Fast2eat all-inclusive guide with the best and worst cooking oils for your health.
Confused about which cooking oil is the healthiest? Join the club.
You’ve probably heard a lot of back and forth about heart health, trans fatty acids, saturated fatty acids, PUFAs (Polyunsaturated fatty acids), MUFAs (Monounsaturated fatty acids) and smoke points when it comes to cooking oils. It can all be a bit confusing, so this article is here to clear it up.
Cooking Oils Recommended by Canada’s food guide
(high in monounsaturated fats)
Olive oil is my favourite. Because of its prominent role in the Mediterranean diet, olive oil is one of the most popular oils in many kitchens. Olive oil is a basic ingredient of the heart-healthy.
Olive oils typically have the highest percentage of monounsaturated fats among cooking oils (although some high-oleic versions of other oils may have artificially boosted levels of monounsaturated fats). Olive oil is also rich in antioxidants called polyphenols, beneficial plant compounds that some evidence suggests may improve heart health.
Made from: Extracted from ripe olives (fruit of the olive tree) on the first pressing without the use of heat or chemicals.
Best for: It is best flavoursome oil for cold food (like drizzling over foods, on salads, pasta, and bread), but can be used in some low-heat cooking. Choose Extra Virgin (unrefined) for dressing and low-heat applications so you’ll be able to enjoy its robust flavour. Choose Virgin (also unrefined) or Pure (a blend of virgin and refined oils) for pan-frying, roasting, or baking.
Not recommended: It’s okay to use the oil for a quick sauté or for baking, but it has a low smoke point, do it is not ideal for cooking unless below the smoke point. it’s not good for deep frying.
Pros: It’s rich in polyphenols, antioxidant compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties. Researchers are also looking into how polyphenols can help to prevent cancer, as well as their potential for improving cognitive function and memory. High in beneficial monounsaturated fats, olive oil is heart-healthy.
Cons: Olive oil has a relatively lower smoke point compared to other oils, so it’s best for low and medium-heat cooking; it’s not good for high-heat cooking.
Note1: Many brands, varying in colour and strength of flavour, are now available. When choosing olive oil, look for ones that say they’re cold pressed. This is a chemical-free process that means no heat was applied during the crushing, which avoids changes in the olive’s chemistry and avoids defects. The resulting oil has a natural level of low acidity.
Note2: Unfortunately, it has been discovered that some unsavoury olive oil dealers have combined olive oil with cheap vegetable oils while still labelling the bottle as 100% olive oil, so make sure the olive oil you buy is pure, otherwise you may unwittingly be consuming unhealthy oils.
How to store: Store in an airtight container away from heat and light.
There are different types of Olive Oil:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra Virgin is the highest grade and best tasting Olive Oil derived by cold mechanical extraction (always cold-pressed) without the use of solvents or refining methods. It contains no more than 0.8% free acidity, and is judged to have a superior taste, is considered the finest and fruitiest of the bunch and no defined sensory defects. This also makes it the most expensive to buy than other types of olive oil, but its flavour can’t be substituted for anything else and contains the most antioxidants.
Made from: Extra-virgin olive oil comes from the first pressing of the olives. This results in an oil that has more flavour and a fruity aroma, and is less processed, meaning it is considered “unrefined“.
Best for: Because extra-virgin olive oil offers more flavour than other types of olive oil, it’s a good option for sautéing vegetables, dipping bread or preparing salad dressings and marinades. It’s also one of the healthiest oils to use when baking. As a dressing, it’s great, too.
Not recommended for: Frying or roasting above 190°C (374°F). There are better choices than extra-virgin olive oil for cooking at high temperatures, such as when frying because the oil cannot withstand very high heat before it starts to burn and smoke, Refined (or pure) olive oil may be more suited for high-temperature cooking.
Pros: It’s high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and a quality bottle can truly take you on a taste bud adventure. Nutrition and cooking experts agree that one of the most versatile and healthy oils to cook with and eat is olive oil, as long as it’s extra virgin. You want an oil that is not refined and overly processed. An “extra virgin” label means that the olive oil is not refined, and therefore of high quality. Extra virgin olive oil contains a large amount of monounsaturated fats and some polyunsaturated fatty acids; many studies have linked it to better heart health. Choose extra virgin olive oil for its flavour and high level of antioxidants.
Cons: There’s one catch with extra-virgin versus other grades of olive oil: It has a relatively low smoke point, which means you may not want to use it for frying or roasting at temperatures above that smoke point.
Note: The definition of Extra Virgin Olive Oil is very precise regards production methods, taste, and chemical composition. To be certified for the “Extra Virgin” Label, an olive oil:
- Must come from the first pressing of fresh olives, normally within 24 hours of harvesting.
- Must be extracted by non-chemical, mechanical means, and without the use of excessive heat, specifically below 28°C (82°F).
- The free fatty acid or acidity level must be less than 0.8%.
- It must be defect free – having a perfect taste and aroma.
- Extra virgin, low acidity, high quality – 207°C (405°F)
- Extra virgin – 190°C (374°F)
Virgin Olive Oil
Virgin olive oil is a lesser grade of virgin oil.
This is also first-press olive oil, however, it has between 1 and 3 % acidity, therefore, it is of inferior quality to Extra Virgin Olive Oil. If you’re unable to find extra virgin olive oil this is the next best option.
