Eat Your Vegetable Oils

A few tablespoons of vegetable oil a day keeps the doctor away? The health effects of cooking oils, such as soy, corn, and canola, have been long questioned, and after years of the ingredient being snubbed on USDA food pyramids, most would be quick to say that decreasing oil intake means improving health. A recent study, however, suggests otherwise: Vegetable oil, it turns out, is in fact good for you.

While it is notorious for its calorie content (there's 124 for every tablespoon of canola), vegetable oil is also a significant source of the nutrient linoleic acid (LA). The 1992 food pyramid guide advises that oils "supply calories, but little or no vitamins and minerals," providing the implication that oils boast more negative effects than positive ones. According to University of Missouri and University of Illinois researchers, though, vegetable oil — in moderation (two to four tablespoons per day) — actually supports a heart healthy diet. 

Past studies on animals have indicated that LA-rich diets can cause inflammation linked to heart disease, cancer, and arthritis, but as Kevin Fritsche, one of the researchers involved in the study, notes: "In the field of nutrition and health, animals aren't people." After reviewing 15 clinical trials involving almost 500 adult humans, Fritsche and Guy Johnson have lifted some of the stigma surrounding the product.

In turn, home cooks should see vegetable oils as a healthy alternative to animal fats. According to Fritsche, "We know that animal fats can encourage inflammation, but in this study, we've been able to rule out vegetable oil as a cause." So take out the wok and bring on the stir-fry: easy, quick, and now, guilt-free.