While the term ‘oil’ immediately conjures the terms fattening and unhealthy, there are cooking oils that are healthy for you – even if you let your food swim in them during the cooking or serving process. If you want to cut up on the heart attack-inducing properties of your favorite food, then read on to learn more about the different healthy cooking oils – and the ones that you thought are good but are actually not!
Top 5 Healthiest Cooking Oils
Not all cooking oils are made equal, but there are some that rise from the rest in terms of health benefits. They are:
1. Olive Oil
There’s no wonder why Italians dote on olive oil – it is as healthy as it is great for salad dressings. Olive oil is teeming with polyphenols, which have been known to lower blood sugar, fight off viruses, enhance immunity, and even reduce one’s risk of developing certain cancers.
You should note, however, that there are many kinds of olive oil – each fitting a certain kind of cuisine.
Unrefined extra virgin olive oil, also known as EVOO, boasts of a robust flavor, which makes it ideal for sautéed entrees and salad dressings. Use this for cooking and you can expect the flavor to change for the worse (high heat affects the oil’s structural integrity.)
So if you want to bake, roast, or fry the healthy way, opt for unrefined virgin olive oil or pure olive oil (a mixture of refined virgin oils.)
While there is no denying that olive oil is healthy and great for most dishes, it is not advisable for food that require high-heat cooking such as in the case of stir-frying.
2. Flaxseed Oil
Omega-3 fatty acids are known to decrease blood cholesterol levels, as well as manage the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and depression. While these are often found in fish, omega-3 fatty acids abound in flaxseed as well. With that being said, flaxseed oil is a good choice for cooking.
A study by Goyal et al showed that it can reduce your risks of developing diabetes, heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and osteoporosis, to name a few.
While flaxseed oil is very good for your body, do note that it can rot easily – especially when it is exposed to heat. With that being said, use this oil for colder salads. Lastly, make sure to keep your bottle of flaxseed oil in the fridge when not in use to preserve its taste and flavor.
3. Canola Oil
Made from the seeds of the canola plant, this oil has all the healthy elements you could ever ask for. It is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, specifically the heart-protective monounsaturated fatty acids. Compared to other cooking oils, it has a high smoke point, so you can use it for frying, baking, and roasting. It is not advised for sauteing though, as its flavor is not as rich as its counterparts.
Although canola oil is very healthy, do know that most canola plants nowadays are genetically modified. Oil derived from these are processed with hexane, a chemical solvent, though the amount present in canola oil will not affect your health.
However, if you want to be on the safe side of things, opt for organic canola oil. Better if it is expeller-pressed, or made the old-fashioned way, even cold-pressed, which retains most of its natural flavors due to the fact that the oil is processed in lower temperatures.
4. Avocado Oil
Some of the healthiest oils are not fit for high-heat cooking, but it’s not the case with avocado oil. With a smoke point of 400 degrees Fahrenheit, you can use it with any cooking method that you desire.
Although it comes with a high price tag, avocado oil is worth every penny because it is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids – substances that can lower your risks of developing heart diseases. It is also brimming with Vitamin E, which boosts immunity and protects the cells from the damages inflicted by free radicals.
Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of avocado oil is its ability to cure brain dysfunction caused by stress and diabetes. This was acquired through a study conducted on avocado oil’s effect on the brains of diabetic rats. The findings of the research hold promise especially with regards to the oil’s ability to cure the symptoms of diabetes, a condition that affects more than 400 million people worldwide.
5. Walnut Oil
If you are a self-confessed walnut addict, you will be glad to know that you can use its essence for a variety of dishes. It contains the ideal ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, as increases in the latter – which is common in most Western diets – can lead to the development of cancer, heart conditions, and certain autoimmune diseases.
A recent study also showed that walnut oil – at 15 grams per day for three months – can help improve blood glucose level in diabetic individuals. This is good news considering that dietary changes can help improve symptoms in patients.
Like flaxseed oil, the fatty acid-rich walnut oil is easily prone to spoilage. Because of its low smoke point of 200 degrees Fahrenheit, it can’t be used for frying and other high-heat requiring cooking methods.
5 Cooking Oils That May Not Be as Healthy As They Seem
There are many cooking oils out there, and some claim to be as healthy as the examples stated above. This is not the case though, so do try to avoid, if you can, the examples stated below.
1. Coconut Oil
This is probably the most controversial type of cooking oil on this list. While it works wonders on the face and on the skin, the research is mixed when it comes to whether or not it is healthy for use in cooking.
Coconut oil has a high amount of saturated fat, which keeps it solid at room temperature. This fat content basically places coconut oil in the league of butter when it comes to unhealthiness.
While it can increase your good (HDL) cholesterol, coconut oil can cause a spike in your bad (LDL) cholesterol as well. This risk of increased cholesterol even led one Harvard professor to call coconut oil ‘pure poison’ and ‘one of the worst things you can eat’.
Coconut oil comes in a variety of types, with virgin or unrefined coconut oil being made from mature coconuts, sans the use of chemicals or heat.
Refined coconut oil, on the other hand, is produced from deodorized or bleached fruit and is often used for stir-frying, high-heat sautéing, and baking. Then there’s partially hydrogenated coconut oil, whose unsaturated fats can turn into unhealthy trans-fat after processing.
Although it’s not recommended for frying, coconut oil claims salvation in the form of baking. Compared to other oils used for sweet delicacies, coconut oil is a healthy (although not completely healthy) choice for vegans.
Should you decide to use coconut oil for your other dishes, choose the virgin kind especially when it comes to baking and medium-heat sauteing. And remember: avoid partially hydrogenated oils as much as you can so as to limit your intake of unhealthy trans fats.
2. Vegetable Oil
Don’t let the term vegetable fool you – vegetable oil is oftentimes just soybean oil. And while soy is a good protein alternative for the usual meats, its oil has more cons than pros, especially in terms of health.
For one, it has a 54% content of omega-6 fatty acids, increased levels of which can lead to the development of heart disease and cancer. It contains phytoestrogens, compounds similar to estrogen, and this can lead to hormonal imbalance in your body. It is also rich in inhibitors that prevent the absorption of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.
To add, 94% of the world’s soybeans are genetically modified. While you might stumble upon organic soybean oil, it still contains phytoestrogens and inhibitors that can have negative effects on your health.
Yes, it is cheap and available everywhere, but do think twice before you pull a bottle of vegetable oil off the grocery shelf.
3. Grapeseed Oil
Don’t let the term grapeseed fool you – this oil made from grape seeds used in winemaking can do more harm than good.
While it’s perfect for high-heat cooking, it contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons which are generated through the drying process. Prolonged exposure to these substances can lead to the development of kidney, skin, lung, or gastrointestinal cancer.
Should you decide to buy grapeseed oil, make sure to buy one that is organic and free of chemical substances.
4. Corn Oil
Like vegetable oil, corn oil might make you think that it’s healthy – it’s actually not. Similarly, it has a 58% content of omega-6 fatty acids. Like soybean, most of the world’s corn crops are genetically modified – and such can affect the quality of the food you cook in it.
Although corn oil is somehow unhealthy, a study showed that it can reduce the rate of your low-density lipoproteins – otherwise known as ‘bad cholesterol.’
It also has a high smoking point, making it perfect for high-heat cooking. With that being said, corn oil is of course, a viable option – but make sure to use it with caution!
With a wide variety of cooking oils available in the market, it can be a daunting task to choose the best bottle for you and your family. With that being said, the information above can help you select the perfect oil for your cooking requirements, as well as your health needs.