Health Team

Nutritionist: ‘Oil is Not the Enemy’

Posted December 21, 2007 5:25 p.m. EST
Updated December 21, 2007 6:34 p.m. EST

When it comes to cooking, olive oil is considered a healthy choice. But it's not the only one.

Alex Martinez loves to cook, and he loves to cook healthy. As a hospital chef, he serves up lean meats, loads of vegetables and a splash of olive oil.

“I use olive oil, and I use it because it's healthier, it's tasteful and it's a great product,” he said.

Many people use olive oil. Several studies suggest that it can help lower cholesterol or improve blood vessel function.

But those health claims about olive oil have cooked up quite a controversy. While most health experts would say olive oil is probably healthier than butter, it might not be as healthy as fish oil or canola oil.

“Well, olive oil seems to be lower in Omega 3, which is the heart benefiting oil, and canola oil is higher in Omega 3 like fish oil,” said Susan Nowrouzi, a registered dietitian.

Some experts point out that olive oil is still at least 10 percent saturated fat or bad fat. That's at least double the amount in canola oil. Canola may edge out olive oil in some areas, but both are a good choice.

“Olive oil is a healthy oil. Canola oil is a healthy oil for the same reason,” said Sheah Rarback, a nutritionist.

Both contain good fat, but too much good fat can be a bad thing.

“Oil is not the enemy. It's the amount you use that's going to make a difference on your waistline,” Rarback said.

Many high-end restaurants use coconut oil. People might want to stay away from that at home for daily use. It has the highest concentration of saturated fat of all the oils.