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The Best Cooking Oil for Your Health: What are Your Options?

The Best Cooking Oil for Your Health: What are Your Options?

Most of us don’t give a second thought about the kind of oil we use for cooking. But did you know that they affect our health, too? In this article, we’ll help you choose the best cooking oil for your health.

Saturated vs. unsaturated fats

All fats, whether they come from plants or animals, contain different kinds of fatty acids. However, fat sources like palm oil, butter, lard, and coconut oil have higher levels of saturated, which may raise the level of bad cholesterol (LDL). According to experts, having too much saturated fat in our diet increases our risk of developing heart diseases, which is why it’s best to avoid them.

Instead, we can use plant-based cooking oils that have healthy fats (unsaturated fats). There are two kinds of healthy fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Unlike saturated fats, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats help lower LDL, which reduces the risk of heart diseases.

Your options for the best cooking oil for your health

Studies show that the following plant-based cooking oils are low in saturated fats and high in healthy, unsaturated fats:

Extra-virgin olive oil

Olive oil has high amounts of oleic acid, a type of monounsaturated fat. It also contains vitamins A, D, E, and K. However, don’t just use any kind of olive oil. Instead, choose the one labeled “extra-virgin” because it’s the least processed kind.

Cooking oil manufacturers often clean olive oils with chemicals and heat them to increase their shelf life. The downside is the processes of chemical cleaning and heating remove some of the oil’s healthy nutrients such as polyphenol, a type of antioxidant.

Use extra-virgin olive oil for salad dressings and bread dipping. For cooking, it’s best for sautéing over medium-high heat.

How to Read Food Labels for Healthy Eating

Avocado oil

Besides the fact that avocado oil has high levels of monounsaturated fats, it also contains lutein, an antioxidant that improves eye health. A small study also discovered that adding avocado oil in salad increased the body’s absorption of carotenoid antioxidants.

Like olive oil, you can use avocado oil for sautéing over medium-high meat. Similarly, you can mix it in salads, drizzle it over vegetables, or use it as a meat marinade.

When buying avocado oil, choose the cold-pressed variety because it’s the least refined, which means it retains the color and flavor of fresh avocado fruit.

Canola oil

We cannot talk about the best cooking oil for your health without mentioning canola oil. One of the most common culinary oils, canola has the lowest saturated fats. Moreover, it also contains high amounts of oleic acid. Many organizations also recognize canola oil as a “heart-smart” oil.

Because of its neutral or light flavor, canola oil is versatile. You can use it for sautéing over medium-high heat, stir-frying, baking, and grilling. Additionally, it’s also perfect in salads and marinades.

best cooking oil for your health

Peanut oil

Using peanut oil is also a smart choice for your heart. It contains high levels of monounsaturated fats and even has phytosterols, compounds that reduce cholesterol levels in the blood.

Of all the oils in our list, peanut oil has the highest “smoke point,” which refers to the temperature by which the oil starts to smoke and lose its flavor and nutrients. As such, you can use peanut oil in high-heat frying.

If you’re allergic to peanuts, avoid choosing the cold-pressed, expressed, or extruded variety. Instead, ask your doctor about the highly-refined peanut oil. According to reports, most people with peanut allergies can safely eat this kind of oil.

A note on vegetable oils

When choosing the best cooking oil for your health, you may be tempted to take the easy way out and pick any kind with the label “vegetable oil.”

For the record, any oil made from plants, like the ones we’ve mentioned here, is technically vegetable oil. If you come across a cooking oil brand and it just says “vegetable oil,” then it’s probably because it’s made from blends of different oils.

While vegetable oils may be healthier than animal fat, the downside is that it’s hard to determine what’s in it. Does it have high levels of saturated fats? How about its unsaturated fat contents? Suffice to say, choosing a blended vegetable oil means you need to be more careful in checking when contents and benefits.

Learn more about Nutrition Facts here.

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Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Types of Fats
https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/aa160619#:~:text=Monounsaturated%20fat%20and%20polyunsaturated%20fat,your%20%22bad%22%20LDL%20cholesterol.
Accessed November 24, 2020

Carotenoid absorption from salad and salsa by humans is enhanced by the addition of avocado or avocado oil
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15735074/
Accessed November 24, 2020

Which type of oil should I use for cooking with high heat?
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/cooking-oil/faq-20058170
Accessed November 24, 2020

Healthy Cooking Oils
https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/healthy-cooking-oils
Accessed November 24, 2020

Choosing oils for cooking: A host of heart-healthy options
https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/choosing-oils-for-cooking-a-host-of-heart-healthy-options
Accessed November 24, 2020

How to Choose and Use Healthy Cooking Oils
https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-to-choose-and-use-healthy-cooking-oils/
Accessed November 24, 2020

Fat: the facts
https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/different-fats-nutrition/#:~:text=Eating%20too%20much%20saturated%20fats,liver%2C%20where%20it’s%20disposed%20of.
Accessed November 24, 2020

What is unrefined, extra virgin cold-pressed avocado oil?
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/294404973_What_is_unrefined_extra_virgin_cold-pressed_avocado_oil#:~:text=Like%20extra%20virgin%20olive%20oil,method%20used%20for%20olive%20oil.&text=Once%20harvested%2C%20the%20avocado%20will%20begin%20to%20ripen.
Accessed November 24, 2020

Canola Oil
https://www.canolacouncil.org/about-canola/oil/#culinary-qualities
Accessed November 24, 2020

5 Reasons to Cook with Peanut Oil
https://peanut-institute.com/5-reasons-to-cook-with-peanut-oil/
Accessed November 24, 2020

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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated Feb 04
Fact Checked by Chris Icamen
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