Here’s why you need to eat fat (the right ones, of course) in order to burn fat. A guide to making healthy oil choices that clears up all the confusion.

Olive oil? Coconut oil? What about canola? Which oils are really healthy and which ones are bad for you, even dangerous?

Read on to find out…

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Why Do We Need Oil?

Despite fat being considered an enemy for some people, we need fat in order to function. In fact, at least 10% of our calories should come from fat. (Just to be clear, we are talking about edible fats in the food you eat, not fat cells in your body). Edible fat is a very stable energy source, and it is a component of hormones and cell membranes and compounds that regulate blood pressure and the blood’s clotting system.

Edible fats also help dissolve fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, and E, to be absorbed into the bloodstream.

Fats consist of triglycerides (three fatty acids) associated with an alcohol called glycerol. The body breaks down the triglycerides into glycerol and into fatty acids and releases them into the blood to be absorbed into cells, where they generate energy for the body, are incorporated into special compounds, or are stored as body fat.

Eating too much fat, like any other source of energy, can contribute to weight gain. Fats that are not efficiently absorbed into cells accumulate in the blood, where they can fall prey to free radicals or cause obstructions, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Oils that come from animal or plant sources contain different proportions of fats. Some have positive effects on your health, and others increase your risk of disease and other health problems.

This is an issue that’s confusing for many people, so let’s set the record straight.

Saturated vs. Unsaturated Fat

There are two kinds of dietary fat: saturated and unsaturated.

Saturated fats are solid at room temperature, while unsaturated fats are fluid at room temperature. Examples of foods considered naturally high in saturated fats: dairy, beef, pork, and poultry skins. Unsaturated fats can be found in foods such as chicken, turkey, fish, as well as nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, and of course, various oils.

Both saturated and unsaturated fats are a mixed bag in terms of health associations. Some studies link certain saturated fats to high cholesterol, atherosclerosis, and cardiovascular disease, while others claim no effect or even benefits from certain fatty acids. Unsaturated fats tell a similar tale, though have long been favored over saturated fats for health benefits in most people.

Therefore, eating fish, poultry, and vegetarian options (containing unsaturated fats), have been preferred over the saturated fat options.

When eating meat, it is recommended to ensure it is the leanest possible and “grass-fed” or “pastured,” as the latter methods increase the content of healthier fats, both saturated and unsaturated.

Oils from most vegetal sources are good sources of unsaturated essential fatty acids.

Among the very important vitamins that the body receives from the vegetal oils is vitamin E, which is one of the strongest antioxidants. Like the other antioxidants, vitamin E also neutralizes the free radicals produced freely by the body’s oxygen, or the ones we get exposed to in our environment. It is sometimes added to unsaturated oils to protect them from spoiling.

When unsaturated fat spoils, is cooked at extra-high heats, or undergoes processing such as hydrogenation (solidification), the molecular structure of the fat changes, and parts of it turn into trans-fats. These industrially-produced trans-fats are highly dangerous for your health, more so than the trans-fats found in nature.

Learn which foods contain the most dangerous trans fats.

Certain trans-fats—especially those generated artificially in foods—tend to accumulate on the walls of blood vessels and destabilize them, and research has shown that it increases the LDL (bad cholesterol) levels and increases the risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma, and allergies.




Omega-3, Omega-6, and Omega-9 Fatty Acids

There are 3 main types of fatty unsaturated acids.

Omega-3 unsaturated fatty acids are important in every stage of our lives, particularly in fetal and infant development, brain activity, cognitive flexibility, and memory, as well as in cardiac health.

Omega-9 fatty acids are the most stable of the unsaturated fats, protective against oxidative and inflammatory processes in the body.

Omega-6 fatty acids are considered preferable over saturated fats in protecting heart health, but the modern western diet provides far too much, mostly from processed foods, resulting in imbalances.

A good ratio between dietary omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids is considered to be around 1:5, while in common western diets the ratio is usually 1:20. This may increase the risk of chronic disease, including cardiovascular, cancer, and others.

