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Healthy Oils: 9 Nut and Seed Oils

Updated on February 17, 2013

Healthy Oils: 9 Nut and Seed Oils

All oils and fats are 100% fat. However, the components that make up that fat structure of each oil are important in determining whether or not the oil or fat is considered healthy.

It is a myth to believe that consuming fat makes you fat. Fats are necessary to provide a concentrated source of energy and is necessary to make up a healthy diet. All oils are high in calories (about 120 per tablespoon) and therefore should be consumed in moderation.

They are usually referred to as ‘seasoning oils.’

Cold- and Expeller-pressed oils* are recommended to insure taste, purity and nutritional value.

The culinary nut and seed oils and their characteristics are as follows:

Almond Oil - has a subtle toasted almond aroma and flavor and is good for salad dressings and in sauces. It has a high smoke point** so it can be used for high heat cooking. Almond oil is a good source of monounsaturated (73%) fat, vitamins A and E. It is often used as a massage oil, and a carrier for aromatherapy oils.

Argan Oil - it is said that this oil is only grown in one place in the world, Morocco. It has a golden yellow color with a reddish tint and a nutty aroma. The oil obtained from the nuts is expensive due to the traditional methods of production. Most often used as a dip or a spread but also good for cooking, and cosmetics. I have only heard of this oil used in cosmetics.

Hazelnut Oil - popular in French cuisine. Has a strong roasted hazelnut flavor and is most often used in baked goods and sauces. Works well as a marinade.

Macadamia Nut Oil - most brands are cold-pressed* It has the same buttery rich flavor as the nuts. It is used in salads, in cooking, and as a seasoning. Macadamia nut oil has a high smoke point which makes it an excellent choice for frying and sautéing. It also contains the highest level of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat (85%) of all the edible oils. It also has an exact balance of omega-3 and omega 6 fatty acids. Due to the high level of antioxidants rancidity is slowed and this oil can be stored for up to two years without refrigeration.

Peanut Oil - the USA version is almost clear with a mild flavor (I find it practically tasteless and the aroma is almost negligible) due to the refining process used. The Chinese version has a stronger taste and aroma. The refined oil has a high smoke point and is excellent for frying and sautéing. It is also high in polyunsaturated (33%) and monounsaturated (49%) fats, making it a healthy oil for cooking and for dressings. (I use it to make fresh peanut butter).

Pecan Nut Oil - sweeter than walnuts and are used as an alternative to them. They are grown in the American south. Used in salad dressing, baking, marinades, and as a flavoring.

Pistachio Nut Oil - high in unsaturated fatty acids, it is considered a healthy oil. It is a cold-pressed oil from the fruit of the Pistacia vera. With its powerful flavor, it does not go with everything but it does go well with sweet dishes.

Sesame Seed Oil - is highly nutritious and is rich in vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 and omega-6. Sesame seed oil is rich and nearly odorless. When properly stored it is not likely to go rancid. Popular in Chinese and Korean cooking.

Walnut Oil - cold-pressed from the meat of dried walnuts, it has a strong, and distinctive taste. Generally used as a flavoring, and salad dressing. Like other nut oils, it is popular in French cuisine.

*Cold-pressing - pressing and grinding fruit or seeds using heavy granite millstones or modern day stainless steel presses. This procedure will heat through friction but the temperature must not rise above 120F in order to be labeled cold-pressed.

Expeller-pressing - is similar, except that extreme pressure is used which results in much higher temperatures.

**Smoke point - this is the temperature at which a cooking oil or fat begins to break down. The substance will smoke or burn, and give food an unpleasant taste. (Caution: The flash point is beyond the smoke point and it is the point at which combustion occurs - also known as a grease fire).

salad oil
salad oil

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