What’s New in the Oil Aisle?

October 3, 2019

What’s New in the Oil Aisle?

If you’re a Harmons shopper you’ve likely noticed our green Dietitians Choice tags throughout the grocery store (if not, you can read more here). They’re on our weekly ads, they have their own filter on eShop, and they’re found in all of our fresh departments, but they were nowhere to be found in the oil aisle….until now.

Exciting changes are rolling out this month for Dietitians Choice! The Dietitians Choice program was created to highlight products that are lower in added sugar, sodium and saturated fat, so naturally we wanted to review the oils category to guide our shoppers to the healthiest options. The complexity of oil, such as the different processing techniques, fatty acid profiles, and smoke points, made it difficult to determine criteria for this category, but your Harmons Dietitians managed to pull through. Head to your store’s oil aisle to pick up a pamphlet on culinary applications and nutrition information for your favorite oils. Here’s a sneak peek at the pamphlet plus more on what you need to know when picking your oils.

Healthy vs. Less Healthy Fats

Dietary fats are essential for life, playing a role in energy production, cell structure, hormone regulation, and signaling molecules. However, not all fats are created equal. Healthier fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids) have been proven to improve blood cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease, whereas less healthy fats (saturated and trans fatty acids) have been shown to increase the risk of heart disease. Choosing a healthy oil starts here with the fatty acid content. Our Dietitians Choice oils will be higher in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and lower in saturated fat.

Oil Terminology

As noted before, there’s a variety of processing techniques used when extracting oils from a product.

  • Cold-pressed oils are extracted from seeds without the use of heat or chemicals and stay under 140 degrees during the process. Cold-pressed oils retain more antioxidants and sterols since they are produced under lower temperatures, making them a popular (and healthier) pantry item.
  • Expeller-pressed oils use a series of expellers which creates more pressure and heat from friction.
  • Refined oils are generally bleached (by moving through natural clay, charcoal or other filters) and deodorized (using steam). Refining oils removes trace elements that give oils an undesirable taste, smell, or color. This method leads to a more stable product that can be used at a higher heat, however these oils tend to have less nutrients and flavor.

How to Use Oils

The processing oil undergoes determines the smoke point of the product. The smoke point is the point at which an oil begins to smoke, destroying beneficial antioxidants and producing both fumes and free radicals. An olive oil that was cold pressed is going to have a much lower smoke point than that of a refined olive oil, which makes choosing the right oil for your cooking crucial. Check out this chart to learn where the smoke points for your favorite cooking oils fall.

How to Store Oils

Heat and light cause oils to become rancid, so storing a variety of oils in the cupboard above your stove may not be as good as you think. Rancid oils contain free radicals which may be harmful to your health. We recommend keeping one high-heat and one low-heat oil on hand at a time to ensure your oils stay fresh. Be sure to store these oils in a cool cabinet away from your oven and stove.

Oils in a Healthy Diet

Although many oils are full of heart healthy fats they’re still high in calories. Be mindful of portion sizes and use oils in small amounts, generally up to one tablespoon per serving.

Tips for Oil Substitutions

Research supports the notion of replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fats to improve heart health, so try replacing the shortening or butter in your next recipe with oil (generally ¼ less oil than the recipe calls for in fat).

When to substitute oil for butter:

  • Savory dishes like sautéed vegetables or meat
  • Topping bread (try brushing olive oil instead of spreading butter)
  • Many baking recipes, such as cakes, cookies and brownies

When to avoid substituting oil for butter:

  • Any recipe calling for creaming butter with sugar
  • Pie dough recipes that use butter to create flaky texture

We hope this is a helpful overview to navigate the many choices you are faced with in the oil aisle. Fat can be a delicious and beneficial component in a healthy diet, depending on what source and what amount we eat it in. For further questions reach out to your local Harmons dietitian.