Why you should go ‘high oleic’

20 April 2017 by
First published: 8 November 2016

The world of health and wellbeing is constantly evolving, and becoming more aware of what we eat can only be seen as a step in the right direction. The latest trend to surface is the term high oleic, which has been cropping up more and more, particularly regarding oils and nuts. Wondering what it is? Perhaps you’re unsure of how to incorporate it into your diet – if at all? We chatted to consultant dietician Hala El Shafie to get the low down on all things high oleic.

What is it?

High oleic refers to oleic acid and is a product – you guessed it – high in the substance. ‘Oleic acid is a monounsaturated fat commonly found in vegetable oils and animal fat,’ explains Hala. ‘Oleic acid is the primary fat in vegetable oils such as olive, canola and sunflower and is also found in nut oils, meat, poultry, cheese and foods made using oleic acid-rich vegetable oil.’

What are the benefits?

‘High oleic oil is high in unsaturated fat, low in saturated fat, and has no trans fat,’ Hala explains. ‘While a diet high in saturated fat can increase cholesterol in your blood, eating monounsaturated fats in moderation can help reduce bad cholesterol and lower your risk of heart disease and stroke,’ says Hala. Why is this? ‘The large amount of monounsaturated fat in high oleic oil has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) without lowering HDL cholesterol (the good kind). When LDL cholesterol goes down, so do the risks of heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke.’

But it isn’t only a cholesterol-fighting machine, with Hala maintaining it holds many other reported health benefits. ‘It is rich in antioxidants that help in fighting the effects of free radicals in the body,’ she says. ‘It also boosts the immune system and helps in fighting diseases by keeping us healthy throughout. It strengthens the cell membrane integrity and helps repair cells and tissues damage.’

When and how should we eat it?

So we know it’s good for us, but how should we be including high oleic products in our diet? ‘Choose whole food or minimally processed sources such as a variety of nuts, seeds, avocados and cold-pressed vegetable oils such as safflower, almond and sunflower,’ advises Hala. ‘You can easily add a handful of nuts to yoghurt, smoothies or have them as a snack between meals. You can give crunch to salads by adding seeds, or include them in your trail mix as a snack. Use oleic-acid rich oil on your salad in place of traditional dressing, or drizzle oil on your salmon or other protein as finishing oil. Oleic-acid rich oil can also be used in marinades.’

And while the benefits are rife, it’s important – as with anything – to practice moderation where you can. ‘Remember it’s essential to choose healthy food sources of oleic acid, since it’s found in a wide variety of foods, some of which aren’t necessarily healthy,’ says Hala. ‘Oleic acid sources that contribute to the highest intake include grain-based desserts, chicken, sausages, nuts, pizza, burgers, beef, eggs, cheese, crisps, shop-bought salad dressing and dairy-based desserts. Not all of these foods are particularly healthy, so getting oleic acid from some of these sources may do more harm than good, since you’ll also get excess calories, saturated fat and refined sugar in the process, so be sure to focus on the healthy sources previously mentioned.’

Want to get your oleic acid fix? Here are our favourite high oleic products.

Perfect PB
If you were wondering if peanut butter could get any better, it just did. King of the PB world, Whole Earth’s new Hi-Oleic Crunchy Peanut Butter packs a serious punch of monounsaturated fats, using carefully selected High Oleic peanuts from Argentina and Australia. This means we can have the whole jar, right?

Super sunflower oil
Made from select quality organic sunflower High Oleic seeds, Clearspring’s Organic High Oleic Sunflower Frying Oil is a great and simple way to sneak some more of the good stuff into your diet.

One of the highest sources of Oleic acid is the humble avocado. Even more excuse to have that avo on toast, then..