The 10 Healthiest Cooking Oils, According to Food Experts
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The healthiest cooking oils
It may seem like your supermarket shelves are filled with more cooking oil options than you’ve ever seen before. Vegetable, canola, and extra virgin olive oils (EVOO) are like culinary dinosaurs next to the seemingly modern avocado or flaxseed oil. With so many choices, and so many trends in the health food community, it’s hard to know which is the healthiest cooking oil to put in your cart.
“There are ‘health halos’ associated with some cooking oils and opposite perceptions about others, not all of which are warranted,” says Kris Sollid, RD, senior director of nutrition communications of the International Food Information Council (IFIC). A health halo is the impression that a specific food is really good for you despite a lack of factual information to back up the idea.
“Where these beliefs stem from is anyone’s guess, but I wouldn’t rule out connotations of an oil’s food source, which may, in part, be influenced by the more exotic regions of the world that some of these foods are native to,” Sollid adds.
With this in mind, which healthiest cooking oil should you reach for when prepping a meal? Our food experts weigh in with multiple options for every palette.
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For starters, Sollid explains that all cooking oils are 100 percent fat. “Just like with any food that contains fat, all cooking oils contain a blend of different types of saturated and unsaturated fats,” he says. “While some cooking oils are higher in certain types of fat, no oil contains only one type. A cooking oil is considered healthy if it’s high in mono- and polyunsaturated fats.”
For this reason, he points to canola oil as one of the healthiest cooking oils because it offers blends of heart-healthy fats (as do olive and soybean oils). “Canola oil is also a great source of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs),” says Sollid. “Compared to olive oil, canola oil contains less MUFA [monounsaturated fatty acids], but less saturated fat and more alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) omega-3 fat. Canola oil has the least saturated fat and the most ALA omega-3 fat of the common cooking oils.” According to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements, ALA is an essential fatty acid. This means that your body can’t produce it and it must be consumed through what you eat and drink.
The smoke point of canola is 400 degrees Fahrenheit, which makes it ideal to use when cooking something at a high temperature (think grilling over high heat). The smoke point is what happens when an oil or fat begins to “smoke,” and starts to break down, perhaps giving off an unpleasant smell or taste.
(Related: 9 Pro Tips for Healthier Grilling)
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