, which is the best oil for the body?

  • 14 David Mendosa // Aug 7, 2010 at 10:19 am

    Dear Dale,

    For salads it is probably either flax seed oil or extra virgin olive oil.

    For high-heat cooking (i.e. oils with a high smoke point) I don’t know of any oils that have a favorable ratio of omega 3/6 other than macadamia oil.

  • 15 Prescott Murphy // Sep 14, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    Hi there. Great info!

    You vilify coconut oil because it contains no Omega 3s. While this is true, it contains only 3 g of Omega 6 per 100 g of oil (http://weightoftheevidence.blogspot.com/2006/10/omega-3-and-omega-6-food-sources.html), which means for a 1 TBsp serving (14 g) one only ingests 0.42 g of Omega 6. This will minimally impact your daily ratio if you are eating ample amounts of fish or following a paleo or paleo-like diet.

    Contrast this small Omega 6 amount with the significant other health benefits of coconut oil related to its anti-inflammatory, metabolic boosting and cholesterol lowering properties, and I would strongly recommend using coconut oil as a part of your daily fat source. It tastes great in protein shakes, is excellent for cooking and can even be eaten by itself.

  • 16 LOU BONO // May 6, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    I was just about to order a quart of coconut oil ,when I read your comments. I researched ,who had been commenting on the benefits of coconut oil on diabetes and discovered in most cases it was the companies selling the product. another case of no USDA control.

  • 17 Rachel Valentine // May 6, 2012 at 2:23 am

    I see now that Flax Oil is best for salads and non-cooking, due to the proportionate Omega 3/6 ratio; it is not to be heated however!!

    My question is, although safflower oil may not contain Omega 3, I Have read that it is high in monounsaturated fat. Wouldn’t this fact make it alright to consume as long as one was active with ensuring an adequate Omega 3 intake?

  • 18 David Mendosa // May 6, 2012 at 5:41 am

    As long as your overall ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fats is good enough — most people would say a ratio of 2 to 1 at least — of course you can consume some omega 6. But we get a whole lot of it almost every time we eat out, because restuarants use the cheap omega 6 oils almost exclusively. Besides, you can get monounsaturated fats without the terrible ratio that safflower oil has from olive oil, olives, avocados, etc.

  • 19 ZhiFeng Liu // Dec 21, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    Dear Mendosa,
    We produce a series of perilla goods including perilla oil,perilla seeds,perilla capsule etc.You are very interested in perilla oil,so please look at our company’s website http://qyrksp.cn.99114.com/Default.aspx.
    Our perilla oil are packaged by metal pail,1600ml/can/138RMB,1000ml/can/92RMB,500ml/can/48RMB.Perilla capsule,120 tablets/can/68RMB.We are looking forward to your feedback.My mail is lzfgg2005@163.com.

    BEST REGARDS!
    ZhiFeng Liu

  • 20 David Mendosa // Dec 21, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    Dear ZhiFeng Liu,

    Thank you. Do you have a distributor in the United States for your perilla oil?

    Namaste,

    David

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