Q. If I stick to vegetable oils will I avoid saturated fats?

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Friday, 19 April 2013.
Tagged: coconut, fats, label, oil

Q. If I stick to vegetable oils will I avoid saturated fats?

Q. I have been told that just checking for VEGETABLE OIL in the ingredients list is not enough if I want to avoid saturated fat.

A. This is true. While most vegetable oils like olive, sunflower or canola are low in saturated fat and high in healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats, this isn’t the case 100 per cent of the time. Vegetable oil is used to either 'hide' the use of cheap palm or coconut oil OR because a number of different oils is included so an umbrella term covers the lot!

The vegetable oil exceptions

The big exceptions are palm oil and coconut oil.

Palm oil, also called palmolein on the Ingredients list, is a vegetable oil that’s high in saturated fat with around 50 per cent present. Palm oil is a popular choice for food manufacturers and is often the oil used to make snack foods, French fries, chips, doughnuts and other deep-fried fast food items.

Coconut oil or coconut fat has some 90 per cent saturated fat and appears in trendy bliss balls or for coating movie popcorn. You have no way of knowing if it's present unless it's declared on the label.


You will often spot VEGETABLE OIL on an Ingredient list and more often than not it will be because palm oil is used. One way of checking is to cross-check the nutrition information panel. If more than one third of the food's total fat is saturated, it is unlikely the vegetable oil used is a healthier variety and you are best to give it a miss. Or eat it sparingly.

Catherine Saxelby

About the Author

Catherine Saxelby knows nutrition! She is an accredited nutritionist, food commentator, blogger and award-winning author. Her latest book Catherine Saxelby's Food and Nutrition Companion answers all those tricky questions on healthy eating, diets and supplements. It draws together a lifetime of advice and gives you all you need to know to eat right! It's a complete A to Z. A handy desk go-to reference.