Fat is an important ingredient in cooking, and choosing the right kind of cooking oil is key to creating tasty food that’s also good for you. Not all cooking oils are created equal. Some are better for high-temperature cooking and baking, while others are more suited to low- to no-cook dishes such as making a vinaigrette or dressing a finished dish.
A simple switch from unhealthy saturated fats to heart-healthy unsaturated ones will help you make a positive impact on your diet and health.
Here’s a breakdown of healthy cooking oils and what they’re best used for.
Directly pressed from the beloved, creamy fruit, avocado oil has a smooth texture and sweet aroma, making it perfect for salad dressing. This oil is composed of more than 50% monounsaturated fatty acids and has a high smoke point meaning it won’t break down or smoke until it reaches a high temperature. Avocado oil is a good go-to oil for searing, frying and browning.
Canola oil is made from rapeseed, a bright yellow flowering plant that’s a close cousin to the mustard and cabbage family. Canola is the third most consumed vegetable oil worldwide outdone only by soybean oil (no. 2) and palm oil (no. 1).
Canola oil is low in saturated fats and contains omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids. These essential fats may help improve heart health by reducing total cholesterol level, especially LDL (aka “bad”) cholesterol. With its neutral flavor and higher smoke point, refined canola oil is perfect for baking and light cooking at home.
Sesame is a widely used flavoring agent in Asia. Its oil is high in antioxidants, vitamin E and unsaturated fatty acids.
The refined version tends to have a higher smoke point, making it good for pan-frying, but the unrefined version, which has a robust, highly desirable flavor, should not be used for high-temperature cooking. It’s better suited for marinating proteins and making sauces.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
A staple in most pantries, olive oil is recognized for being a healthy oil that’s widely used in Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. This oil is touted for its high monounsaturated fat content and has a smooth aroma, which makes it ideal for salad dressing and grilling vegetables.
Olive oil labeled “extra virgin” is a product of the first cold press of olives that takes place within the first 24 hours of harvesting. This process preserves a larger amount of the healthy fats as well as antioxidants.
Keep in mind that all cooking oils are prone to spoiling, especially when exposed to heat or light. Eventually, they do go rancid, but you can extend their shelf life by storing them in a cool, dark place like a pantry or kitchen cupboard.
Finally, the ultimate rule for choosing a cooking oil comes down to smoke point. Oils with a higher smoke point work well for high-temperature cooking. Oils with a lower smoke point are better for salad dressing. Here’s a handy chart to help you choose a cooking oil:
Let us know what oil you like to cook with!