Fats and oils have different structures, which is what gives them their different omega classifications. Many of us already know about omega 3-fats, the essential fats (essential meaning your body can’t make them on its own, they must be obtained through diet) found in fish and flax oils, but not many of us know about the other omegas: omega 6, omega 7 and omega 9. What kinds of oils are these? Do you need them, and are they good for you? How are they handled for cooking and storing? You’ll discover that you can change up the oil in your diet to promote optimal health!
Too many omega-6 fats aren’t good for you, but just the right amount will optimize fat balance in your body. These fats are necessary and essential, but Americans tend to consume more than their fair share of them. In fact, these oils are so ubiquitous in diets that most people could stand to decrease their intake for better health. Too many omega-6 fats can promote the formation of unfriendly hormones called prostaglandins that can increase inflammation.
Omega-6 fats are found in safflower oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, soy oil and many other vegetable oils. You’ll find them added to many processed foods and salad dressings. It’s best to never cook with this type of fat because it’s unstable when heated (or when exposed to light or oxygen). The number 6 represents a double bond, and when double bonds are heated, they easily break apart and form free radicals (compounds that can damage cells). Note that these oils have six double bonds per fatty acid, so they’re your worst choice for cooking.
Watch out for corn and potato chips that have been deep fried in safflower or sunflower oils—they’re not as healthy as they seem. However, there are “high-oleic” safflower and sunflower oils that are OK for frying and cooking. These oils take on a different chemical structure more like olive oil (a monounsaturated fat with only one double bond per fatty acid). They’re more stable when heated to high temperatures. If you do choose chips fried in safflower oil, be sure it’s high-oleic safflower oil.
Found in macadamia nut oil and sea buckthorn oil, omega-7 fats are one of the few natural sources of palmitoleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid which is present in all of your body tissues. Your body can make omega-7 fats, but ingesting them ensures that you’re getting an extra boost of these quality fats that support skin and mucous membrane health.* You can safely cook with these oils on low to medium heat.
Sea buckthorn oil also can be taken as a supplement. The oil is derived from sea buckthorn berries, and they’re not only high in this special fat, but they’re also a source of antioxidants. In Chinese medicine, sea buckthorn oil has been used traditionally for digestive and circulatory health. In Russia, it’s used directly on skin to enhance its beauty.*
Omega-9 fats are monounsaturated fats found in olive oil, canola oil and avocados. They are beneficial fats but not essential fats because your body can make them. Research has shown that omega-9 fats can help promote healthy cholesterol levels, and may play a role in balancing blood sugar levels.* Omega-9 fats are safe to cook with on low to medium heat, but avoid deep frying and cooking on high heat.
Being knowledgeable about fats and oils can help you to make the “oil change” you need to be optimally healthy!
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.