Wendy White, an associate professor in food science and human nutrition at Iowa State University, led a recent study that suggests eating salad greens and vegetables with added fat—in the form of soybean oil—enhances the absorption of various micronutrients that promote human health. Soybean oil is a common ingredient in commercial salad dressings.
Salad vegetables with added oil aided in the absorption of several micronutrients: alpha and beta carotene, lutein, and lycopene; two forms of vitamin E and vitamin K; and vitamin A. White said better absorption of these nutrients promotes a range of health benefits, including cancer prevention and eyesight preservation.
The study also found that the amount of oil added to the vegetables had a proportional relationship with the amount of nutrient absorption. White said, “The best way to explain it would be to say that adding twice the amount of salad dressing leads to twice the nutrient absorption.” This doesn’t mean salad eaters should drench their greens in dressing! White indicates that consumers should be comfortable with the U.S. dietary recommendation of about two tablespoons of oil per day.
The research study showed eating the same salad without the added oil lessened the likelihood that the body would absorb the nutrients.
Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Move aside coconut oil; avocado oil is taking center stage! According to Pinterest, avocado oil is projected to be their top food trend for 2016. You can expect this oil to not only pop up in your Pinterest feed, but also at farmers markets and specialty grocery stores.
Avocado oil is derived by running the avocado fruit through a press. The pulp of the fruit is mashed, then spun in a drum at high speeds to separate the pulp from the oil.
More is known about the health benefits of whole avocados than about avocado oil. Diets rich in avocados may lower blood pressure as well as cholesterol. The magnesium in whole avocados possesses blood pressure-lowering properties. Whole avocados also contain potassium, which lessens the effect of sodium on the body. It is unclear whether or not these same health benefits are transferrable to avocado oil.
Remember that your body needs some fat, but fat is high in calories. The fat in avocados is monounsaturated fat, which is considered a “healthy” fat; however, it is possible to get too much, even of the “good” kinds of fat. Adults should aim for 20–35 percent of their calories from fat, with more coming from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat than saturated and trans fat.
Avocado oil has a high smoke point (meaning the oil doesn’t start to break down and burn until a high temperature is reached), making it ideal for searing and browning, as well as on salads. Avocado oil can be more expensive than other oils on the shelf. If using avocado oil, stretch it by using equal parts avocado oil and canola oil in recipes.
Consuming whole avocados allows you to obtain all the nutritional benefits that you would receive from avocado oil. If you are uncertain about purchasing avocado oil, try topping your sandwich or salad with avocado slices.
Many claims tout the health benefits of coconut oil, including weight loss, cancer prevention, and Alzheimer’s disease. So far the scientific evidence does not support these claims. The three types of coconut oil—virgin, refined, and partially hydrogenated—are all high in saturated fat. Saturated fat is solid at room temperature, tends to raise the level of cholesterol in the blood, and comes mainly from animal food products. Some examples of saturated fats are butter, lard, meat fat, solid shortening, palm oil, and coconut oil.
The two main types of coconut oil used in cooking and baking are “virgin” coconut oil and “refined” coconut oil. Virgin is considered to be unrefined. Refined coconut oil is made from dried coconut pulp that is often chemically bleached and deodorized. Since coconuts are a plant and virgin coconut oil has some antioxidant properties, some individuals may view it as healthy. However, virgin coconut oil is high in lauric acid, a type of fatty acid that can raise both good and bad cholesterol levels. Manufacturers may also use another form of coconut oil that has further processing—“partially hydrogenated” coconut oil, which would contain trans fat. Some research suggests coconut oil intake may be associated with a neutral, if not beneficial, effect on cholesterol levels.
Tips for using coconut oil:
- Use “virgin” or unrefined coconut oil.
- Use it in moderation.
- Limit foods made with partially hydrogenated coconut oil like baked goods, biscuits, salty snacks, and some cereals.
Allergy Alert: Coconut is considered a tree nut. Individuals with tree nut allergies should talk with their health care provider before using or eating foods containing coconut oil.
Source: Jody Gatewood, MS, RD, LD, Assistant State Nutrition Program Specialist, Human Sciences Extension and Outreach, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach