Published On By Dimitar Marinov [MD, PhD]

Healthiest Cooking Oils

Cooking oils are a crucial part of your meals as they provide flavor and ensure that the food is cooked properly. Thus, choosing the right oil could enhance your health while satisfying your taste buds.

Cooking oils are used to make a salad, sautéing vegetables, or preparing a gravy-based dish. They may prevent food burning and provide you with heart-healthy fats when used in moderation.

Although using too much oil can cause adverse effects on digestive health, choosing healthier cooking oils may help you maintain your health without restricting them completely from your meals.

This article contains 14 of the healthiest cooking oil options that you may choose based on your cooking requirements and taste preferences.

We will also talk about the health advantages of using healthy cooking oils and what oils you must avoid to sustain good health.

What are cooking oils?

Cooking oils are essential components obtained from nuts, seeds, fruits, plants, or grains, each offering distinct fat compositions for cooking applications.

These fats and oils serve as carriers of flavor, help in the browning of food, regulate texture, and act as a medium for heat transfer during cooking.

The composition of different oils, whether saturated, polyunsaturated (PUFA) or monounsaturated (MUFA), impacts their behavior when exposed to heat and cold, making them suitable for various cooking methods.

14 Healthiest Cooking Oils

  1. Olive oil

    Olive oil comes with a smoke range of 350°F (176°C) and could be suitable for various cooking methods, including baking and sautéing. It contains vitamin E and is composed of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat. Olive oil has oleocanthal and oleuropein, which may help lower blood pressure, prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, and reduce inflammation.

    Including olive oil in your cooking may also improve heart health and support weight management and metabolic health.

  2. Flaxseed Oil

    Flaxseed oil contains a high content of alpha-linolenic acid, which is essential for promoting heart health and reducing inflammation. Omega-3s in flaxseed, categorized as polyunsaturated fats that the body cannot independently produce, show anti-inflammatory properties that could potentially lower the problems related to cancers.

  3. Avocado oil

    Avocado oil has a neutral flavor profile, which makes it a versatile cooking oil option for various culinary processes. With a high smoke point of around 520°F (271°C), avocado oil could be an ideal oil for high-heat cooking methods like deep frying. Its mild, avocado-like taste may enhance both your sweet and savory dishes.

    Avocado oil could potentially benefit liver health, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and triglycerides, all of which may reduce the risk of heart disease. It may also offer relief from osteoarthritis-related joint pain, help regulate post-meal blood sugar levels, and reduce total cholesterol levels.

  4. Walnut Oil

    Walnut oil is abundant in alpha-linolenic acid, a form of omega-3 fatty acid that may have heart-protective effects and the potential to improve cognitive function.

    With a low smoke point, walnut oil should not be used for cooking at high temperatures as it could degrade and lose its nutritional value. Walnut oil is ideal for salad dressings, drizzling over dishes, or including in desserts for its distinct nutty flavor. Consuming walnut oil may reduce inflammation, support heart health, and potentially enhance cognitive function.

  5. Peanut Oil

    Peanut oil retains monounsaturated fats, which could help lower bad cholesterol levels (LDL) and reduce the risk of heart disease. It also contains phytosterols, which might hinder cholesterol absorption in the intestines. Peanut oil could help you improve insulin sensitivity and potentially manage blood sugar levels. The healthy fats in peanut oil may enhance the absorption of vital fat-soluble vitamins like K, D, E, and A, along with other nutrients from your diet, potentially improving your overall nutrition intake.

  6. Hemp seed oil

    Hemp seed oil contains gamma-linolenic acid that has potent anti-inflammatory effects. It could reduce inflammation in the body and also provide you with essential vitamins and minerals, like vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc.

  7. Safflower oil

    Safflower oil is obtained from safflower plant seeds. It has a high smoke point and favorable fatty acid composition. With a smoke point of around 450°F, safflower oil is suitable for high-heat cooking methods such as frying and grilling. It is low in saturated fat and rich in unsaturated fatty acids, particularly linoleic and linolenic acids, which might benefit heart health.

  8. Canola Oil

    Canola oil’s neutral flavor makes it suitable for savory to sweet dishes without overpowering the natural taste of the ingredients. With a higher smoke point, canola oil could be used in cooking methods that require high heat, such as frying and roasting, as it maintains its nutritional integrity even at elevated temperatures.

    Canola oil has a high amount of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which might promote heart health by reducing LDL cholesterol levels and supporting overall cardiovascular function.

  9. Sesame oil

    Sesame oil has a medium-high smoke point and a rich content of heart-healthy antioxidants, offering various potential health benefits and an enhanced cooking experience. With a smoke point of almost 410°F (210°C), sesame oil is suitable for sautéing, general cooking purposes, and even for use as a salad dressing. Sesame oil contains sesamol and sesaminol, antioxidants that may have neuroprotective effects.

  10. Grapeseed Oil

    Grapeseed oil has a low saturated fat profile and high smoke point, which makes it a healthy option for various cooking and grilling purposes. Its nutty and mild flavor makes it suitable for drizzling over roasted vegetables or salad dressings.

    Grapeseed oil contains omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids and is rich in vitamin E. It may act as an antioxidant that could reduce free radicals and support the immune system.

    Nutrient Amount per 100g
    Saturated Fat 9.6g
    Monounsaturated Fat 16.1g
    Polyunsaturated Fat 69.9g
    Vitamin E 28.8mg
  11. Sunflower Oil

    Sunflower oil contains fatty acids like omega-6, which are essential for overall health. However, it is crucial to balance the intake of omega-3 fatty acids to prevent inflammation and maintain a healthy ratio of these vital fats in the diet.

