Do you find yourself overwhelmed by the dizzying array of cooking oils on grocery store shelves? Wondering which cooking oil is the best cooking oil? We can help. First, cooking oils are divided into three categories of fats: monounsaturated/polyunsaturated, saturated and hydrogenated.
- Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are healthy in moderation. Because they come from plants and nuts, they help lower bad cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.
- Limit saturated fats. Too much of these can lower your good cholesterol levels and raise your risk of developing heart disease and stroke.
- Avoid hydrogenated oils should be avoided completely because they lower good cholesterol and can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
So how do you know your options? You may already include unsaturated oils, such as olive and canola, as part of your regular cooking routine, but there are lots of other monounsaturated or polyunsaturated choices.
- Check the labels. Be sure you are buying high-quality oils. Look for terms like virgin (extra-virgin if you’re going with olive oil), organic, cold-pressed, unfiltered or unrefined. Each of these terms certifies the oil is a quality product.
- Check the ingredients. Mixed oils aren’t as nutritious as pure oils. Some olive oils, for example, are made with different types of oils, including both unrefined and refined oils. The mixture can increase chronic inflammation, which has been linked to Alzheimer’s, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and metabolic syndrome.
- Consider the smoke point. That’s the temperature at which a cooking fat stops shining and starts smoking. After reaching temperatures hotter than a certain point, the fat begins to break down and release harmful free radicals and toxins.
Once you know your options, you’ll need to know the attributes of the different oils so you can make the healthiest choices next time you’re in the grocery store. This quick checklist looks at only monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat oils:
- Low heat/medium heat. Extra-virgin olive and sesame oils. Olive oil is best used for drizzling and sautéing and works well in salads, while sesame oil, good for drizzling, is often used in Asian cuisine.
- Medium heat/high heat. Canola, grape seed and walnut oils. Canola is good for roasting and baking, grape seed for sautéing and walnut for drizzling. All three make good salad dressing bases.
- High heat. Avocado, peanut and sunflower oils. Avocado oil is best for sautéing and drizzling, peanut for roasting and grilling, and sunflower for baking and searing.