Research has suggested that omega-3 fatty acids can protect brain function even into advanced age, helping to prevent diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Research published in the Journal of Nutrition (April 2012) showed the omega-3 fatty acid DHA can improve brain development in early life and prevent mental-cognitive disorders in later stages.

The best sources of omega-3 fatty acids are coldwater/saltwater fish and fish oil capsules, flaxseed and oil, and fortified eggs.

Extra-virgin olive oil is an excellent source of both omega-3 and omega-9 fats, as well as antioxidants, and is considered a gold standard of oils. It is great for all types of use, including seasoning and frying. In general, some vegetal oils are generally intended only for seasoning, while some can be used for cooking if they undergo high-quality purification (see tables below).

Which Oils to Choose?

First prize for healthiest oil goes to olive oil, followed by organic canola (rapeseed) and flaxseed oils rich in omega-3 fatty acids, avocado oils, and nut oils such as macadamia, almond, and hazelnut rich in monounsaturated fats, though these tend to be much more expensive.

Other recommended oils include camelina, hemp seed, certain modified seed oils such as high-oleic (high omega-9) safflower and sunflower oils.

Common oils highest in omega-6 fats include “vegetable,” soy, corn, cottonseed and regular sunflower and safflower oil, and are the least recommended for frequent use.

As for coconut oil, it’s currently garnering attention for its higher medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) content, which may raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels, as well as benefit certain digestive and neurological conditions (you can read more about this here). It is also highly stable for higher-heat cooking.

Try to get a diverse array of healthy oil sources, like almonds and other nuts and seeds, avocado, tahini, or fatty fish such as tuna or salmon, accompanied by a few teaspoons of other oils i.e. in cooking, dressings, or sauces.

If the diet does not supply the body’s needs for important fatty acids, supplements may provide a back-up source. Because of the high levels of omega-6 fats in the modern western diet, oils that yield higher omega-3 and omega-9 levels are considered preferable.

Composition and use of selected common oils:



Monounsaturated gm/100ml

Polyunsaturated gm/100ml


Vitamin E


Extra-Virgin Olive*

Seasoning,low-temp cooking






Low-Erucic Rapeseed (‘Canola’)**

All uses







Seasoning, cooking







Seasoning, cooking







Seasoning, cooking







All uses







All uses






Rice Bran

All uses







Seasoning only







Seasoning only






Wheat Germ

Seasoning only







Seasoning, cooking






 * Preferred oils             ** Preferred oil if organic              *** High-oleic types are preferred oils

5 Tips for Cooking With Oils


  1. Store your oil in a cool, dark place, or even in the fridge if you live in a warm climate. Dark bottles are better.
  2. If you are cooking in a pan, use a minimal amount of oil and the lowest heat possible.
  3. The “smoke point” is when the oil starts to release smoke, which means that it now contains free radicals which are harmful for your health. Choose oils with higher smoke points (see the chart below).
  4. Don’t heat your oil above 360° F (180°C) Best to fry food in a temp between 280-360°F and up to 5 minutes per side.
  5. Start cooking only after the oil has properly heated, but before it smokes, so that the minimum amount is absorbed into the food. Put a wooden spoon into the pan. If bubbles form on the spoon, it’s time to put the food in the pan. When the oil starts smoking, time to take out the food and dispose of the oil.


The following table details the smoke points of various oils, as well as their “recommended” cooking uses – note that deep-frying is not considered a healthful method, and is not recommended in the Trim Down Club:

Oil Source

Traditional Uses

Main Fats

Smoking Temperature




Seasoning, marinating, baking





Light frying, deep frying, grilling, roasting





Frying, cooking, seasoning





Cooking, seasoning





Seasoning, light cooking

Seasoning, cooking, deep frying, grilling, roasting, baking


ExtraVirgin 160

Virgin 216

ExtraLight 242




Grape Seed

Light frying, frying, seasoning





Cooking, baking, seasoning




Clarified Butter (Ghee)

Frying, light frying


190-250 (depending on refinement quality)



Cooking, producing margarine, seasoning, to make crispy dough





Producing margarine, seasoning, frying, to make crispy dough





Seasoning, cooking, baking, confectionery




Low-Erucic Rapeseed (‘Canola’)**

All uses, including cooking and seasoning




Animal Fat

Cooking and frying





Cooking, seasoning





Light frying, stir frying





Frying, seasoning, to make crispy dough




 * Preferred oils             ** High-oleic type is preferred oil              *** Preferred oil if organic
Source: Cooking for EngineersSM

Learn more about the Trim Down Club here.

