There are so many different cooking oils on the market, and it can be difficult to know which oil is the healthiest to use when cooking or baking for your young athletes. A high-quality oil can provide vital nutrition, and here, TrueSport Expert Kristen Ziesmer, a registered dietitian and board-certified specialist in sports dietetics, is breaking down what you need to know about oil selection and how to pick the right type for any meal.
Don’t be afraid of oil
For many of us who had our formative years in the 80s and 90s, ‘fat’ was a bad word. Salad dressings that were fat-free were the healthy option and adding oil to a dish rather than coating a pan with non-stick spray was heresy for the health-minded. But we’ve since learned that certain fats aren’t just flavor-enhancing, they’re also essential to our overall health.
So, before we discuss which oils to use, Ziesmer urges parents to get rid of any misconceptions about oil being a bad thing. Especially for young athletes who are training hard, the extra calories from oil in addition to the essential nutrients it provides can be game-changing.
All oil isn’t created equal
While the caloric content of any oil is going to be very nearly even—about 120 calories and 14 grams of fat per tablespoon—they aren’t all the exact same nutritionally. While all oil is composed entirely of fat, the type of fat in each will differ. It may seem confusing, but there are different types of fats: saturated fats, trans fats, monounsaturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats. Ideally, a healthy diet eliminates trans fats entirely, since trans fats have no positive benefits and can raise bad cholesterol while lowering good cholesterol. Saturated fats should generally be eaten in moderation, while mono and poly-unsaturated fats are important for a healthy diet. Different oils will have different fat profiles: For instance, while olive oil only has two grams of saturated fat in that tablespoon, coconut oil will have 13 grams of saturated fat in the same serving.
Keep it simple, opt for olive oil
To simplify things immensely, a high-quality extra virgin olive oil is your best bet when it comes to oil consumption, says Ziesmer. Olive oil is made up of primarily mono and poly-unsaturated fats, including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are critical for brain health. “It’s also rich in antioxidants and polyphenols, especially when you’re using extra-virgin olive oil rather than regular or virgin olive oil,” she adds.