Oils, fats, saturated fats, good fat, bad fat. The list goes on and on! I mean, can we get a simple explanation, please?! There are already so many decisions that come along with pregnancy. Ideally, clear guidance on fats and cooking oils would be readily available.
Contrary to popular belief, fat is an essential part of the pregnancy diet. Choosing quality fat choices is critical. There are several cooking oils available. All these cooking oils are made up of varying levels of saturated fat, monounsaturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats. Some oils and spreads contain trans fat as well.
Cooking oil is made from animal, plant, or synthetic sources. Yep, it’s true! Who would have thought? It’s typically used when cooking, frying, or baking. Some oils can be used to add flavor to dishes. What kind of fat a cooking oil is made up of can impact our health differently. This is one reason some cooking oils are better choices than others!
We know it can be confusing as a pregnant mama. All you’re trying to do is what is best for the baby. Well, we’re here to help. To clear up all the confusion surrounding cooking oils, we’re sharing a round-up of cooking oils that pregnant women should limit (most of the time) when following a healthy diet. Plus, the oils you want to use for cooking instead. Don’t worry, mama, we got you!
3 Cooking Oils To Avoid (or Limit) During Pregnancy
There is still much debate over whether vegetable oils are good or “bad” for your health. Again, can we get a clear answer, please?! However, if we look into it, we lean away from vegetable oils like corn oil. This is because vegetable oils and seed oils high in omega-6 fatty acids like sunflower oil may increase inflammation in the body and markers associated with heart disease.
If you’re out at a restaurant, I wouldn’t stress if they happen to use vegetable oil in cooking, but I wouldn’t make this the go-to choice when you have the will or in your kitchen. There are plenty of other options to consider stocking in your house. So it’s time to throw out your Crisco in exchange for something else. I’m sharing more on the better options below.
It’s well-known that fried foods, often cooked in vegetable oils, should be limited when following a heart-healthy diet. Fried foods tend to be a source of trans fats too. These are the worst kinds of fats for your body, the artificial trans fats. This means they’re the worst fats for your growing baby’s body too!
Palm oil is another fat that you’ll want to avoid during pregnancy. This one is controversial… what else is new? Palm oil is sometimes used for cooking and frying, often found in processed foods and shortening.
According to the World Health Organization, research has shown a mix of good and bad effects on your health. “Some studies link palm oil consumption to increased ischaemic heart disease mortality, raised low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and other adverse effects.” No, thank you. “Other studies show no negative effects or even favorable health outcomes from palm oil consumption,” wrote the WHO. Great, so that is confusing!
There are better choices out there, so this is one to do your best to limit. If you want us to give our opinion, we will err on the caution on palm oil. With its effects on your health remaining unclear, you’re better off avoiding palm oil to protect yourself and your growing baby from potential unwanted health effects.
Soybean oil is also a vegetable oil, but we decided to give it its own section because it is the biggest source of omega-6 fatty acids in the American diet. It is really cheap and found in many processed foods and fast foods.
Soybean oil is a form of soy that is a highly processed. As a registered dietitian, I always advocate prioritizing whole foods over highly processed alternatives. You’ll get more health benefits when you use the whole version of the food versus a highly processed version.
Although soy consumption has been linked to some positive benefits, consuming a diet high in soybean oil may increase the risk of adverse health effects, like poor metabolic health. Soybean oil is high in omega-6 fats. While these fats are necessary, an excess can lead to inflammation in the body.
Now, only some soy needs to be avoided. When choosing soy foods during pregnancy, opt for edamame, tempeh, tofu, natto, or miso. These are more whole, unprocessed forms of soy that can have health benefits!
Best Oil For Cooking During Pregnancy
Extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil are all great options to keep in your pregnancy-friendly pantry. Ghee and real butter (i.e., cream and salt) also make great cooking fats. The best cooking oil or fat to use out of these options ultimately depends on what you’re making and your preferences!
Let’s use olive oil as an example and discuss why it’s a great choice!
Olives in whole or oil form are an excellent choice for pregnancy because of their numerous, proven health benefits. It’s full of antioxidants and “good-for-you” fats! Olive oil lowers LDL cholesterol, or bad cholesterol, and raises HDL, or good cholesterol.
Olive oil also contains vitamins E and K, beta carotene, and omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to benefit nearly every body function. The primary fatty acid in olive oil is a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid. Oleic acid has been linked to numerous health benefits, including improved blood pressure. That’s a win!
Extra-virgin olive oil is pretty stable and has a lower oxidation rate. Oxidation is potentially harmful because it promotes free radicals, chemicals that can damage your cells. That damage can then lead to a negative health impact. Extra-virgin olive oil is also a great source of antioxidants, which help to protect your cells from damage and oxidation.
Additionally, extra-virgin olive oil has hydroxytyrosol, a remarkable skin- and body-protecting polyphenol, and one of the most effective at absorbing free radicals.
For many reasons, extra-virgin olive oil is an excellent choice for cooking oil during pregnancy.
Add olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil to your pregnancy diet, and reap the benefits!
For all the ways you can stay healthy and support your growing baby, join The Prenatal Nutrition Library. Gain access to the most comprehensive library of prenatal nutrition information and expert-crafted meal plans when you join The Prenatal Nutrition Library! All the information you need is waiting for you HERE so you can feel empowered during your pregnancy and make the best decisions for you and your baby.