Beware of stale oils
- All oils slowly break down and become rancid through exposure to heat, light and air. This process is known as oxidation, and gives the oil a stale aroma, and a harsh or bitter taste.
Use the freshest oils possible
- Check use-by dates and buy oils in small quantities so they do not sit around unused for months.
Refrigerating omega 3 oils is essential
- Try to buy oils in a dark, glass bottle and store them in a cool, dark place to protect them from light damage. Keep the bottle tightly sealed to protect from it from the air.
- Oils rich in polyunsaturated omega 3 fat, such as flaxseed oil, should be stored in the fridge to keep them fresh and extend their lifespan.
Read labels and be cautious of marketing lingo
- ‘Cold pressed’ refers to the extraction process of an oil performed without the use of heat. This does not guarantee that the oil is unrefined however. If an oil is refined, this means it has been subjected to further processing that may include heat and/or ‘washing’ the oil with harsh chemicals.
- ‘Extra virgin’ is a term only applied to olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil by definition is always cold pressed and unrefined. Although more expensive, the oil is much richer in its health benefits. Be extra wary when the term ‘extra virgin’ is used for oils other than olive oil.
Let your taste buds be your guide
- Always taste oils before using them. If they taste off, it may be a sign the oil has oxidised (become rancid/damaged) and will need to be discarded as it will continue to deteriorate, especially during cooking.
How much per day?
Confused about how much oil you should consume? Here are some basic guidelines:
- Minimum daily consumption: 20 ml (about 2 tablespoons)
- Maximum daily consumption: 40 ml (about 4 tablespoons)
- Many people use flaxseed oil on their food after it has been cooked. You could try it drizzled on a jacket potato or on toast to replace butter, or make a dressing with flaxseed oil, or put on steamed vegetables.
A note on whole / ground flaxseeds:
- Using whole or ground flaxseeds can be a healthy addition to the Overcoming MS program for the protein, fibre and other nutrients the seeds contain. However, in order to extract their oils, flaxseeds must be ground, otherwise they simply pass through your body intact.
- Once ground, the concentration of oil present will still be too low to meet the high required daily beneficial amount of flaxseed oil as recommended by the findings of the HOLISM study.
- If you would like to use ground flaxseeds for a healthy addition to baking, smoothies or other recipes, they should ideally be freshly ground - a coffee or spice grinder is good for this. Surplus ground flaxseeds should be stored in the fridge to prevent the oils in them becoming rancid.
- Avoid buying pre-ground flaxseeds or LSA (linseed-sunflower-almond meal), which are unlikely to be fresh enough and may already be rancid.
Recipe: Flaxseed oil dressing
- High-quality extra virgin olive oil is healthy in moderate amounts and is the oil recommended for using in home cooking.
- Sunflower and rapeseed oils are all rich sources of omega 6 polyunsaturated fat and so should be consumed only moderately. Canola oil is usually highly processed and refined - unprocessed, cold-pressed canola oil is usually expensive and not on many shelves; instead you will find rapeseed oil (from the same plant).
- If sunflower or rapeseed oils on an ingredient list, and they feature only in small amounts in those shop-bought foods, then it is ok to include these produces in small amounts and less frequently for convenience. However, it is unlikely these convenience foods are using the cold-pressed versions of the oils, which are the version that should be considered using in your home food preparations.
- Some unrefined seed oils (sesame, rapeseed, pumpkin) are also fine in small amounts, and may be used to ‘season’ food after cooking.
- Grapeseed oil - this oil is a decent source of vitamin E, and some antioxidant phytochemicals. However, compared to other oils it does have less nutritional benefit, and is a waste product of grape-pressing and processed grapeseed oil is a very low quality product. It is high in omega 6 however, regardless of cold-pressed or processed versions.
To be avoided completely
Palm oil and Coconut oil
- These are known as the tropical oils and have a very high saturated fat content making them stable for cooking at high temperatures and favoured by the food processing industry. However, it also means they are not advisable on the Overcoming MS program.
- ‘Vegetable’ oil is a loose term used on ingredient lists when a combination of cheap and refined oils are used (eg palm, canola, soybean etc). If the specific oil’s name is not listed, then you should be wary and avoid foods where you see this ingredient on the label.
Highly processed oils
- Canola, soybean, cottonseed, corn oil etc are all very rich in omega 6 polyunsaturated fats. Too many of these in the diet upsets the balance of omega 3 oils in the diet and may thus contribute to increased inflammation. Furthermore, the manufacture of these oils involves much refining and processing hugely compromising the quality of the oils which then contain additional toxins and pollutants which are contraindicated for good health.
For cooking techniques which are Overcoming MS-friendly, click here.