There is much evidence to suggest that not only are unrefined oils beneficial and necessary for health, they also enhance the uptake of nutrients from the foods they accompany (1,2).
Fortunately the plant kingdom supplies us with many delicious and varied sources of beneficial oils. Here are some tips for choosing and using oils:
- Avoid oils that come in plastic bottles as chemicals from the plastic can leach into the oil.
- Avoid refined and processed oils. Margarines and dairy free spreads have improved now that hydrogenated oils are not used. However, they are highly processed so are not recommended as health foods. As an alternative spread use nut butters or coconut oil.
- Avoid processed foods that contain processed or heated oils.
- Choose oils that say “cold pressed” on the label. These will not have been subjected to heat during manufacturing as heat damages the oils.
- Choose oils that are in coloured rather than clear glass bottles as light can damage the oil.
- Keep seed and nut oils in a cool, dark place such as the fridge and use them up fairly quickly as they can start to oxidise once opened.
- Olive oil and coconut oil do not need to be kept in the fridge.
- With the exception of coconut oil, olive oil and toasted sesame oil do not heat plant based oils. Instead they can be poured onto food after cooking and used in salad dressings.
- Coconut oil has many health benefits. See blog post from July 2017 on Coconut Oil for more information
Examples of cold pressed oils to use include:
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Toasted sesame oil
- Sesame oil
- Pumpkin seed oil
- Avocado oil
- Safflower oil
- Hazelnut oil
- Walnut oil
- Coconut oil
Here’s a recipe for flapjacks that make a perfect addition to lunch boxes and picnics.
Fruit ‘n’ Nut Flapjacks
2 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp pear and apple fruit spread
3 tbsp malt extract or molasses
1 tbsp hazelnuts
1 tbsp linseeds
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp walnuts, chopped
1 tbsp raisins
1 tbsp goji berries
- Heat the coconut oil and olive oil in a pan. Add the fruit spread and malt extract or molasses and stir until all the ingredients have melted.
- Add the oats and stir well to coat them in the oil.
- Add the nuts, seeds and fruits and stir well to combine all the ingredients.
- Spread the mixture into a lined rectangular baking tin. Smooth down the top using a piece of baking parchment.
- Bake in the oven for 25 minutes on gas mark 4/180C until just starting to go golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack.
- After 10 minutes cut into squares but leave in tin to cool completely.
- Store in an air tight container for up to 5 days or freeze.
- 1. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2016 Jul;60(7):1578-89 Bioavailability of tomato polyphenols is enhanced by processing and fat addition: Evidence from a randomized feeding trial. Martinez-Huelamo M, Vallverdu-Queralt A et al.
- Eur J Nutr. 2014 Feb;53(1):117-26. Olive oil improves the intestinal absorption and bioavailability of lutein in lutein-deficient mice. Nidhi B, Mamatha BS, Baskaran V.