It is judged to have a good taste but may include some sensory defects. Its flavour intensity can vary and its taste is milder than Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Smoke point: 210°C (410°F)
Fino olive oil
Meaning fine in Italia, this oil is a blend of extra virgin and virgin olive oils.
Refined (or Pure) Olive Oil
Pure olive oil is another oil, but the name can be misleading. Pure is actually a blend of either extra virgin or virgin olive oil and olive oils that are refined. It is used mainly when extracted olive oil is of poor quality and the refining process helps it to have a better flavour.
Refined olive oil is virgin oil that has been refined using agents such as acids, alkalis, charcoal, and other chemical and physical filters, methods which do not alter the glyceridic structure, and heat to extract as much oil as possible from the olive pulp that remains after the first pressing. These are heavily processed oils that have had most of their distinct flavours and aromas removed in the extraction process.
Best for: Frying – If you love frying things in olive oil (which, like, who doesn’t?) you’ll want to use the pure stuff instead of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Not recommended for: Salad dressings.
Cons: Unfortunately, it’s not quite as flavourful, because it’s chemically processed. It also doesn’t have as many heart-healthy fats as high-quality extra-virgin. While it is still a source of monounsaturated fat, it no longer contains the polyphenols that make olive oil so good for you. The result is a fattier and more acidic oil which lacks taste, aroma and natural antioxidants. But that’s the trade-off for being able to use it for heavy duty cooking.
Note: Many times, refined olive oil is used when frying as the taste is not as remarkable as the virgin oils. A product labelled simply Olive Oil is nearly the same as something marked Pure Olive Oil in that it is refined with lack of taste. This is why producers need to add unrefined Extra Virgin or Virgin Olive Oil to impart some of flavour, colour, and aroma into the blend.
Smoke point: 199-243°C (390-470°F), which can stand up to that frying heat.
Light olive oil
Terms such as “pure” or “100% pure” or “Light” are made up terms used by large producers and supermarkets. If the label states “pure” or “100% pure” or “Light” then the Olive Oil is a refined oil lacking the taste, aroma, and quality of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Best for: A great choice for turning into sauces and mayonnaise, using in baking or using in places you don’t want a strong olive oil flavour. It also has a higher smoking point than other olive oils, making it ideal for high-heat cooking.
Cons: A highly processed, light coloured oil with very little flavour.
Olive Pomace Oil
The lowest grade of olive oil made from the byproducts of extra virgin olive oil production. Olive skins, seeds, and pulp are heated and the remaining oil is extracted using hexane, a solvent. The result, pomace oil, is then put through the refining process, similar to pure or light olive oil. Pomace olive oil is bland and extremely low in antioxidants.
Oil with severe defects, usually from bad fruit or poor processing practices. It is not fit for human consumption until it has been refined
(high in Polyunsaturated fats)
Flaxseed has become more and more popular as a superfood recently, with its high fibre content and fairly high doses of omega-3 fatty acids from plant sources, which are extremely healthy for us, since omega-3 fatty acids decrease inflammation and control blood pressure. Flaxseed oil is one of best plant sources of three omega-3 fatty acids (olive and canola oils also contain omega-3s). You need dietary omega-3s since your body cannot make them on its own. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and thus may help lower the risk of cancer, according to the MD Anderson Cancer Center. Also thought to be helpful in fighting heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
You may want to look into using it more often if you don’t eat a lot of fish, but it’s hard to consume enough to get the benefits offered by omega-3s in fish. Subtle taste makes it a healthy alternative for salads.
It is also a good source of monounsaturated fatty acids to promote decreased total LDL cholesterol and increased HDL. Flaxseed oil also packs anti-inflammatory properties, keeping the body primed to ward off disease. Flaxseed oil may also help reduce symptoms of arthritis.
Made from: Cold-pressed flaxseed.
Best for: it’s best to use in cold dishes like smoothies or salads, so toss with a salad dressing or drizzling it over quinoa or dips like hummus.
Not recommended for: Cooking. It should not be heated. You absolutely can’t cook with it, because of the low smoke-point, it’s incredibly sensitive to heat and oxidizes quickly.
Pros: Since the oil is more condensed than whole flaxseeds, it provides a greater punch of omega-3s Flaxseed oil is also a terrific option for individuals suffering from high blood pressure, and studies show that supplementing with flaxseed oil on a daily basis can lower blood pressure and have a cardioprotective effect.
Cons: Avoid it if you’re on a blood thinner since flaxseed oil may increase bleeding. It can go rancid very quickly (even faster if you heat it), so this oil should be stored in the fridge and only used for low-temperature applications like dressing salads.
Other uses: the oil can be used as a mild laxative of sorts. On top of that, it’s also a solid option for moisturizing skin. You may also find this oil in various substances, like varnishes and paints, as a waterproofing agent.
Note: you should buy small bottles so you can use it up quickly, and be extra sure to store it in the fridge.
How to store: Cold-pressed flaxseed oil easily turns rancid (oxidizes easily), so buy it from the refrigerated section of the store, and keep it in your fridge at home.
Smoke point: Unrefined – 107°C (225°F), don’t use this for cooking.
Fast2eat all-inclusive guide with the best and worst cooking oils for your health:
Cooking Oils Recommended by Canada’s food guide
But it says “These foods contain healthy fats: nuts; seeds and avocado”.
“Make a healthy choice – What you eat on a regular basis matters for your health.”
Canada’s food guide .