Looking for something different from the usual olive oil? Have you tried avocado oil? Avocado oil is one of my staple oils along side extra virgin olive oil, virgin coconut oil, and macadamia nut oil.
Avocado oil is new to most people. As a culinary, or cooking oil, avocado oil compares to olive oil. Both avocado and olive oil are derived by the flesh of the fruit versus the seed like grain and seed oils are such as corn, soy, flax, safflower, canola or sunflower are for example.
Cold pressing avocados produces a very high quality, rich emerald green coloured oil with low acid levels. Cold pressing helps to prevent damage from oxygen ensuring the oil is high in phytonutrients and antioxidants. This process also helps to maintain the vitamin E, chlorophyll and lutein content. As an oil, it has many desirable qualities. It is very similar to olive oil in that it is rich in monounsaturated fat making it more stable and less prone to damage while not promoting inflammation like omega-6 rich grain and seed oils can.
Avocado oil is rich in vitamin E, a well understood antioxidant that has been shown to help reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease and some cancers. Contrary to what the media reports, real vitamin E supplements have been shown to reduce the risk for heart disease, prostate, lung and breast cancer and more recently, diets that include vitamin E rich foods, like nuts, seeds and avocados, have been shown to do the same.
Avocado oil is naturally trans fat free. Trans fats, those derived from the partially hydrogenation vegetable oils, have been conclusively shown to dramatically raise the risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, inflammation and obesity. Because avocado oil is trans fat free, it can be included freely without the concerns of going rancid, like oils high in omega-6 [grain and seed oils] and omega-3 fatty acids [flax oil] can which, once oxidized, are arguably as unhealthy as trans fat.
This is the type of fat was made famous by the Mediterranean diet because olive oil is the staple oil. Monounsaturated fats are touted to raise HDL ‘cholesterol’, they do not, at least not that effectively. In the past, when persons were put on low-fat, high carb diets, their HDL [the protective lipoprotein] would drop – oops, but when monounsaturated rich oils are added back, they were able to prevent a precipitous decline in HDL in the context of a higher carb diet. But monounsaturated fats do more than that.
Because omega-6 oils are used extensively in the food supply, both as cooking oils and as ingredients in many prepared and processed foods, we over consume
omega-6 oils at the expense of omega-3. Excessive omega-6 fats have been shown to increase inflammation; low-grade, long-term inflammation is now understood to be a driver of many of the markers of aging. Omega-6 fats increase the amount of oxidized, or damaged LDL, a pivotal first step in atherosclerosis since the omega-6 fat gets incorporated into the cell membrane of LDL. Saturated fats and the monounsaturated fats, abundantly found in avocado oil, are more resistant to damage resulting in less oxidized LDL. There is even good evidence that higher intakes of omega-6 fats increase the risk for cancer [prostate to name one type].
Whenever a food, or diet is rich in monounsaturated fats, it often is lower in omega-6 fats via displacement. My advice to clients is to reduce their intake of omega-6 fats, since we consume far too much, by ditching all grain and seed oils and products made with them [small amounts of whole nuts and seeds is fine], and to use olive, avocado and coconut oil, butter or ghee.
Avocado oil is rich in phytonutrients, compounds, that while not essential like vitamins and minerals are to maintain life, are absolutely needed for anyone who wants to thrive. Examples of these key phytonutrients are lutein, chlorophyll, alpha and beta carotene. Avocado oil’s distinct dark green colour is due to chlorophyll and lutein and if care is not taken, can be easily damage from light and heat. For this reason, like olive oil, ensure you buy avocado oil in dark coloured glass or tin cans, buy in small batches [smaller amounts mean less chance of damage and more turnover; getting fresher oils more often] and store at room temperature in a dark place.
Avocado oil has a mild flavour making it suitable for baking unlike olive oil which can impart a distinct flavour. It makes an excellent salad dressing, and cooking oil since it has a high smoke point of 250C. Use as a drizzle on vegetables of all kinds.
Photo credit: smileycreek , macvouty