The type of oil you cook with can go a long way towards protecting your circulatory system and preventing heart damage. Some contain saturated fat, and some contain unsaturated fat. You want the ones highest in the latter, which is very healthy. Here are the oils you can trust beyond others to be exceptionally good for you.
Types of Healthy Cooking Oils
1. Olive oil:
One of the best ones for you, it’s rich in monounsaturated fats. One ounce of extra virgin olive oil nets you more than 85 percent of your daily requirements. The oil has high amounts of vitamin E, which provides antioxidant protection. In countries along the Mediterranean Sea (where olive oil is common in diets), the incidences of heart disease, clogged arteries, and type 2 diabetes are much lower than over here. Adding just two tablespoons a day of olive oil could significantly lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. One ingredient, in particular, oleic acid, has been identified as the key one that lowers cholesterol. It is a type of unsaturated fat.
2. Canola oil:
Another great source of monounsaturated fat. It is very high in omega-3 fatty acid, a heart-boosting nutrient. Margarine made from canola oil is good to use as well. This oil is extremely low in cholesterol and salt, and extremely high in beneficial fats. Its name is derived from “Canada” where the oil may first have been used in cooking. Researchers have suggested that it might be the best oil to use to meet your healthy fat needs for the day and could reduce blood pressure and strengthen the walls of the aorta.
3. Peanut oil:
Able to withstand high temperatures, this one calls about half of its fat “monounsaturated.” Another 30% is “polyunsaturated.” That leaves little of the bad stuff. It may help reduce cholesterol levels in your blood as well.
4. Sunflower or Sunola oil:
Sunflower oil is high in oleic acid like olive oil. Many studies have shown that oleic acid is an incredibly healthy component of cooking oils. Researchers have found that cooking oils high in oleic acid actually promotes increased insulin sensitivity in the general population. This means that sunflower oil could help thwart diabetes. Sunola oil is very high in monounsaturated fats and is more stable than sunflower oil in heat.
These are oils that undergo very little processing, with cold water used to keep temperatures down. If done correctly, they are rich in the group of antioxidants called polyphenols, and rich in vitamin E. The best known is extra virgin olive oil, made from the cold pressing of olives, which come with a whopping 30 to 40 antioxidants. Cold-pressed oil will be darker than others, and stronger in flavor.
Avocado has recently been labeled as the “new kid on the block” as it has picked up popularity throughout the health community in the past couple of years. Many people compare avocado oil to coconut oil, however, avocado oil doesn’t have quite as much saturated fat. It is loaded with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and has a high smoke point of 375 to 400 degrees F. Its neutral flavor makes it perfect for all types of cooking, and although it tends to be more expensive than more processed oils, it is a healthier alternative.
One point you will want to remember with flaxseed oil is that you absolutely cannot cook with it since it is very sensitive to heat and can oxidize quickly. You will want to use it in salad dressings or to drizzle over dips like hummus. It is high in omega-3 fatty acids, so for those who don’t eat a lot of omega-3 rich fish, it is a great supplement. Try to buy small bottles of the oil, store in a small cool dark place, and use it up quickly.
8. Safflower oil:
Perhaps one of the best oils to use if you are skeptical of vegetable and canola oils. Safflower oil is low in saturated fats, high in omega-9 fatty acids, and has a neutral, non-offensive flavor, which makes it easy to use in all recipes. Having the highest smoke point of all the most popular oils, it is sold both chemically processed, and cold-pressed like olive oil. Both versions have the same high smoke point.
9. Sesame oil:
An oil full of flavor, sesame oil adds a lot to a dish with just a small drizzle. It is a great alternative to peanut oil for those who have an allergy to peanuts. It is a cold-pressed unrefined oil that has a smoke point of 350 to 410 degrees, which can be used in a variety of dishes and works great for sautéing vegetables. Because of the distinct flavor, just be careful not to use in any dishes where the taste of sesame could interfere with the other flavors.
With all of these options, you can stay far away from oils and fats that have unhealthy concentrations of saturated fat in them. These include any of the following: palm oil, palm kernel oil, coconut oil, lard, ghee, cooking margarine, shortening, and solid frying oils.
Tips for Cooking with Healthy Oils
While there are a wide variety of different types of healthy cooking oils, most listed here are generally safe for most home cooking uses. Just be sure to pay attention to the smoking point on each individual type of oil and discard any oil that may smoke or catch fire. Whether pan-frying, or stir-frying, there are many healthy options to add to your dish.
If your oil has a strange odor, don’t use it. When an oil is stored too long, it can become rancid or oxidized. Buying oils in smaller containers can help to avoid any waste. Be sure to store all oils in a dark, cool place to keep them fresher, longer.
There are so many types of oils, and all have a varied recommended usage. When cooking with healthy oils, whether making a stir fry or drizzling oil over food for flavor, they can add a lot to a dish. They offer not only flavor, but some even come with the added benefit of omega-3 fatty acids. You may find that some oils have a distinct flavor that may not work in every dish, so try different ones. Also, some are better for certain types of cooking than others, so be sure to have more than one kind in your pantry. Next time you are making a specific dish, take the time to research the oil that fits the occasion the best. You might even find a new favorite oil.