When we meet someone for the first time and share what we do, it often seems to open the gateway to a game of 20 questions. “What do you think about the Paleo diet?” “It’s a good thing to give up gluten, right?” “Is a banana bad for me?” “So, do you always eat healthy?” When we’re asked these kinds of questions, we’re happy to answer them. We feel grateful that people feel comfortable enough to ask. Here's a recent question we were asked...and here's the answer!
Question: I saw tea seed oil in a natural food store; is it a healthy fat?
Answer: Tea seed oil is an edible, cold-pressed oil derived from the seeds of the Camellia oleifera, a shrub native to China. The oil is used extensively in China for cooking, as its high smoke point of 485ºF and stability make it ideal for cooking seafood, poultry, meat or vegetables. Tea seed oil is also a popular base for marinades, dips, dressings and sauces. Tea seed oil is rich in healthy monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fat—52 percent and 23 percent, respectively. In the Western world, this oil is gaining more attention for its speculated antioxidant properties. Preliminary studies indeed indicate that the compounds in tea seed oil exhibit activity that may help protect against diseases caused by free radicals and oxidative damage, such as cancer and heart disease. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to incorporate a little tea seed oil into your diet, especially if a recipe calls for high temp cooking. But keep in mind that tea seed oil is not as readily available on this side of the globe. You might be better off using extra virgin olive oil as your first choice of oils. As with any oil, tea seed oil calories—at 120 per tablespoon—can add up quickly.
This Q &A was written by McKenzie for the "Ask the Expert" section in the March 2013 issue of Environmental Nutrition.