Different oils have different characteristics that make them preferable for certain uses; some are suitable for frying, baking, sautéing and others are best as salad dressings. But which is best for which type of cooking? Cooking oils are composed of three different types of fatty acids: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated fats. When selecting which oil is the best alternative it’s important to consider the smoke point. When you heat the oil past the smoke point, it harms the flavor and many of the nutrients in the oil degrade – this is harmful for your health. Keep scrolling to learn what the healthiest oils to cook with are, and when to use them.
Types of Oils
Olive Oil & Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Olive oil is proven to be the most versatile oil because it can be used to cook with almost anything. The healthiest form of olive oil is Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO), which has health benefits such as low blood pressure and a low risk of heart disease or any heart related causes.
When it comes to frying and heavy duty cooking, pure olive oil is a great option since it has a high smoke point of 465 degrees F. However, since EVOO has a relatively low smoke point it’s best for sautéing vegetables, a dip for bread, or preparing salad dressings and marinations.
Although coconut oil has become popular over the years, is it healthy? M.D. explains that “coconut oil, unlike most saturated fats, raises both your good and bad cholesterol.” This doesn’t necessarily indicate that it should be avoided or banned from the pantry, but it’s best to be used in moderation. It’s recommended for baking because it does not do well at high heat temperatures.
Vegetable oil refers to oil that is derived from plant sources, but how healthy it is depends on where it comes from. Most vegetable oils are a mix of Canola, Corn, Safflower, Palm, and Sunflower oils. Although it’s refined and processed, it’s good for frying and baking because of its high smoke point.
Like Olive oil, Canola oil is the most practical since it can be used in numerous ways from baking, to grilling, to stir fry and as a salad dressing. Canola comes from rapeseed, which is a plant that has a high amount of monounsaturated fats and is low in saturated fat. This makes it a healthy and safe choice when it comes to high heat cooking.
Avocado oil is a great choice for cooking, it contains both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. While avocado oil can be a little pricey in comparison to the other oils, it has numerous health benefits such as reducing cholesterol and improving heart health, which makes it acceptable to spend. It has a high smoking point, therefore it can be used to cook at higher heat and is best for stir fry’s, grilling, roasting, and sautéing or in salad dressings.
One of the more flavorful and healthy oils is peanut oil. If you want your food to have an aroma, this the oil for you. In addition to its great taste, peanut oil is perfect for deep-frying because it does not absorb the flavor of the other foods being cooked, therefore you can fry multiple items at once while still maintaining its flavor. Since it has a high smoke point, it keeps the outside of the food crispy and the inside very moist.
Although, flaxseed oil is an oil that you can’t cook with because it’s sensitive to heat and oxidizes quickly, it is high in omega 3 fatty acids, so it’s a good oil to incorporate into a diet. For this reason, it can be used as a salad dressing and drizzled over dips but not for high heat recipes.
Another highly flavorful oil is Sesame oil – it adds so much to a dish that you don’t need a lot of it. It contains both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, but is not high in other nutrients. Since it has a high smoke point, it can be used for recipes that require high heat.
Overall, the winner for the oils that are safe for home-cooking purposes and are healthy are olive oil and canola oil. With their high smoke point and neutral flavour, they are an excellent choice for sautéing, baking and frying. They also provide many nutritional benefits such as lowering the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and lowering cholestrol.