When it comes to cooking at home, there are plenty of options to go about. Though there are plenty of oils to choose from, when it comes to cooking, some oils are healthier than others. Some people like olive oil while others prefer less popular alternatives such as avocado oil or coconut oil. But what is the healthiest oil to use when cooking?
The healthiest oil depends on the type of cooking that you are doing. Are you baking something or making sauce or simply making a salad? Different oils are considered better for different purposes.
It is the oil’s smoke point, which is the point at which the oil starts burnings and smoking, that is considered the most important element when deciding which oil is healthier. What happens when you heat the oil past the smoke point is, it harms the flavour. Coupled with this, the oil also loses much of the nutrients it contains and will begin to release harmful compounds called free radicals.
So what are the healthiest options for oil when cooking? We will take a deeper look into what oils are good and what oils are bad, based on the type of cooking that you are doing. Hence keep reading this word to word.
Healthiest Oil to Use When Cooking
When it comes to picking the healthiest oil to cook with, you have to consider the oil’s smoke point. The smoke point will decide if the oil is good for deep frying, baking or better sprinkled on a salad.
1. Olive Oil
Olive oil is considered one of the most versatile and healthy oils to cook with. Eating olive oil is considered one of the healthiest choices you can make. However, you have to ensure that the olive oil is extra virgin. This is because you want an oil that is not refined and overly processed.
Extra virgin olive oil is not refined and is usually a high-quality product that you know is going to provide you with heaps of health benefits.
Extra virgin olive oil contains a wholesome amount of monounsaturated fats and some polyunsaturated fatty acids, which has been linked to better heart health by numerous studies.
Olive oil has a lower smoke point compared to other oils, hence it is best used in low and medium heat cooking. It is also great to use as a dressing on your salad.
When you are picking extra virgin olive oil, make sure to go with a reliable brand. Not all labels that state them to be extra virgin are legit. Hence, be sure to go with a reliable source that you can trust.
2. Sesame Oil
Sesame oil has a potent flavour which is what makes it so popular. With sesame oil, a little goes a long way.
The nutrient profile of sesame oil isn’t as rich as olive oil, however, it does contain both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Sesame oil has a higher smoke point, which makes it great when cooking on high heat. It works well on a stir fry and can add some exceptional flavour to your dish.
3. Peanut Oil
Though not as popular as olive oil, peanut oil can be a great oil to use when cooking. It has the highest monounsaturated fat content among cooking oils.
The oil is really flavourful and can provide a fun experiment in the kitchen. We don’t suppose you use a lot of peanut oil, however with the higher smoke point, the oil is good to use to cook in high heat.
Though probably not on the top of the list for nutritional profile, peanut oil is a great oil to cook with.
4. Sunflower Oil
This oil has a great nutritional profile, with a high amount of vitamin E; one tablespoon providing 28% of a person’s daily recommended intake.
The oil doesn’t have a strong flavour, which makes it ideal for cooking. You don’t want to overwhelm your dishes with too much flavour from the oil that you use to cook with.
Sunflower oil has a high smoke point, which makes it great when you are cooking in high heat. In fact, it can withstand more heat in comparison to olive oil, which is considered healthiest for low and medium heat.
The oil contains a large amount of omega-6 fatty acids. Though they are pro-inflammatory, omega-6 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function and normal growth and development. It stimulates skin and hair growth and maintain bone health, regulates metabolism and maintains the reproductive system.
However, eating too much omega 6 fatty acids without omega-3 fatty acids could lead to excessive inflammation, hence balance and moderation are important.
For more information on sourcing omega-3 fatty acids, read our article on ‘Why are Omega-3 Fatty Acids Important? Sources of Omega-3 Fats‘
5. Avocado Oil
Avocado oil is unrefined, much like extra virgin olive oil, however has a much higher smoking point than olive oil. This makes the oil great for high heat cooking.
If you are making a stir fry, this may be the healthiest choice of oil for you to choose. Since the oil does not pack too much flavour, it is considered a good option for cooking.
Avocado oil contains both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, with one of the highest monounsaturated fat contents among other cooking oils. It also contains a wholesome amount of vitamin E.
The only issue when choosing avocado oil is, it can be expensive.
6. Canola Oil
Canola oil is derived from rapeseed which is a flowering plant. The oil contains a good amount of monounsaturated fats and has a reasonable amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids.
In comparison to all the other oils, canola oil has the least amount of saturated fats. It has a high smoke point, which makes it ideal for high heat cooking.
Canola oil can be highly processed and refined, which means it loses most of the nutrient value. You can find cold-pressed or unprocessed canola oil, however, it is difficult to source.
