Heart-healthy oils

The human body is a complex system of actions and reactions. What we put into it can affect the performance and long-term health of the organs that enable us to function every day. The heart is perhaps the most important part of the body, but did you know there are foods and nutrients that can help support your cardiovascular health?

The important role of fats

A balanced diet is often promoted as a key part of maintaining health and wellbeing and despite the often-negative connotations of the term, fat is a key part of a balanced diet, just like carbohydrate and protein.

Fats have a unique role to play in the diet. They provide short term energy and increase the efficiency of vitamin absorption. Additionally, they are thought to play a part in supporting the immune system. There are two main types of fat – saturated and unsaturated. The body needs both kinds to function, but the way these fats behave in the body can be very different.

Too much saturated fat, also referred to as trans-fat, in the body can increase cholesterol levels. In the long term, this makes unsaturated fats the better choice for cardiovascular health.

The global push for heart healthy cooking and longevity has seen a significant change to recipes and formulations, with many unhealthy ingredients being switched for healthy alternatives. A great example is using monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils instead of solid fats such as butter or margarine, which are understood to have a significant impact on long term health.

The cholesterol conundrum

A core component of cardiovascular health is managing the balance of cholesterol in the body. There are two kinds of cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). LDL is often called ‘bad’ cholesterol, because it groups together in arteries and blood vessels, causing increased heart pressure and higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. Conversely, HDL is thought of as the ‘good’ cholesterol, as it travels around the bloodstream removing harmful cholesterol deposits and ‘de-clogging’ the blood pathways.

The key to which form of cholesterol we ingest lies in the fatty acid composition of the ingredient. Oils that have a high proportion of unsaturated fat relative to saturated fat content tend to make a heart-healthy substitution for many solid fat ingredients.

So which are the healthy natural oils to look out for?

Olive Oil

Olive Oil is one of the most nutritionally balanced oils in cooking. Studies have shown that the fatty acids and biologically active antioxidants in Olive Oil can reduce the risk of developing heart disease, alongside other significant benefits as part of an ongoing diet.

The oil has been a staple of Mediterranean cooking for a long time, and many in the region regard it as a key to longevity. It is rich in oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that studies have suggested can also reduce inflammation of cells inside the body. Olive Oil has a delicate flavour and light colouring; ideal for dressings and vinaigrettes. It can also act as a substitute for solid fats, including butters, lards and margarines.

Rapeseed Oil

Oil from rapeseed is low in saturated fat, which makes it a great substitute for solid fats in cooking. Also known as Canola Oil, in 2006 the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) formally announced that Rapeseed Oil could reduce the risk of coronary heart disease due to its unsaturated fat content. Rapeseed Oil has even been shown in studies to directly reduce levels of plasma cholesterol in the body.

Rapeseed Oil is a fantastically versatile oil to include in recipes, as its subtle flavour doesn’t overpower dishes, allowing the other ingredients to shine through. It also benefits from a high smoke point, enabling its use in frying.

Sunflower Oil

A popular all-purpose ingredient, Sunflower Oil is an abundant source of polyunsaturated fat – one of the highest percentages in plant-based cooking oils. Many brands and food manufacturers turn to high-oleic oils such as Sunflower Oil as a replacement for trans-fats, hydrogenated oils used to extend the shelf life of processed food. The oil’s subtle flavour and colouring lends itself to replacing unhealthy trans-fats and offers shelf stability.


Our bodies rely on fat for energy, vitamin absorption and digestion, but too much saturated fat can lead to accelerated LDL cholesterol build-up and an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. Consumers are more switched on to long-term health than ever before, and as they seek more heart-healthy products, substituting unhealthy fats with plant-based cooking oils is a significant way to capture attention in a busy retail space.

Natural oils can be one of the effective and marketable ways to cut harmful saturated fats out of the equation. Looking to give your existing recipe a simple and effective health boost? 

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