Cooking Oils and Stroke Prevention

If you are confused about how dietary fat affect your stroke risk, you are not alone. And if you want to get accurate and simple answers about cooking oils and dietary fat, you will find your answers here.

Are fats good or bad for me?

When it comes to stroke, it is harmful to have elevated levels of fat and cholesterol (cholesterol is a type of fat.) However, you do need to have moderate fat and cholesterol to be healthy.

The optimal fat concentration in your body is considered to be below 150 mg/dL for triglycerides, below 100 mg/dL for LDL, above 50 mg/dl for HDL and below 200 mg/dL for total cholesterol.

Where do fats come from?

Your body makes fat and cholesterol, but your body cannot make as much as you need on its own, so you have to get the rest through your diet.

If you get too much fat through your diet, your triglyceride level or LDL level can go up, which increases your risk of stroke. Some of the excess fats can even convert to cholesterol, raising your cholesterol level, which also increases your risk of stroke.

What are good dietary fats and bad dietary fats?

Generally, saturated fats and unsaturated fats are the main forms of dietary fat. Saturated fats are more solid, while unsaturated fats are more liquid. Solid fats like lard and butter contain more saturated fats than unsaturated fats, while liquid fats like cooking oil, contain more unsaturated fats than saturated fats.

The saturated fats have long been considered the more dangerous kinds of fat because they are literally stickier than unsaturated fats, and thus more likely to damage blood vessels and to produce the blood clots that cause strokes.

Polyunsaturated fats have been considered even better for you than monounsaturated fats.

So, when choosing cooking oils, the recommendations suggest that it is best to choose oils like vegetable oils that are high in unsaturated fats, especially polyunsaturated fats and omega 3 fats (more about the omega 3’s later).

What about trans fats?

Trans fats are a particularly unhealthy type of unsaturated fat that we get from eating junk food and deep fried food. The body has difficulty in properly metabolizing trans fats, and trans fats cause oxidative damage, injuring blood vessels and harming healthy organs, which increases the risk of strokes, heart attacks, and cancer. Find out more about how to cancel the effects of oxidative damage.

What about omega fats?

Omega 3 fats are polyunsaturated fats (that means they are very unsaturated, which is good) that are believed to be especially healthy and protective against heart disease and stroke. Omega 3 fats are primarily found in seafood and nuts.

How do fats cause stroke?

Fats and cholesterol have certain helpful roles in the body. But, if we have enough cholesterol and fat, the excess just builds up, producing sticky blood clots, blood vessel disease and other organ damage.

In the meantime, the omega 3 fatty acids from your diet seem to repair the body and remove excess amounts of the harmful fats.

How can I get more of the healthy fats and less of the unhealthy fats?

Since the unsaturated fats are less sticky, it is better to lean towards unsaturated fats in your diet, especially omega 3 fats. It is also best to minimize saturated fats and to avoid trans fats. That means reading labels on cooking oil and butter products as well as reading labels on prepared food. Many restaurants also provide nutritional content so you can maintain the recommended amounts of nutrients, vitamins and minerals.

Recommendations for a healthy adult weighing about 150 pounds include a moderate unsaturated fat intake of about 30-45 grams per day and no more than 15 grams of saturated fat per day.

Saturated and unsaturated fat content of some common foods (this is a general guide and differs depending on ‘low fat’ ‘white meat’ ‘dark meat ‘variations etc.):

  • Beef- 4 oz. ground beef has about 8 grams of saturated fat and 7 grams of unsaturated fat
  • Chicken- 1-cup chicken has about 5 grams saturated fat and 11 grams unsaturated fat
  • Fish- 5 oz. has about 2 grams of saturated fat and 3 grams unsaturated fat
  • Butter- 1 tablespoon of butter has about 2.5 grams of saturated fat
  • Potato chips- 1 oz. has about 3 grams of saturated fat and 5 grams of unsaturated fat
  • Donut- one plain donut has about 4 grams of saturated fat and 7 grams unsaturated fat

Another interesting fact is that exercise helps to reduce unhealthy fats while allowing your body to build up healthy HDL fats.

How should I cook with fats?

This is where it gets interesting. Cooking with all oils should be gentle. This means avoiding heating the oil to very high temperatures that cause the oil to smoke- because then the oil changes it's chemical makeup in a way that is harmful to the body. Deep frying and heating until the oil turns dark or reusing oil are generally unhealthy.

Often, drizzling moderate amounts of oil after the food is already cooked is a way to avoid this harmful chemical change.

Sources:

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids ameliorate neuroinflammation and mitigate ischemic stroke damage through interactions with astrocytes and microglia, Slowik A, Zendedel A, Habib P, Dang J, Lammerding L, Hoffman S, Beyer C, Journal of Neuroimmunology. January, 2015.

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