Must-Know Facts About the Healthiest Oils to Cook With

Amanda Lawrence

Cooking with oil gives us a higher cooking temperature, enhanced flavor, and nutrition while aiding the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K. Cooking oil is a crucial source of healthy fats. However, you'd better choose the healthiest oil to cook with instead of cooking with a processed oil. Let's take a look at some of the healthiest oils to cook with.

Which Cooking Oil Should You Choose and Why?

1. Avocado oil

Avocado oil a rich source of monounsaturated fats and vitamin E while containing a lower amount of polyunsaturated fats. Using it can help to lower cholesterol and boost the body's good fat levels. Avocado oil has a mild, nutty taste which makes it an excellent ingredient in salad dressings, mayonnaise, and vinaigrettes. Unrefined varieties of avocado oil are somewhat green in color due to chlorophyll that helps your body to fight carcinogens.

Oil pressed from avocados has a very high smoking point of 271°C (the temperature at which oil begins to burn and lose its phytochemical and nutritional content). It's the healthiest oil to cook with as high smoking point enables it to be used for deep frying, shallow frying, or sautéing.

2. Canola oil

Canola oil is the best oil for cooking as it's lower in saturated fat. This oil has a high amount of omega-3, monounsaturated (62%) and polyunsaturated (32%) fatty acids. The omega-3 and the monounsaturated fat content helps in lowering cholesterol levels. It comes from the seeds of the rapeseed plant that has a low erucic acid content.

The oil isn't very expensive and has a medium smoking point of 242°C. You can use it to bake, stir-fry, and grill or use it as a salad dressing.

3. Coconut oil

Coconut oil contains a very high amount of monounsaturated fats which raise HDL (good cholesterol). Still, it includes a high amount of saturated fat that can increase cholesterol levels too. Better if you use it sparingly.

Virgin coconut oil's smoking point is 137°C and the refined oil has a185°C one. It can be used as a substitute for butter, cooking, and sautéing.

4. Extra-virgin olive oil and pure olive oil

Extra-virgin olive oil is another healthiest oil to cook with. It helps the body in fighting cancer, dementia, depression, Alzheimer's, and heart disease. Olive oil is rich in vitamin E, monounsaturated fats, antioxidants, and polyphenols.

Extra virgin and refined olive oil have a smoking point of 166°C and 220°C respectively. It has a peculiar taste to it which makes it an excellent finishing oil. It can be used for cooking, baking, sauteing, and oven frying.

5. Peanut/Groundnut oil

Peanut oil is regarded as the healthiest oil as it contains phytosterols, resveratrol (brain and heart health-boosting compound found in red wine), and monounsaturated fatty acids. Peanut oil provides a nutty taste and a delicious aroma to the food.

The smoking point of refined peanut oil is 243°C and that of an unrefined oil is 160°C. The high smoking point makes it perfect oil for stir-frying, and deep or shallow frying.

6. Sesame oil

Sesame seed oil has a nutty taste and a strong aroma. It's a rich source of monounsaturated fats, copper, calcium, iron, vitamin B6, and lignans. Lignans help to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Many people notice a drop in their blood pressure within 45 days of switching to sesame oil.

The unrefined sesame oil has a smoking point of 176°C while a refined oil has it at 235°C. It's a versatile oil and can be used in Asian stir-fries, regular frying, cooking, and marinating.

7. Sunflower oil

Pressing sunflowers makes a heart-healthy oil as it contains a high amount of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. It has a neutral taste and color which makes it a good option for versatile cooking.

The sunflower oil has a high smoking point of 227°C. Due to the high smoking point and neutral taste, it's widely used for deep frying sweets, meats, and savory items. It's pocket-friendly and one of the most bought oils.

8. Vegetable oil

Vegetable oil is primarily made from soybeans. In other words, it contains a blend of different oils but soybean oil is present in higher concentrations. It contains a high amount of polyunsaturated fats (61%), monounsaturated fats (24%) and saturated fats (15%) alongside omega-3 fatty acids.

It's an all-purpose oil due to its neutral taste and a high smoking point of 230°C. Vegetable oil can be used for deep frying, baking, cooking, pickling, and stir-frying.

The Right Way of Cooking with Oils

  • When you are frying

The appropriate temperature for frying should be between 150°C to 190°C. Best oils for frying are canola, peanut, vegetable, and sunflower oil. Make sure you heat the oil at a low to medium flame.

  • When you choose to sauté

Add a little amount of oil to a hot pan and quickly toss in the vegetable or meat as it prevents the oil from burning. Best oils for sautéing are coconut, olive, avocado, and peanut oils.

  • When trying to bake

Use an oil that compliments your dish regarding flavor and consistency. You can use oil made from coconuts, avocados, canolas, and olives. Do not heat coconut oil above 137°C as it has a low smoking point!

Take Home Message

Cooking oils can be a great source of fat and nutrients if used properly. Use virgin or unrefined oils for salad dressings and sautéing as they carry a good number of vitamins, antioxidants, and fats. Also, use the correct oil for frying, baking, and sautéing. By cooking with oils below their smoking point, you are able to maintain their health benefits.