Healthspan March 01, 2018

‘Ditch olive oil’, ‘swap to coconut oil’, ‘never eat vegetable oil’…there’s a whole host of advice out there nowadays that makes the question ‘is oil good for you?’ a much-deliberated topic. 

The fact is there are all sorts of different types of oils from fish oils, to cooking oils like palm oil, olive oil and coconut oil, to oils used for their health benefits such as tea-tree oil and primrose oil. We’ve put together a Q&A of your top oil related questions…

Is fish oil good for you?

Absolutely and the UK population are not getting enough of it. Many people, for example, struggle to get enough of the essential omega 3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) from their diet. The best sources are fish, nuts and seeds such as walnuts and flaxseed. Bread, spreads and milk are increasingly fortified with small amounts of ‘added omega 3’ in the form of ALA derived from vegetable oil.

Government recommendations suggest we get at least 450mg of the long-chain omega 3s, DHA and EPA, per day. This is a smallest amount to prevent deficiency.

Is coconut oil good for skin?

This is heavily dependent on your skin type and there is no significant research to show coconut oil is beneficial for skin. It is composed mostly of saturated fats though, which means it’s pretty good for locking in moisture. Many people ask, ‘is coconut oil good for hair?’ too and this is similarly because of its properties that may contribute to hydration.

Is olive oil good for you?

The main type of fat found in all kinds of olive oil is monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) which are considered a healthy dietary fat. Do be careful – though – as even healthier fats are high in calories.

Is olive oil good for skin?

Again, there is no real research denoting the benefits of olive oil on skin – but some people swear by it as a moisturising technique. Olive oil does contain vitamin A and vitamin E but – despite the claim that this helps to repair skin damage you should always make sure to wear sun cream in the first place.

Is palm oil bad for you in peanut butter?

According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services palm oil contains saturated fats, but peanut butter with palm oil is a healthier choice than peanut butter made with partially hydrogenated oils.

This does make sense, but it doesn’t consider the environmental implications of palm oil. You may have noticed the majority of peanut butters have removed palm oil from their ingredient list for this very reason.

The problem with saturated fats comes when you’re eating too many of them – sticking within the recommended amount is not going to cause you problems.

What is tea tree oil good for?

Otherwise known as melaleuca oil, tea tree oil comes from the steaming of the Australian tea tree and it’s believed that – due to its antibacterial properties - tea tree oil can help treat acne, athlete's foot, lice, nail fungus and insect bites.

Is primrose oil good for menopause?

Healthspan Medical Director Dr Sarah Brewer says, ‘Evening primrose oil (EPO) is a rich source of GLA (gamma linolenic or gamolenic acid). It is one of the few omega 6 oils with an anti-inflammatory action like omega 3s. It may help hormone balance, improving the severity of hot flushes and dry skin at the menopause. In one trial involving women in their 40s, those taking evening primrose oil experienced a twenty per cent improvement in skin moisture, smoothness, elasticity and firmness within three months’.

Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn’t possible supplements can help. This article isn’t intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.

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