Confused about what oil to use? You’re in good company! There are so many different kinds of oils on the shelves that it’s no wonder consumers are confused.
Factors to consider when choosing your oil:
- What you’re going to use it for – ie. salad dressing, baking, high temp cooking
- Health Benefits – Saturated vs. Unsaturated.
- Stability and Storage – plastic vs. glass, dark vs. light bottle
Types of Oils
Most oils are broken down into saturated, polyunsaturated or monounsaturated.
- Saturated Fats: Mostly come from animal foods (ie lard, meat, dairy) but also includes coconut oil. Coconut oil is high in lauric acid though and seems to act differently than animal derived saturated fat. Preliminary studies have not associated it with an increase in heart disease.
- Monounsaturated Fats: Very healthy. Derived from vegetables and nuts. Include: macadamia oil, peanut oil, olive oil, Avocado oil, seed oils such as sunflower and sesame. Be careful of the source as many seed oils have been refined, deodorized or bleached.
- Polyunsaturated Fats: Include omega-6 and omega-3 fats. Omega-6 fats have the potential to be pro-inflammatory and are rarely deficient in our diets (click here for more info on omega-6 fats). Omega-3 fats are healthy but not safe for cooking as they are very temperature sensitive. These include flax oil, hemp oil, and fish oils.
Here’s the breakdown by use:
Healthy and a Good Choice for Cooking:
- Choose oils with a higher smoke point for high temperature cooking. These include avocado oil, rice bran oil, high oleic sunflower oil and peanut oil. Coconut oil is also a good choice.
- Olive oil is best for low to moderate temperature cooking
- If you ever see oil smoking in the pan, discard it as it means that free radicals have been produced.
Healthy Oils for Baking and Salad Dressings:
- Olive oil is still a great choice here. But, if you don’t want the taste to offset your baked goods, consider coconut oil as a substitute.
- Some of the more exotic oils like macadamia, hazelnut and walnut oil are fantastic for salad dressings. A little goes a long way.
Fats and Oils to Avoid:
- Anything hydrogenated, including hydrogenated coconut oil (stays solid at room temp).
- Canola – almost all is genetically modified.
- Cottonseed oil, corn oil, palm and palm kernal oil.
Heat and light can damage oils, particularly polyunsaturated ones, so keep them in the refrigerator to avoid rancidity. You’ll know your oil is rancid if it takes on a characteristic bad taste and smell, in which case you should toss it and buy fresh oil. Keep oils in dark glass bottles, in a cool dark place.
Confused and need a handy dandy chart? Download and print Andy’s Bellatti’s Cooking Oil Comparison Chart!