One of the things I find challenging is to remember the details for things like eating the right type of fat. So  I thought I’d do a piece on fats to remind myself which oils I should and shouldn’t be eating.

Here’s an excerpt from our book Fast Living, Slow Ageing on fats:

The right fat products have a balance of saturated and unsaturated fats. It is generally the saturated fat we should try to limit in our diet. Foods containing a higher proportion of saturated fat include butter, coconut, dairy products (especially cream cheese and milk chocolate), meat and eggs. In each case, there are low-fat alternatives. So read the label, compare and choose the one that has the least saturated fat. Keep in mind that low fat sometimes means high carbs.

Some fats are essential for good health, including the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Good sources of omega-3 include cold-water oily fish, meat from animals that eat grass, organic eggs, flax seed (linseed), kiwifruit, black raspberries and walnuts.

Choose the good oil

When we feel we have to use some oil on a salad or in a meal, choose the good oil:

  • For high temperature cooking try grape-seed, rice bran·, peanut, macadamia oils as these are more stable. However, prolonged or very high temperatures (e.g. deep frying) will destroy many of the antioxidants and phytochemicals contained in the oil.  Prolonged deep frying can also generate trans fats. Even if we use trans fat-free oil we need to change it regularly.
  • Consider a drizzle on the salad, like the Greeks do, not spa bath for potatoes (as the French would fry). For dressings and flavor, try sesame, olive, or walnut oils. Try some fresh ‘hand-picked’ oils from local producers. They taste much better.
  • Choose organic or virgin (not refined) oils where we can, as these contain more polyphenols. ‘First cold press’ means that it came from the first press and generally contains the most phytonutrients. ‘100% Pure Olive Oil’ is often the lowest quality available. Good quality extra virgin olive oil should have a distinct green color, and be stored in the dark. If your oil is light or yellow, its polyphenol content is probably also low.
  • Use canola oil sparingly as well as butter, margarine or solid spreads as oil surrogates in your cooking.

Go for variety and try something new:

Instead of:

Go for:

Vegetable oil/canola oil for cooking

Peanut oil (organic), rice bran oil and macadamia oil (good for high temperature cooking)


Organic butter, non-organic butter, olive oil and butter blend, hummus, drizzled olive oil, avocado


Last Reviewed 03/Mar/2014

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Dr Merlin Thomas

Professor Merlin Thomas is Professor of Medicine at Melbourne’s Monash University, based in the Department of Diabetes. He is both a physician and a scientist. Merlin has a broader interest in all aspects of preventive medicine and ageing. He has published over 270 articles in many of the worlds’ leading medical journals

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