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Ask Dr. Gourmet

Which is better: polyunsaturated oils or monounsaturated oils?

Isn't olive oil also polyunsaturated [in addition to being monounsaturated]? Is it as effective in reducing the risk of a heart attack or stroke?

Dr. Gourmet Says...

pouring olive oil onto a green salad of cucumbers and tomatoes

Certainly polyunsaturated fats are a good choice. Olive oil contains more monounsaturated fat than polyunsaturated, however. For instance, a tablespoon of olive oil contains 9.9 grams of monounsaturated fat and 1.4 grams of polyunsaturated. Peanut oil contains 6.3 and 4.3 respectively. Corn oil has even more polyunsaturated fat, coming in at 7.4 grams in a tablespoon and 3.8 grams monounsaturated.

While there is benefit in changing to polyunsaturated fats, monounsaturated fats may be even more protective. When it comes to olive oil there are studies that indicate it may be more than just the type of oil. A lot of research indicates that the antioxidants in olive oil may be offering other benefits.

All of these are good choices for your cooking and the better quality fats have clearly been shown to help prevent heart disease.

Thanks for writing,

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP, CCMS
Dr. Gourmet