Choosing oils for cooking: A host of heart-healthy options

Olive oil is just one of many plant-based oils rich in unsaturated fats, the more healthful type of fat.

When you're cooking or baking, choose a fat that's liquid instead of solid at room temperature. That advice, from the federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans, is based on a large body of evidence showing that replacing solid fat (mainly saturated fat) with liquid fat (mostly unsaturated fat) is linked to a lower risk of heart attack and death from heart disease.

To be clear, all fat — whether it comes from seeds, nuts, meat, milk, olives, or avocados — contains a mixture of different fatty acids, the basic building blocks of fats. However, butter, lard, coconut oil, and palm oil contain mostly saturated fatty acids. Most plant-based oils, on the other hand, consist predominantly of unsaturated fatty acids, which include both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids (see "The fats of life: Healthy oils").

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