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20+ Healthy Cooking Oils, Health Benefits and How to Use Them

Healthy Cooking Oils

According to cooking oils, a recent consumer survey on dietary fat found that most people reported trying to limit their fat intake for at least some of the time (s). However, we do not have to fear the fat in our food.

Fats are an essential part of a healthy diet and are involved in many parts of digestion and nutrition, from improving the taste of our food to providing us with a major source of energy to helping our bodies absorb vitamins to restoring the connection between cells in our bodies.

What are the types of cooking oils?

Whether you are a culinary enthusiast or simply looking to add more variety to your diet, there are many types of cooking oils to choose from.

Experiment with new oils and experiment with familiar oils in your cooking - there are many ways oil can be used to enhance the flavor of your food. And be sure to look out for the second installment in this rundown series of specialty cooking oils.

First beware: Artificial seeds and vegetable oils are highly refined and processed products that are very rich in omega-6 fatty acids. Not only should you not cook with them, it is also advised to avoid them completely.

These oils have been considered "unhealthy for the heart" by the media and many nutritionists in the past few decades. However, new data links these oils to many serious diseases, including heart disease and cancer (s, s, s). Avoid all of:

  • Soybean oil
  • Corn oil
  • Cottonseed oil
  • Canola oil
  • Rapeseed oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Sesame oil
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Rice bran oil

One study considered that they contain between 0.56 and 4.2% trans fats, which are highly toxic (s).

It is important to read the labels. If you find any of these oils on a canned food you are about to eat, it is best to buy something else.

1. Avocado oil

Whether it's stacked on toast or mashed, avocado oil is a favorite of many. In addition to being a popular food source, avocados are also a source of cooking oil.

Avocado oil is produced through various extraction methods that take out the pulp of the fruit (s).

The result is a neutral-tasting oil that works well as an ingredient in salad dressings, and as a way to grill meat.

Avocado oil is primarily made up of oleic acid, an omega-9 monounsaturated fatty acid, which may help reduce inflammation and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke (s).

Uses: frying, roasting, sauces, and salad dressings.

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2. Canola oil

Canola oil is made by heating and crushing the seeds of the rapeseed plant. Canola oil has a neutral taste, which makes it a great all-purpose oil for baking, grilling, quick reheating, and frying.

Canola is high in oleic acid and contains most of the alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid found in plants, from common cooking oils.

ALA is converted in the body to form eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), two types of essential fatty acids (that is, acids that our bodies need but don't make on their own, requiring us to get them from food) commonly found in seafood such as fatty fish.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (s), vegans are encouraged to consume somewhat higher amounts of ALA than the DRI recommends to aid in this conversion process (s) making canola oil a great choice for vegan cooking.

Uses: frying.

3. Coconut oil

Coconut oil has been increasing in popularity over the past decade. To make coconut oil, dried coconut meat (called copra) is pressed into two forms:

  • Unrefined coconut oil. Unrefined coconut oil has a stronger aroma and flavor and is often used as a substitute for butter in baking recipes.
  • Refined coconut oil. Refined coconut oil, with its milder flavor, is best suited for frying or quick heating.

In both products, coconut oil is solid at room temperature due to its high saturated fat content.

While coconut oil is described as a "superfood," both the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommend limiting consumption of tropical oils (s, s), such as coconut oil, which are high in saturated fat.

For this reason, coconut oil should not replace a large amount of other cooking oils in your diet; However, if you enjoy its flavor, sometimes consider using it in place of butter or shortening, or pairing it with other cooking oils.

Uses: In Thai and Indian food, frying, roasting, and baking.

4. Olive oil

All olive oils start with crushing and pressing the olives into oils. Depending on the refining process, the end product is either:

  • Extra virgin olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil is the least refined and highest quality olive oil. As such, extra virgin olive oil has the strongest flavor, and often works well in salad dressings.
  • Virgin olive oil. Virgin olive oil is slightly more refined than extra virgin olive oil
  • Light olive oil. Light olive oil, the most refined of the three, has a more neutral flavor. Because of its neutral flavor, light olive oil can be used as an all-purpose cooking oil.

Olive oil is a staple of the Mediterranean diet and was identified by consumers as the healthiest cooking oil in the 2020 survey on health perceptions of dietary fats and oils (s).

Among the popular cooking oils, olive oil contains the most oleic acid, which is the omega-9 monounsaturated fatty acid that provides heart-healthy benefits.

Uses: frying, sauces, and salad dressings.

5. Soybean oil

Soybean oil is made from extracting the oil from whole soybeans. This process involves removing and crushing the soybean husk, then separating the oil from the rest of the bean.

Soybean oil is used in a variety of packaged foods, baked goods, snacks, seasonings, and sauces, as well as sold on its own as a cooking oil.

Pure (100%) soybean oil is often generally classified as a “vegetable oil”; It can also be sold as a blend with other oils. Soybean oil is rich in polyunsaturated fats such as omega-3 (ALA) and omega-6 (linoleic) fatty acids.

Linoleic acid is an essential omega-6 fatty acid that we need from food because our bodies can't make it on its own.

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6. Sunflower oil

Sunflower oil is made by refining the seeds of sunflowers. Refined sunflower oils work well for seasoning, frying, and grilling.

The unique property of sunflower oil is the variability in the unsaturated fat content based on the specific type of sunflower that is used.

Unless a private label is placed, refined sunflower oil is high in linoleic acid, an essential polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid.

A certain strain of sunflower oil called "high oleic" generally contains at least 80% oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid shown to have heart-healthy benefits (s) and anti-inflammatory properties (s).

Uses: baking, frying, and salad dressing.

