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Are we saturated by oil information?

What is the truth about oils?

November 7, 2017

Are we saturated by oil information?

It’s surely could be a biased report that comes from a business or association that is investigating the oil they produce and promote? We read many articles, listen to radio or TV and try to digest varying lines of investigation and findings with many facts coming to contradicting conclusions.

I have been reading articles from Australian dieticians who are not associated with any edible oil companies. I’m discovering the unabbreviated story which includes how to choose oil in a balanced and informed manner and how to understand the information. Margaret Edwards in New Zealand is an international Olive Oil judge and has much knowledge about oils in general. She has shed some light on the misnomers that are circulating at present and in particular about ‘light olive oil’.

But before I tell you what Margaret’s advice is, first let’s look at the multiple aspects that should be taken into consideration and viewed as a ‘whole picture’ when understanding oils in general.

Nutritional content, calories, type of fat, how it is processed, what plant the oil is made from, how that is grown and type of cholesterol content are all essential to understand for everyone making an informed decision. No wonder we are all so confused! Then, there’s always you to take into consideration. Has there been heart disease, stroke or inflammatory diseases in your family’s medical history. This could well affect how your body absorbs and digests oils.

The key here is do not eat a diet RICH in any one oil, or oils in general. This can relate to our everyday food choices too. Wholefoods all play a vital part in keeping your body and mind functioning well. We can safely say eat loads of vegetables, but essentially variety will do you so much more good than just eating sweetcorn, peas and carrots! BALANCE your intake of food.

Wholefoods are defined in the dictionary as food that has been processed or refined as little as possible and is free from additives or other artificial substances. Therefore even nut oils and extra virgin olive oils are not considered wholefoods, these oils are extracted from a whole plant food. Oil in these foods, form part of their whole package which includes fibre, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. If the base product has been grown, harvested and processed in an ethical and chemical free way these are the healthiest oils to consume.

So this conversation and research arose from the question of making homemade mayonnaise. If I make mayonnaise from scratch (which is better for me (surely) than commercial store bought mayo) using EVOO, it tastes horrid! So what’s the alternative – is it a ‘light’ olive oil?

Here is Margaret’s response to my question.

“Your question about which light olive oil to use is interesting, because in reality, it doesn’t matter a scrap. 

Light olive oil is so named because it has no colour or flavour, not because it is low in kilojoules.  It has the same energy value as any other oil but none of the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil.

It is a refined oil made in an industrial process using olive oils that do not meet the criteria for extra virgin or virgin status, in other words, when these oils are tested, their chemical test and sensory analysis results make them unfit for human consumption unless they are refined.  All brands of light olive oil are the same. 

However, if you buy them you should make sure that they come from a store with a rapid turnover, check the Best Before date to make sure there is a long shelf life left, take the bottle from the back of the shelf as the oil will become rancid quickly if it is exposed to bright light and choose oil that is in a dark glass bottle, not a plastic one. 

Pure olive oil and light olive oil have a place in the kitchen for deep frying, but for all other cooking a well-made extra virgin olive oil with a free fatty acid level below 0.5% is the best. 

I would suggest any of the Cobram Estate extra virgin olive oils but for an oil that has a very mild flavour, Cobram Estate Light flavoured extra virgin olive oil would be far better than any imported “light” olive oil. 

I’m glad she’s cleared that one up for us. There is still the question of the EVOO that’s made from a lighter flavoured olive being still overpowering, but do you know what? I’d probably use 50/50 EVOO and a half decent vegetable oil such as sunflower. I only eat mayonnaise occasionally.

So if oil is ok to include in our diet in moderation, let’s not fool ourselves, deep fried food served commercially is in the main cooked in blended vegetable oil that solidifies at room temperature. Trans fats are manufactured for long life and high smoke point. This is not food to be consumed on a daily or maybe even weekly basis. Let’s take Elmo’s it’s a “sometimes food” advice. We should eat a broad and varied diet of fresh whole foods from every food group.

Oils that we use at home in moderation can consist of EVOO, nut oil, coconut oil (now that’s another story!) and a small amount of vegetable oil when olive oil just doesn’t cut the mustard! Remember to take all the above factors into consideration when making your choice. If you are purchasing oils in each and every weekly shop, you may consider being more mindful of your consumption.

The dietary question we all need to ask ourselves is “Am I eating any particular food in excess on a daily basis and therefore unbalancing my intake to the detriment of my life?” Only you will know the answer to that.

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Tracey Cotterell

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