Oil Changes: Part 2

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Did last week’s blog entry (“Oil Changes: Part 1”) prompt you to rush out and try Enova oil? No? Well, maybe it did pique your curiosity somewhat, which is good. And at the very least, it’s something to bring up during your daily water cooler chat or at your next dinner party. This week, I want to mention two other oils that have received some attention lately.

Let’s start off with a relatively unknown oil called rice bran oil, or RBO for short. RBO isn’t widely in use at this time in the United States, except commercially. However, it’s gaining in popularity, especially in Japan and India. RBO is derived from the bran, or outer hull, of the rice kernel.

What’s so special about RBO? Well, studies in both humans and animals have shown that it can help lower LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol in people with moderately high cholesterol. One of these studies was reported in the January 2005 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In that study, which involved 14 people, RBO lowered LDL cholesterol levels significantly more than an oil blend (consisting of peanut oil, olive oil, corn oil, canola oil, palm oil, and butter) that was engineered to have a similar fatty acid composition to RBO.

RBO contains a concentrated form of vitamin E called tocotrienol rich fraction (TRF). TRF has antioxidant properties, including cholesterol-lowering abilities. But that’s not all that this oil has going for it. RBO also contains oryzanol, a plant sterol. Plant sterols and stanols are natural ingredients that can also help lower cholesterol levels. (Plant sterols or stanols are found in two popular margarine-like spreads: Benecol and Take Control.) RBO may not be in your local grocery store yet, although you can find it in health food stores as well as online. The cost is comparable to a fairly decent quality olive oil. This oil is mild in flavor and can be used in both cooking and baking.

Another oil that has received much less attention than olive or canola oil is grapeseed oil. As you might imagine, grapeseed oil is derived from the seeds of grapes. Another mild-tasting oil, it has a slight nutty flavor and lends itself well to stir-frying, sautéing, and use in salad dressings. It actually has a higher smoke point than olive oil, making it a slightly better choice than olive oil for cooking at high temperatures.

Grapeseed oil is used frequently in the cosmetics industry and has been used widely in Europe for cooking. In the United States, it has recently garnered attention in the health food industry because, like olive oil, canola oil, and rice bran oil, it too may help lower cholesterol levels. Grapeseed oil contains vitamin E and other antioxidants, and some studies have shown that it can help lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL (or “good”) cholesterol. Grapeseed oil also has one of the lowest percentages of saturated fat (about 10%) compared to other oils.

Grapeseed oil is probably considered more of a “gourmet-style” oil (meaning that it’s a bit more costly and a little harder to find than other oils), but if you enjoy cooking with various oils or experimenting with different flavors, consider trying either rice bran oil or grapeseed oil. Don’t forget that these two oils are still 100% fat and contain 120 calories per tablespoon. However, both oils can definitely be a part of a heart-healthy eating plan.

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