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Comments 101

  1. and if it’s not in oil form, like say ground flax seed for instance, or throwing some olives into what I’m cooking with the grapeseed oil? Or maybe having some salmon or something along that nature… as long as I’m mixing incorporating a little of each into whatever I’m cooking with the grapeseed oil??

  2. Hi, bntnemenz. If you are just addressing the oils, for each teaspoon of grapeseed oil with 3 grams of omega-6, a teaspoon of olive or almond oil would provide 3 grams of omega-9s, and a teaspoon of flax seed oil would provide just over 2 grams of omega-3s.

  3. Hi, bntnemenz. We don’t generally recommend to through anything way. Grape seed oil has its advantages, but it is very high in omega-6 fats – so when you use it, just be sure to get plenty of omega-3s (from kale, salmon or sardines, flaxseed) and omega-9s (olives, avocado) to balance it out. Since it is fairly taste-free, you can also save it to use only in baking, then use a different oil for everyday foods.

  4. Is Grapeseed oil okay to use…. I just bought some, thinking it was rapeseed, because I’d read about rapeseed being so good. Just wondering if I should use the grapeseed at all or if I should get rid of it?

  5. Hi, afam. Rapeseed oil can be very healthy if it is made from organic seeds and the erucic acid reduced to almost none. The processing to make it into a cooking oil is very different from the industrial production, as is the case for flax seed (vs. industrial linseed). Good rapeseed oil is high in good omega-3 and omega-9 fats, while being relatively low in omega-6 (which we generally get too much of).

  6. how healthy is rapeseed oil? I read an article about it and understood that it was an industrial oil that was never meant for human consumption. Any comment, as I have been avoiding it in all food products

  7. Hi, Hollywood1035. “Pastured” means the source of the food – cow, pig, chicken, etc. – is raised on its natural diet of whatever is in a pasture (grass, foliage, worms, bugs), and is allowed plenty of physical activity. This has been shown to result in healthier animals and so products that are healthier for humans.

  8. Hi, Lamadave. Vegetable shortening (and vegetable oil) is generally not recommended. It is preferably to use high-quality (i.e. pastured) butter or coconut butter; if not, then try a buttery spread-type product made with olive or flax seed oil.

  9. Hi, Rileyfamily. Recommendations for supplements are generally quite individual, and depend on your needs. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend just randomly taking a teaspoon of coconut oil each day, but there’s nothing wrong with incorporating it into your food in place of something else, such as butter. Fish oil is more widely recommended, and the best product we have seen of late is something called Omega Krill 5x (if you’re interested, this is a link to get it:
    With regard to a multivitamin, that can get tricky with an inactive thyroid – if you are taking thyroid replacement medication, you may need to limit the dose of iodine, which is commonly added. An example of a product that fit all of your needs is called Source Naturals Life Force Green Multiple (, which enables a lot of flexibility in the dosing so that you can control the iodine if you need..
    As for appetite suppressants, we actually don’t recommend those in general. We do support some herbal blends with side benefits of appetite calming, but this entire program is based on providing whole foods in livable amounts to balance hormones that control appetite. However, if you are really struggling in this regard, there is a product called LeptiBurn that may help, without all the negative side effects associated with most appetite suppressants (

  10. Three questions. Please give an answer for all three, even if it’s a short answer. Please no links or articles, as I have read and watched all of them.

    With so many supplements out there, what are some good ones? There’s fish oil and I’ve heard that taking a teaspoon of coconut oil each day is good. Is this true?

    Also, would you recommend a daily vitamin supplement for a 30 year old with three children, with an inactive thyroid, and low immune system?

    Lastly, would you recommend a natural appetite suppressant?

  11. Hi, Rileyfamily. Every person loses at a different rate – it depends on a combination of age, genes, dieting history, physical activity, and how you come through plateaus, in addition to diet. A safe rate of weight loss to support long-term maintenance would be about 1-2 pounds per week on average.