    With a high smoke point, sunflower oil could be used in high-heat cooking methods such as frying and sautéing. Its stability at high temperatures makes it suitable for various cooking processes.

    Opting for high-oleic sunflower oil contains a higher proportion of monounsaturated fats, which may reduce the possibility of heart issues and improve cholesterol levels.

  12. Hazelnut Oil

    The high content of monounsaturated fats in hazelnut oil could help reduce bad cholesterol levels (LDL) while maintaining or increasing good cholesterol levels (HDL), which could potentially support your cardiovascular health. It is rich in antioxidants, particularly vitamin E, which might help reduce oxidative stress and free radicals, reducing the chances of chronic diseases and aging-related damage.

  13. Rice Bran Oil

    Gamma-oryzanol in rice bran oil may help reduce cholesterol levels by hindering the absorption of cholesterol in the intestines and promoting its excretion. It could help maintain a healthy cardiovascular system. With its high smoke point (approximately 450°F or 232°C), rice bran oil is perfect for high-heat cooking methods like stir-frying, sautéing, and frying, as it maintains stability and avoids the formation of detrimental compounds. You can provide your body with essential fatty acids by including rice bran oil in your meals, as it contains a balanced proportion of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated fats.

  14. Pumpkin seed oil

    The polyunsaturated fats in pumpkin seed oil, including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, may reduce cholesterol levels and improve overall cardiovascular health. Its antioxidant properties could also protect against oxidative stress, which can protect heart tissues from damage. Including pumpkin seed oil in your cooking may offer you anti-inflammatory properties, such as phytosterols and tocopherols, which might reduce inflammation. Vitamins A and E in pumpkin seed oil could help maintain a healthy immune system, protecting you against infections and diseases.

Importance Of Good Cooking Oils

When cooking oils are exposed to high heat, they reach a point where they break down, releasing harmful compounds like free radicals and acrolein. These byproducts could lead to cellular damage and increase the risk of developing diseases.

The level of processing an oil undergoes impacts its nutritional value. Thus, highly refined oils are cheaper but lack nutrients compared to unrefined options. Thus, the source of the oil influences its fatty acid composition and overall health effects.

Selecting cooking oils with high smoke points, minimal processing, and beneficial nutritional profiles may help maintain the quality of the oil during cooking and preserve its health benefits.

Oils to Avoid For Healthy Cooking

  1. Coconut Oil

    Coconut oil is comprised of saturated fats, which might increase LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Similar to other fats, coconut oil is dense in calories and may result in weight gain if not properly managed with a nutritious diet and consistent physical activity. While coconut oil contains small amounts of vitamin E and vitamin K, it lacks essential fatty acids such as omega-3 and omega-6.

  2. Palm Oil

    Palm oil is used in processed foods, baked goods, and snacks due to its low cost and versatile properties.  While palm oil itself is not naturally unhealthy, the refining process used to produce it leads to the formation of harmful trans fats. Thus, its high saturated fat content could raise LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, which could cause heart problems when consumed in excess.

  3. Partially Hydrogenated Oils

    Partially hydrogenated oils are a type of processed oil that undergoes hydrogenation to solidify liquid oils and extend shelf life. These oils are used to enhance the texture, flavor, and stability of products.

    However, partially hydrogenated oils could pose significant health risks due to their high trans-fat content, which may cause various cardiovascular issues. Trans fats found in partially hydrogenated oils may have an adverse influence on cell membrane integrity and function, potentially leading to cellular damage and dysfunction.

  4. Soybean Oil

    Soybean oil is abundant in omega-6 fatty acids. While fatty acids are essential for health, consuming them in excess, especially combined with low intake of omega-3 fatty acids, could promote inflammation in the body and heart problems. The refining process of soybean oil often includes high heat and chemicals, which may strip the oil of its natural nutrients and create harmful trans fats. Thus, using soybean oil may pose health concerns.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can Cooking Oils Go Bad and How Can You Tell?
    Cooking oils can go bad due to factors like heat, light, and oxygen exposure. Signs of rancidity include a strong odor, off taste, and cloudiness. Check the expiration date, store oils properly, and discard them if they show signs of spoilage.
  2. What Are the Differences Between Refined and Unrefined Oils?
    Refined oils undergo processing to remove impurities, resulting in a uniform product with a higher smoke point and milder flavor. Unrefined oils are less processed and have more nutrients but are heat-sensitive and may have a stronger taste.
  3. How Do You Properly Store Cooking Oils to Maintain Their Quality?
    Properly storing cooking oils might help maintain their quality. Store oils in a cool, dark place away from heat sources and sunlight. Seal tightly to prevent oxidation and moisture contamination of cooking oils.
  4. Are There Any Health Concerns Related With Using Expired Oils?
    Using expired oils may pose health risks due to the development of harmful compounds like free radicals, potentially leading to oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. Thus, it’s advisable to discard oils past their expiration date.

Conclusion

Choosing an oil among various options could be overwhelming, especially when you are confused about how they will affect your health and cooking experience.

Thus, making choices depending on the nutrient profile of cooking oils and your requirements might help you make an informed decision.

Walnut and olive oils are rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, which could help reduce inflammation and support cognitive health.

Include oils that are rich in monounsaturated and healthy polyunsaturated fats rather than using saturated and unhealthy trans-fats.

It’s important to watch how much oil you use to stay healthy. Oils have a lot of calories, which can add up quickly. Please pay attention to how much you use oil because too much of it can disorder your diet.

Disclaimer
  • The details in this article are for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice.
  • It is not recommended to disregard/delay seeking professional medical advice or treatment because of what you read or accessed through this article.
  • The results may vary from individual to individual.
  • It is recommended to consult your doctor for any underlying medical conditions or if you are on any prescribed medicines before trying any tips.

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