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Cooking Oils That Are Good For You

You've probably heard several reports about the health benefits of olive oil, but there are a wide variety of other healthy oils on the market as well, each with its own health benefits.

Samantha Heller, a clinical nutritionist from New York University Medical Center, visits The Early Show on Monday to talk about them and offer suggestions on how to incorporate the oils into a daily diet.

For many people, oil does not seem to fit in the category of "healthy foods." But there are oils that contain unsaturated fat, something every diet needs. Flaxseed, sesame, walnut, peanut and grapeseed oils are from plants, so they are a healthy way to replace the unhealthy fats in your diet. The key is not to consume too much of them because they are high in calories.

Flaxseed Oil: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
This oil comes from the flax plant, an herb. It's full of omega-3 fatty acids, which are also found in fish. As a matter of fact, flaxseed oil provides the highest concentration of these fats of any non-fish food. Most people don't get enough omega-3s in their diets, Heller notes. The fatty acids make arteries more flexible, reduce inflammation in the arteries, reduce blood clots and even lessen the chance of fatal heart attacks. Scientists are particularly interested in flaxseed's anti-inflammatory properties and currently studying how it may help people with rheumatory arthritis.

Flaxseed oil typically needs to stay refrigerated; heating it destroys the omega-3s. Heller suggests using it in salad dressings.

Sesame Oil: Vitamin E
Many people are probably familiar with sesame oil because it gives some Asian foods their characteristic flavor. Usually, the darker the oil, the more pungent the taste, and sesame oil is quite dark. Vitamin E is an anti-oxidant which means it helps lower cholesterol. Sesame oil also contains magnesium, copper, calcium, iron and vitamin B6.

Sesame oil is a popular choice for stir-fries. If you don't want to cook with sesame oil, you can also eat other forms of sesame such as tahini, a main ingredient in hummus.

Walnut Oil: Reduces heart disease
Walnut oil has been shown to lower triglycerides which in turn reduces the risk of coronary heart disease. In March, the FDA said that "supportive but not conclusive" evidence shows that "eating 1.5 ounces of walnuts a day ... may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease."

Walnut oil is delicious sprinkled on salads or used to finish a chicken or fish dish. Suprisingly, you can even substitute walnut oil for some of the butter or shortening in baked goods.

Peanut Oil: Reduces heart disease
Although peanut oil has been shown to possibly reduce heart disease, it does so in a different way that walnut oil. It contains resveratrol, the substance in grapes and red wine that has been associated with reduced cardiovascular disease AND reduced cancer risk.

Peanut oil is quite versatile in the kitchen - use it to pop corn, fry, saute or grill food.

Grapseed Oil: Lowers cholesterol
Grapeseed oil is believed to reduce bad cholesterol in the arteries. It has a very light taste and can be used just as you use olive oil in cooking. In some cases, grapeseed oil if preferable to olive oil because it has an even higher smoke point (can withstand hotter temperatures).

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