What’s the Best Cooking Oil for Your Health?
If you are trying to get in better shape, you are probably wondering what’s the best cooking oil for your health. Not all cooking oils have the same health benefits or nutritional values, and different oils are used for different purposes. Let’s take a look.
Choosing the Right Cooking Oil
Whether you are healthy, battling heart disease or diabetes, or just trying to adapt to a healthier lifestyle, choosing the appropriate cooking oil can make a huge difference in your health goals. Your blood cholesterol levels are connected to heart disease, and are typically the main focus when choosing a cooking oil.
All oil consists of a variety of fats, and it’s important for you to know how different fats are going to affect your body. Different fat types either lower or raise your good (HDL) cholesterol levels and your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels. So ideally, you would want to choose an oil that would lower your LDL cholesterol level (the bad guys) and raise the your HDL cholesterol level (the good guys).
- Saturated Fats – These fats raise both good and bad cholesterol levels – not so great.
- Trans Fats – These fats raise bad cholesterol levels and lower good cholesterol levels – bad choice!
- Polyunsaturated Fats – These fats lower both good and bad cholesterol levels – again, not so great.
- Monounsaturated Fats – These fats lower bad cholesterol levels AND raise good cholesterol levels – ding ding, we have a winner!!!
So it would appear that monounsaturated fat is your best choice, as it both lowers bad cholesterol and raises good cholesterol.
Which Oils are Highest in Monounsaturated Fat?
So now that we know which type of fat is healthiest, which oils are highest in monounsaturated fat? Here’s a list of oils, from high to low, of the oils that are highest in monounsaturated fat.
Macadamia Oil – 11 g/Tablespoon
Extra Virgin Olive Oil – 10 g/Tablespoon
Avocado Oil – 10 g/Tablespoon
Canola Oil – 9 g/Tablespoon
Tea Seed Oil – 7 g/Tablespoon
Peanut Oil – 6 g/Tablespoon
Sunflower Oil – 6 g/Tablespoon
Sesame Oil – 5 g/Tablespoon
Corn Oil – 3.8 g/Tablespoon
Soybean Oil – 3.1 g/Tablespoon
Flaxseed Oil – 2.5 g/Tablespoon
Cottonseed Oil – 2.4 g/Tablespoon
Grapeseed Oil – 2.2 g/Tablespoon
Safflower Oil – 1.4 g/Tablespoon
As you can see, the three big winners are macadamia oil, extra virgin olive oil, and avocado oil. So using one of those three oils is a great choice, and using any of the oils listed above – or eating these foods in their natural state (think avocados, peanuts, sunflower seeds, macadamia nuts) – will provide you with the health benefits of monounsaturated fats.
What’s the Best Cooking Oil for Your Health at High Temperatures?
One thing to keep in mind is that you will probably want to use a different oil when cooking then when using oil at room temperature, such as adding oil and vinegar to your salad.
Why? Because the properties of oils can change when heated to high temperatures. So while an oil may be healthy at room temperature, it may not be quite so healthy when used for cooking.
Oil has an interesting feature called the smoking point. The smoking point of oil ranges between 225 and 520 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the smoking point has been reached, the healthy properties of the oil begin to break down due to a process known as oxidization.
When food (oil) begins to oxidize, it can produce unwanted, toxic substances. As you can see from the list below, avocado oil is the best choice for cooking at high heat. Peanut and canola oil are also good choices and are readily available at your local grocery store. Save the olive oil, sesame oil, and flaxseed oil for drizzling on salads, and don’t use them for cooking at high temperatures.
Avocado Oil – 520 degrees F
Tea Seed Oil – 485 degrees F
Peanut Oil – 471 degrees F
Canola Oil – 468 degrees F
Sunflower Oil – 464 degrees F
Corn Oil – 453 degrees F
Soybean Oil – 453 degrees F
Safflower Oil – 446 degrees F
Grapeseed Oil – 435 degrees F
Cottonseed Oil – 420 degrees F
Macadamia Oil – 413 degrees F
Extra Virgin Olive Oil – 375 degrees F
Sesame Oil – 350 degrees F
Flaxseed Oil – 225 degrees F
Is Coconut Oil a Healthy Choice for Cooking?
While we’ve focused on monounsaturated fats in this article, there is one other fat that we should discuss – coconut oil. Popular with Paleo fans, coconut oil is a great choice for cooking at high temperatures because it is very stable at even the highest temps.
The only presumed drawback to using coconut oil is that it is made up of 92% saturated fat. We want to use monounsaturated fat, right? For the most part, yes. But our bodies do also need some saturated fat to maintain good health.
And coconut oil is a unique fat. It is digested very quickly, and our bodies use it for energy right away. Because it’s used up so quickly, the saturated fat doesn’t sit around in our bodies and cause the kind of damage that other saturated fats cause.
Another benefit of coconut oil is that it contains lauric acid. Lauric acid helps our bodies to fight infections, boost our immune system, and fight free radicals that can cause damage to our bodies.
The Four Best Cooking Oils
So, what’s the best cooking oil for your health? The top two oils for cooking at high heat are coconut oil and avocado oil. Due to its popularity, coconut oil is showing up at your local grocery store. Avocado oil may be more difficult to find, but try looking at a high end grocery store, and of course you can always order it online.
Two other oils that can be used for cooking at high temperatures, and that are readily available anywhere, are peanut oil and canola oil.
If using oils at room temperature, such as in salad dressings, macadamia oil, avocado oil, and extra virgin olive oil are your best bets. And since olive oil can be found anywhere, it’s probably the easiest choice as well.
Using oil that is closest to its natural form is the best oil to use, health wise. So just keep an eye on the amount of heat the oil is exposed to when you cook with it, making sure you stay below the smoking point.
What About Using No Oil?
Cooking without oil is definitely a possibility. Many people choose to saute food with water or broth instead of oil. And instead of frying food, many health-conscious foodies are choosing to use an air fryer. You should definitely check them out.