Walking through the cooking oil section of your supermarket can be overwhelming. Vegetable, olive, canola, sunflower – there are so many choices, it’s hard to know the healthiest oils for cooking. This guide will help guide you through the maze. You’ll know how to choose a healthy oil and why.
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To understand which oils are the healthiest oils for cooking, and which types to avoid, you first need to understand about the different types of fats. There are three classifications of fatty acids: saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. Any fat is actually composed of all three, but are grouped by the dominant type.
- Saturated Fats. Saturated fats remain in a solid form at room temperature, for example shortening. A high intake of saturated fat results in the development of heart disease and elevated blood cholesterol.
- Polyunsaturated Fats. Polyunsaturated fats remain in a liquid form, even if refrigerated. Canola, sunflower and walnut oil all fall into this class. They contain beneficial omega fats, which work to decrease cholesterol in the blood. They also have anti-inflammatory properties.
- Monounsaturated Fats. Monounsaturated fats lose their liquid form when refrigerated, becoming cloudy. Examples are olive and peanut oil. They are a healthier choice than saturated fats, but not as beneficial as polyunsaturated fats.
Healthiest Oils to Stock in your Kitchen
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
A monounsaturated fat, extra virgin olive oil also contains polyphenols, an antioxidant that is linked to a healthy heart. It is best used in dressings or when added to steamed veggies. It can be used for sautéing at medium temperatures. Composed of 78% monounsaturated fat.
Canola oil has a longer shelf life and a more neutral flavor. It can be used for sautéing, baking and in salad dressing. You can also combining half canola oil and half extra virgin olive oil in a salad dressing for a flavor variation. Composed of 62% monounsaturated fat.
Walnut oil is a specialty that costs more than others, but has a wonderful nut flavor and important omega 3s. It does have a shorter shelf life, so you will want to keep it refrigerated. It’s a fantastic choice for baked goods to add a smidgen of walnut flavor. Composed of 67% polyunsaturated fat.
Grape Seed Oil
Grape Seed oil is perfect for high temperature cooking. It is a multi-purpose oil that can be used for sautéing, dressings and roasting. Grape seed oil generally has a mild flavor, unless you pick an imported brand, then you may notice more of a grape aroma and flavor. Composed of 73% polyunsaturated fat.
Peanut oil is one of the best choices for high temperature cooking. It has important plant fats, and phytosterols, which have been shown to reduce cholesterol and fight cancer. Composed of 48% monounsaturated fat and 34% polyunsaturated fat.
Sesame oil can be found in a toasted and untoasted form. It is one of the essential ingredients in Asian cuisine. It can be used for stir-frying, as well as in dressings. Composed of 41% monounsaturated fat and 44% polyunsaturated fat.