7. Vegetable Oil
Vegetable oil refers to any oil that comes from plant sources. The healthiness of vegetable oil depends on the source and blend of the oil and what you use it for.
Most vegetable oils in the market are a blend of canola, corn, soybean, safflower, palm and sunflower oil. Is olive oil or sunflower oil better than vegetable oil? Well, yes. You should try to use sunflower oil or olive oil if possible. However, vegetable oil is a great healthy alternative. It’s just that you can get more benefits from olive oil and sunflower oil.
Vegetable oil can be processed and refined, which means it loses both flavour and the nutrient profile of the oil. Since vegetable oil is a blend of more than one oil, it is usually highly processed.
With vegetable oil, it is up to you. Based on the blend, the smoking point could vary, however is generally suitable for high-heat cooking.
8. Safflower Oil
The smoke point of safflower oil is much higher than other oils, which makes it a great option for cooking in high heat. Made from the seeds of the safflower plant, safflower oil is low in saturated fat and has a higher percentage of unsaturated fatty acids.
Safflower oil can help improve inflammation, blood sugar management and cholesterol. Thus, it is considered one of the healthier options to choose when cooking.
The oil has a neutral flavour which works well in a marinade, a sauce or dip. The high smoke point also makes it great for barbecuing and frying.
9. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil has been controversial over the years with people arguing the healthiness of the oil when used in cooking. However, over the years, thanks to the keto and Paleo diet, the oil has grown in popularity.
Coconut oil is made by pressing either fresh or dried coconut meat. While the oil contains mostly saturated fats, which has been associated with heart disease, studies have proven that it contains health-promoting compounds that fight inflammation and oxidative damage.
Further to this, coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides and lauric acid which offers benefits to heart health and can aid weight loss.
That being the case, coconut oil is best used in moderation. Though a healthy option, it isn’t considered the healthiest cooking oil (such as olive oil and sunflower oil). However, with a high smoking point, the oil works well for cooking in high heat.
10. Corn Oil
Corn oil has a light colour and a high smoke point. It has a mildly sweet flavour and many people use corn oil for pan-frying and baking.
Though the oil is considered one of the more affordable oils in the market and can be a healthy option, it does contain a high amount of omega-6 fatty acids. As mentioned, omega-6 fatty acids without omega-3 fatty acids can lead to high inflammation.
Each tablespoon of corn oil contains about 8 grams of monounsaturated fat and 5 grams of polyunsaturated fat. There is about a gram of saturated fat.
11. Pumpkin Seed Oil
Pumpkin seed oil is a powerful oil that is packed with vitamin A, K, E and plenty of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
It has a nutty flavour and a rich colour and can be a great addition to a dish. However, the smoke point of the pumpkin seed oil is rather low, hence you should avoid cooking in high heat. It is best used for sauteing or low-heat baking. Otherwise, in high heat, the oil could lose nutritional value.
12 Soybean Oil
This oil is a common ingredient in packaged goods ranging from salads to tortilla chips. The oil has a high smoke point, which makes it great for cooking in high temperatures.
Soybean oil may support bone health and is rich in heart-healthy fats. They also contain a good amount of omega-3 fatty acids. It is also considered great for the promotion of healthy skin.
Soybean oil is versatile and easy to use, which is why it is one of the more popular cooking oils on this list. There are some clear benefits of soybean oil. However, soybean oil also contains omega-6 fatty acids, hence moderation is important.
Oils to Avoid When Cooking
When it comes to cooking, some oils just have too low of a smoking point for them to be viable as good options for cooking. Hence, though they may have nutritional value, you should be careful when using these oils while cooking.
1. Flaxseed Oil
Though the smoke point of flaxseed oil is very low, it has a high omega-3 fatty acid content. Hence, we aren’t saying you shouldn’t use it for cooking for health reasons. We are only stating flaxseed oil as one to avoid due to the fact that it has too low of a smoke point to make it a good cooking oil.
Though it shouldn’t be used in cooking, flaxseed oil can be a great addition to a salad. It works really well as dressing.
Flaxseed oil should be stored at low temperatures, hence it is a good idea to refrigerate the oil.
2. Walnut Oil
Yet another oil with a low smoking point, walnut oil is not considered a good oil for cooking purposes, for this specific reason.
However, you can use it in plenty of other ways. You can drizzle the oil over pancakes, freshly cut fruit or even ice cream. It also works well in coffee drinks.
Walnut oil has a good ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, which makes it great in keeping inflammation in check. It isn’t an unhealthy oil, it is simply not suitable for cooking.
