Doug Cook, RD, MHSc is a registered dietitian – Coconut oil has been enjoying the spotlight for a few years and with good reason, it’s a great tasting and versatile oil rich in mediumchain, saturated fatty acids. However, it may be time to pour on avocado or camellia oil for their share of the glory. They, as well as flax oil are gaining popularity with health-conscious consumers.
If you’re in the mood for something a little different than the tried and true olive oil, consider avocado oil. Based on my experience with clients, as oil it’s new for most people. Like olive, avocado oil is extracted from the flesh of the fruit versus the seed which doesn’t contain much oil at all. Avocado oil is a rich, emerald green oil with low acid levels and is naturally trans fat free.
As far as oils go, avocado oil is a good source. While vitamin E is made up of eight similar, but structurally different compounds, it is highest in the alpha-tocopherol form but does contain small amounts of beta and gamma tocopherol as well. Cold pressed avocado oils will have the
highest amounts of vitamin E.
Avocado oil contains high levels of chlorophyll (about 10 times more than olive) which is responsible for its intense emerald green colour.
Fatty Acid Composition
Avocado oil is richest in monounsaturated fat, about 70- 72% of the total fat with the balance coming from polyunsaturated and saturated fatty acids. Avocado oil is very low in the plant-based omega 3-fat alpha-linolenic acid.
In cooking, the smoke point is the temperature at which the oil degrades and there is some degree of oxidation. Unrefined avocado oil has a smoke point of: 217 C or 375- 400 F and an even higher one 271 C or 520 F for the refined version making it suitable for medium to medium-high temperature cooking.
By far this is the new kid on the block for North America but not in Asia where it is well known. Camellia oil also goes by tea seed oil and tea oil; all coming from the plant genus camellia which includes camellia oleifera, camellia sinesis and camellia japonica. Because it comes from the tea plant, many confuse it with tea tree oil although the oils are completely different with different features. Unlike tea tree oil, camellia oil is edible. It is described as having a light, nutty, asparagus-like flavour and a pale-green colour.
It is quite versatile as cooking oil and it’s used for salad dressings, in baking, sautéing, or dips like hummus; essentially anywhere you’d use olive or avocado oil. It’s no wonder why this oil is gaining popularity and may just become a staple pantry oil like olive oil is. From a health perspective, camellia oil has been promoted as a traditional remedy for bowel, stomach, liver and lung disease in Asia. Animal studies confirm that camellia oil can prevent damage to the lining of the stomach and intestines from non-steroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, and increases levels of the antioxidant glutathione peroxidase, super oxide dismutase while decreasing inflammatory markers seen with NSAID use.
Fatty acid composition
This oil is very high in monounsaturated fats, about 82% of the total fat. Because of this, it is sometimes referred to as olive oil from Asia.
Camellia oil has a relatively high smoke point of 246C or 475 F also making it suitable for cooking at moderate to moderate-high temperature like avocado oil.
Flax has been the darling of the ‘health food’ world for a long time and having been in the sidelines for awhile is making a come back. Flaxseed oil comes from the seeds of the flax plant and is a
golden amber colour with a distinct flavour. Its main claim to fame is that it’s high in omega-3 fats.
Fatty Acid Composition
Flaxseed oil is comprised of about 57% of the plant form of the polyunsaturated omega-3 fat alpha linolenic acid (ALA); similar to, but different from its animal-based omega-3 siblings EPA and DHA.
The recommended dietary allowance for men is 1.6 g/day and 1.1 g/day for women. It’s estimated that the average Canadian is getting between 1.3 to 2.5 g/day without any concerted effort because ALA is found abundantly in the food supply. To put it into perspective, one tablespoon of ground flax has about 2 g of ALA. If you’re choosing flaxseed oil, with 8 g of ALA per tablespoon, you’re likely getting more than enough.
It’s worth mentioning that there is some concern about a possible increased risk for sex-hormone related cancers with higher than typical intakes of ALA; something that can easily be done when flaxseed oil is used liberally in the diet or when take as a supplement. Men with prostate cancer should not take ALA supplements and flax oil would provide ALA in amounts like supplements would. Intakes of 2 to 3 tablespoons per day are not uncommon and would provide 16 – 24 g of ALA, an amount not seen when eating whole foods.
Flaxseeds have a smaller amount of ALA and have lignans, phytonutrients that appear to be protective against cancer which is why, in the case of flax, the whole food may be the better choice.
Flaxseed oil is highly unsaturated making it more susceptible to damage from light, air and cooking; with a smoke point of just 107 C or 225 F and should never be used in cooking. Use sparingly; it
doesn’t provide anything that whole food can’t and might result in an excess of ALA consumption.
THE CHOICE IS YOURS
Variety is the spice of life and it’s no different when it comes to oils; consider having a few
different oils on hand in the kitchen including coconut, avocado and camellia oil.
Alpha-linolenic acid and risk of prostate cancer: a case-control study in Uruguay.http://tinyurl.com/q69278s
Alpha-linolenic acid http://tinyurl.com/pzw9otd
Beneficial effects of Camellia Oil on ketoprofen-induced gastrointestinal mucosal damage through upregulation of HO-1 and VEGF http://tinyurl.com/pw33fgo
Tea oil camellia: a new edible oil crop for the United Stateshttp://tinyurl.com/nqwfjpa
Doug Cook, RD, MHSc is a registered dietitian with a focus on functional medical nutrition therapy. He uses an integrative and holistic nutritional approach providing science-based guidance on food and diet. He is the author of “The Complete Leaky Gut Health & Diet Book” (Robert Rose, Spring, 2015).
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