7. Vegetable oil

You've probably seen a bottle labeled "vegetable oil" in the grocery store, but you probably didn't know what that meant exactly. Vegetable oil refers to an oil that comes from plant sources.

It is usually a mixture or blend of different types of oils and can be used for many different cooking purposes, from baking to browning to frying, due to its neutral flavour.

The health of a particular vegetable oil depends largely on the ratio of saturated fat to unsaturated fat, which will depend on the oils it contains.

Vegetable oil is often a mixture of soybean and other oils, including canola, corn, palm, safflower, and sunflower oils.

Uses: frying.

8. Grape seed oil

Grapeseed oil is a versatile, neutral-flavoured, neutral-tasting oil. It's a by-product of winemaking and can be used in salad dressings, but it also works in sautéing, baking, frying, and seasoning.

Grape seed oil is rich in vitamin E and phenolic antioxidants. It is also a rich source of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Scientists have hypothesized that eating too much omega-6 may be harmful (s).

Uses: frying, roasting and seasoning.

9. Butter

There is one caveat to cooking with butter. Regular butter contains small amounts of sugars and proteins, which is why it tends to burn during high-temperature cooking such as frying. Real butter is good for you and is somewhat nutritious.

It contains vitamins A, E and K2. It's also rich in fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), both of which have powerful health benefits (s).

10. Palm oil

Palm oil is derived from the fruit of palm oil. It consists mostly of saturated and monounsaturated fats, with small amounts of polyunsaturated fats.

This makes palm oil a good choice for cooking. It is often used for frying or roasting because it has a high smoke point of 450 degrees and can withstand high heat.

Uses: Curry and other spicy dishes.

11. Fish oil

Fish oil is very rich in the animal form of omega-3 fatty acids, namely DHA and EPA. A tablespoon of fish oil can meet your daily needs of these very important fatty acids.

The best fish oil is cod fish liver oil, because it is also rich in vitamin D3, which a large part of the world is deficient in.

However, due to its high concentration of polyunsaturated fats, fish oil should never be used in cooking. It is best used as a dietary supplement, one tablespoon daily.

Store in a cool, dry and dark place.

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12. Flax oil

Flax Oil contains plenty of the plant form of Omega-3 and Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA). Many people use this oil to supplement their omega-3 fats.

However, unless you are a vegetarian, I recommend using fish oil instead. Evidence suggests that the human body does not efficiently convert ALA into the active forms, EPA and DHA, of which fish oil contains a lot (s).

Due to the large amount of polyunsaturated fat, flaxseed oil should not be used in cooking.

Uses: garnish, dips, seasonings and juices.

13. Nut oils

There are many nut oils available and some of them taste great. However, they are very high in polyunsaturated fats, which makes them a poor choice for cooking.

They can be used as part of recipes, but do not fry or cook over high heat, but they are rich in flavor.

It is a rich addition to soups and salads and should be used in moderation.

Uses: Final edible oil, pickles, and spices.

14. Peanut oil

Peanut oil are technically not a tree (it's a legume) but the composition of the oil is similar to that of walnut oil.

However, there is one exception, and that is macadamia nut oil, which is mostly monounsaturated (like olive oil).

It's pricey, but I hear it tastes great. If you like, you can use macadamia oil for low or medium cooking.

Uses: frying, roasting, grilling

15. Ghee

Ghee is a class of refined butter sourced from India with a deep nutty flavour. It is made by melting butter that separates into liquid fats and milk solids.

Once separated, the milk solids are removed, which means that the margarine contains less lactose than butter. Traditionally, ghee has been used as a cooking oil in Ayurvedic cuisine.

Uses: frying, roasting, and baking.

16. Sesame oil

Sesame oil has a neutral flavor and a high smoke point of 410 degrees. It's an all-purpose oil, but if you're looking for a big flavor, use toasted sesame oil.

Drizzle it for a quick stir-fry or into a marinade or salad dressing with ginger-soy sauce.

Uses: In Asian, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern foods.

17. Safflower oil

If you are looking for a cooking oil suitable for high heat, safflower oil or so-called safflower oil may be the right choice for you.

It has a higher smoke point (440-520 degrees) than many other oils and a mild flavor, making it an ideal choice for many recipes.

Its high content of polyunsaturated fats means that safflower oil remains liquid even when refrigerated, making the almost flavorless vegetable oil a good choice for salad dressing and other cold preparations.

The high-oleic types of safflower oil, which contain more monounsaturated fat and a higher smoke point, are better for high-temperature applications such as deep frying.

Uses: baking, frying and seasoning.

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18. Hemp seed oil

Hemp Seed Oil has a rich, nutty flavor and a dark green color. It's too delicate to heat, so use it as a final oil for soups and salads.

If using it in a vinaigrette, mix it with neutral oil. Keep it in the fridge.

⎼ Uses: Finishing oil for food, pickles and seasonings.

19. Almond oil

Almond oil is often found in two different forms:

  • Redundant
  • Cold pressed

Full of monounsaturated fatty acids, almond oil may help raise levels of "good" cholesterol, or high-density lipoproteins.

Enjoy a light almond flavor using cold pressed almond oil, but limit it to cold dishes and drizzle over salads.

Uses: Salad dressing or final finishing oil.

20. Corn Oil

Corn Oil smokes 400-450 degrees and has a neutral flavour. From a health point of view, it is high in fat without many nutrients.

Uses: frying.

21. Seed and plant oils

Synthetic seeds and vegetable oils are highly refined and processed products that are very rich in omega-6 fatty acids.

Not only should you not cook with them, you should also avoid them completely. These oils have been considered "unhealthy for the heart" by the media and many nutritionists in the past few decades.

However, new data links these oils to many serious diseases, including heart disease and cancer (s, s, s). Avoid all of them.

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