3.Hemp Seed Oil
Hemp seed oil has heaps of health benefits, however once again has too low of a smoking point for it to be a good cooking oil.
Hemp seed oil helps reduce cholesterol, heals skin and controls metabolism. It is an ingredient in many natural body care products.
The flavour of the oil is subtle and can be used in various recipes. However, when it comes to cooking, it is a big no-no. The smoke point of hemp seed oil is so low that it loses its nutrient profile and flavour at high temperatures. Hence, it is best used as finished oil.
You can add it to your hummus, your smoothies and even sandwich spreads.
4. Palm Oil
When it comes to the ethics of cooking oil, palm oil simply doesn’t make the cut. Though the oil is fairly similar to coconut oil and is calorie-dense, the problem rests in the production of palm oil.
The production of palm oil has been linked to rainforest destruction, which obviously leads to biodiversity loss. If you care at all about mother Earth, you would avoid this cooking oil for this reason alone.
Palm oil isn’t the healthiest oil out there, hence, it is nothing that you should go out of your way to add to your lifestyle. In fact, you have more to gain by avoiding it altogether.
5. Partially Hydrogenated Oils
This is the primary source of unhealthy trans fats in the diet and is found in processed food. These artificial trans fats are created through various industrial processes and adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oil to make them more solid.
The FDA requires that all manufacturers remove all trans fats from their products. This is because trans fats are considered extremely unhealthy.
Regardless of whether you are cooking or eating processed food, be on the lookout for partially hydrogenated oils, for they could cause havoc on your health.
What is the Best and Healthiest Oil for Deep-Frying?
For deep-frying, you need an oil with a high smoke point. Hence, the best type of oil to use is safflower oil which is considered the best match for your heart. The oil is able to withstand high temperatures of almost 500° F. You can also use other oils such as peanut oil, sunflower oil and vegetable oil, which all have a high smoke point.
When it comes to deep-frying dishes, you have to ensure that the oil that you use doesn’t produce free radicals from exceeding the smoking point of the oil. This is why it is important that you pick an oil with a high smoke point.
Though vegetable oil can work well for deep-frying, it isn’t considered as healthy as sunflower oil or safflower oil. If you are looking for the healthiest oil to deep-fry with, safflower oil certainly takes the crown.
What is the Best and Healthiest Oil for Sautéing?
For sautéing, you don’t need an oil with a high smoke point. You can rely on a flavourful oil that has a lower smoke point. This can include canola oil, extra virgin olive oil, safflower oil, peanut oil and sesame oil.
With sautéing, the dish isn’t exposed to excessive heat, it is usually low and medium heat. Hence, when it comes to picking the best oil, we have to award the crown to extra virgin olive oil, for it brings with it heaps of health benefits.
What is the Best and Healthiest Oil for Dressing?
Dressing doesn’t include the element of heat, hence you should opt for a flavourful oil that is rich in nutrients. Flaxseed oil and hemp oil are both excellent additions as dressing for a salad. Olive oil is both healthy and delicious too.
With no exposure to heat, the smoke point of the oil is not something to consider. You can technically use any oil to dress your salad, however, some oils are more flavourful and make for better dishes.
Hence, when it comes to awarding the crown to the best and healthiest oil for dressing, we have to pick hemp seed oil for its nutritional content.
What is the Best and Healthiest Oil for Baking?
Baking involves an array of temperatures, however, you would require oil with medium to high smoke points. This includes both olive oil and sunflower oil. Sunflower oil has a higher smoke point, which makes it better for certain baked goods.
With baking, you want to find an oil with a neutral flavour profile. Hence, choosing oils like coconut oil could work against you.
When awarding the crown for the best oil for baking, we have to pick olive oil. Olive oil has a smoke point of about 350°F (176°C), which is a common cooking temperature for many baked recipes.
Picking the Right Oil for the Dish
The trick is knowing which oil works best for which dish. It is good that you have a few oils at home, one with a high smoke point, a medium smoke point and a low smoke point. This could mean, safflower oil, olive oil and hemp seed oil.
That way, you have three oils that you would be able to choose based on the dish that you are preparing. Always be careful of the temperature that you cook in, for the smoke point of the oil is the determinant factor.
When it comes to the healthiest options, we have provided you with a list of 12 oils that are considered healthy oils for cooking. Some oils simply aren’t made to withstand heat, which is why we have instructed you to avoid them.
We hope reading this word to word has helped your identify the best oils that you should be using for cooking. Some oils are simply better than others and it is good that you know everything you need to know about cooking oil!