  12. Hi Donneine. Avocado oil is excellent, as is olive oil if you buy the proper type that has been certified as authentic. Coconut oil has some benefits, but it is recommended to be consumed in smaller amounts than unsaturated oils.

  13. Having read too much info about the perils of olive oils available here in the US, I have opted to eliminate it from my kitchen. Using primarily coconut oil now – not just for cooking, but also for hair, skin and nails with excellent results. Also using avocado oil – not for cooking. Any comments?

  14. Enjoying all the advice, thanks. Need help please, limiting oil intake is a challenge to my eating all those wonderful vegies / salalds. Advice is welcome for yummy dressing tips that are allowed as a no limit daily extra pls. May not be in the right section though for this advice, pls advice.

  15. Hi, SherylMonk. Camelina oil is excellent, and will be added to the Menu Planner in the near future. It is very high in omega-3 fats, with an usual ratio of 1:2 or even 1:3 omega-6:omega-3 – this is a great advantage in the modern western diet, which contains too much omega-6 fats.

  16. Just wondering if Yogurt Butter is OK to use. Mostly yogurt and water..I am a type 2 diabetic and have high cholesterol. Have been using it for a while..just want to make sure it is OK to use.

  17. I recently purchased an oil that is grown locally as an food oil crop, just to give it a try. Had not heard of it before, but liked the idea of a farmer stepping out to try growing something new and different. Actually it sounded like the oil may have been around for a long time, just not commercially popular. It is camelina oil. Can you tell me anything about it?

  18. I am diabetic on insulin . Last September my cholesterol was high at 6.2 . I changed only one thing. That was I changed Flora margarine for plain butter. In march I was tested again and my cholesterol had come down to 5.7
    Still high but I was amazed how changing from what is deemed as a healthy spread to the unhealthy butter brought my cholesterol down.

  19. Hi, dianataylor. What is labeled “vegetable oil” is definitely not recommended. It is usually soy and/or corn oils, which are high in omega-6 fatty acids – of which we generally get much too much, with undesirable health effects – and very, very likely to be genetically modified in a manner suggested in studies to be detrimental. Alternatives for frying include organic canola oil and light olive oil.

  20. Hi, miketoneill. If you are looking for a solid or semi-solid alternative for butter, the most popular healthier types available today include coconut fat and organic omega-3 non-hydrogenated margarine type products.

  21. I am seeing a lot of information on coconut oil and its health benefits based on its make up. Although contains highly saturated fat they say it is cholesterol free. Have you any comments? As well as purchasing extra virgin olive oil I have chosen to try out this new coconut oil. I would love to hear your thoughts on if it is suitable in a fat burning calorie diet.

    Best regards
    Chris barber (

  22. After doing a fair amount of research on oils and having used virgin olive oil in the past I will return to it as soon as the canola runs out I have a good supply of olives available to me and will look into finding who and where I can get it processed into olive oil for my personal consumption

  23. There is so much information here, but I don’t see anything about plain olive oil. I grew up on plain olive oil and I still tend to use it. Does it cause problems? I have just started your program and I would like to know. Thank you, Nancy T.

  24. I thought Coconut oil was a healthy oil to use in frying?? Please give me some insight on what oil is best to use for frying and cooking?? Like frying and egg, making a grilled cheese, etc I use an organic sold type coconut oil.

  25. I have been using an olive oil /canola oil soft margarine and butter only on special occasions. Since I want to switch to butter, and it is so hard to spread , I looked on the Internet and found several ways of making it like whipped butter.
    Today, I added 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil to 1/2 cup of my softened butter then beat it with my hand mixer. It is a bit more liquid than I’d like it to be, so I think I’ll reduce the amount of oil by a tablespoon next time. I hope my husband likes it as he is the one that uses it on his toast…I usually just use a bit of homemade low sugar jam or almond butter.

  26. looks like allot of preparation time in kitchen,and have to do some shopping and completely gut the kitchen cupboards of crap and fridge and freezer too! might be a bit more work than was insinuated in the promo.
    but health is worth it! i’ll give it a try.

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