Ask a Dietitian: Cooking Oils

If you want your question answered by a dietitian and published on our blog, email Maris Harmon at

QuestionWhat is the healthiest oil to use, and which oils should we stay away from?

MANNA Dietitian: Extra virgin olive oil is one of the healthiest oils to use, because it is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, which help reduce the “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and increase the “good” cholesterol (HDL). Olives naturally contain antioxidants, called polyphenols, which protect against free radicals. Olive oil is best for low-temperature cooking, such as sautéeing.

Canola oil and sunflower oil both contain polyunsaturated fats, which help improve blood cholesterol levels, reducing your risk for heart disease. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are essential for good health. They both have a medium-high smoke point, which is great for searing, frying, or baking.

Grapeseed oil is another healthy, versatile option. It is rich in polyunsaturated fats, and is a good choice for cooking over high heat (sautéing, roasting).

Avoid using oils labeled as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated. These oils contain high amounts of trans-fat. Trans-fats are responsible for clogged arteries, which can lead to heart attacks. Two oils to avoid are corn oil and palm oil, both high in calories and trans-fats.


National Homemade Soup Day

Homemade Soup Day (February 4)

Warm up with this heart-healthy, budget friendly Black Bean Soup


  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 jalapeño, chopped
  • 2 16-oz. canned, low-sodium black beans (undrained)
  • 1 15-oz. can, no-salt-added, diced tomatoes (undrained)
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • Optional: fresh cilantro, chopped


  1. Spray a large pot with cooking spray (or oil), over medium-high heat add onion and cook until translucent (about 5 minutes).
  2. Add garlic, cumin and jalapeno and cook for another minute.
  3. Add the beans and lightly mash with a masher or a fork.
  4. Add tomatoes and broth – bring to a boil and reduce to medium heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Served topped with fresh cilantro (optional).

February is American Heart Month

February is American Heart Month.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Every year, 1 in 4 deaths are caused by heart disease. Fortunately, we can often prevent this chronic illness by making healthier choices along with managing our health conditions. The MANNA meal program helps to ensure that each client we serve follows the American Heart Association’s daily recommendations for preventing heart disease by using it as a guide when creating our six week cycle menu. Eating heart-healthy foods and incorporating physical activity into your daily routine can help control and reduce your risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, and other heart-related illnesses.

Here are a few simple, easy tips your heart (and body) will love you for!

  • Physical activity is key to a healthy heart. The American Heart Association suggests exercising at least 30 minutes a day, five times a week. Physical activity includes walking, swimming, biking, and many more.
  • Make it fun! Choose activities that you will enjoy. Try to change up your routine weekly, that way it will never seem boring.
  • Invite family and friends to join you. You are more likely to stick with an exercise routine if you have company.
  • Decrease the amount of sodium in your diet by being conscious of how much added salt you are putting in your food, processed foods, and canned items.
  • Instead of adding salt to your food, try adding healthy spices such as rosemary, thyme, curry, or coriander.
  • Reduce the amount of fat in your diet by choosing lean meats and healthy fats (i.e. olive oil, avocados, nuts, fish, etc.)
  • Try to quit smoking. Quitting smoking is an important component in helping to reduce your risk for heart disease.

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