Discover how to choose cooking oils wisely

Discover how to choose cooking oils wisely

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Cooking oils are an essential part of any kitchen, but with so many options available, selecting the right one for your cooking needs can be overwhelming. Choosing the wrong oil could affect the flavour, nutritional value, and even the safety of your food. Therefore, it is important to understand the different types of oils and their properties. When selecting an oil, factors such as smoke point, flavour, and health benefits should be considered. In this guide, we will explore the most common types of cooking oils and how to choose the best oil for your cooking needs. By the end of this article, you will know how to select and use cooking oils wisely and confidently.

Make a healthy choice – What you eat regularly matters for your health.
Check this all-inclusive Fast2eat guide with the best and worst cooking oils for your health.

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Which fats and oils are healthy versus unhealthy?

The healthiest cooking oil is subjective and depends on various factors.
While certain oils provide a health boost, others should be used cautiously. They all have slightly different tastes and nutritional profiles. The healthiest and worst cooking oils can vary depending on individual health goals and preferences. The debate over which fats and oils are healthy versus unhealthy has continued for decades and likely will continue —there’s still some disagreement.
However, I can provide you with some general information on this topic.

What are the best cooking oils for health?

The best healthy cooking oils are typically those high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as olive oilavocado oilcanola oilflaxseed oil, and walnut oil.
These oils are rich in essential fatty acids and antioxidants that promote heart health and help reduce inflammation. They also tend to have higher smoke points, so they can withstand higher cooking temperatures without breaking down.

What are the worst cooking oils for health?

On the other hand, the worst cooking oils for health are typically high in saturated and trans fats.
These include palm oilcoconut oil, vegetable shortening and partially hydrogenated oils.
When consumed excessively, these oils can raise bad cholesterol levels and have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and other health problems.
It’s important to note that while coconut oil has gained popularity in recent years, some studies suggest that its high saturated fat content may have negative health effects.

In any case, moderation is essential when using any oil, as they are calorie-dense foods.
It’s best to incorporate a variety of cooking oils in a balanced diet for optimal health.
Consulting with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian can also provide personalized recommendations based on your specific health needs.

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What are important to consider when selecting cooking oil?

The main points are to use cooking oils in moderation. Canada’s food guide and US Dietary Guidelines recommend that Canadians and Americans include a small amount of fats in their diets daily to supply essential fatty acids because the body can’t make these acids and thus must get them from food.
When selecting a cooking oil, there are several important factors to consider:

Pay attention to the smoke point

The smoke point of an oil is the temperature at which it begins to break down and produce smoke. You’ll know it’s happening if the oil lets off wisps of smoke.
It is one of the most important things to consider. Using an oil beyond its smoke point can create an unpleasant taste and harmful compounds called free radicals. Choose an oil with a smoke point appropriate for the cooking method you plan to use.

We’ve included each oil’s smoke point in the list of oils so you can choose accordingly.

High-smoke point oils

Oils with high smoke points are typically more refined because their heat-sensitive impurities are often removed through chemical processing, bleaching, filtering, or high-temperature heating. A high smoke point generally is above 190°C/375°F, the temperature you usually fry at.
Some oils have higher smoke points, so they’re better for high-heat cooking, like deep frying and searing. So, high-smoke point oils like canolaavocado, and peanut oil are suitable for high-heat cooking methods like frying,

Lower-smoke point oils

Lower-smoke point oils like olive oil and sesame oil are better for applications like dressing and mild sautéing or drizzling.

Fat composition

Consider the types of fats present in the oil. Each oil is categorized based on which type of fatty acid is the most prominent.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are generally healthier than saturated and trans fats.
Look for oils with higher amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, like olive and avocado. These fats can have positive effects on heart health when consumed in moderation.

Keep in mind:
Even the “good fats” in some of the oils listed below are still fats, so just because an oil is healthy doesn’t mean you should drink it like it’s calorie-free.
There are nine calories in each gram of fat, whether it is butter or olive oil, compared to four calories in a gram of carbohydrates or protein.
There’s no variety that’s magically lower in calories than all the rest.

The ratio of saturated fat to monounsaturated fat (MUFA) to polyunsaturated fat (PUFA)

Each has a unique ratio of saturated fat to monounsaturated fat (MUFA) to polyunsaturated fat (PUFA). This ratio determines whether the oil is solid or liquid, how well it can withstand high temperatures, and its effects on the human body.
Pick oils that are composed mainly of MUFAs (Monounsaturated fatty acids) rather than PUFAs (Polyunsaturated fatty acids) for cooking – Because of their chemical structure, MUFAs are less sensitive to heat and oxidation, and it’s recommended to choose a mainly MUFA oil (like oliveavocadocanolasunflowersesamesoybean) for most cooking. But don’t worry if you need to make an exception here and there: Using a PUFA-based oil for cooking occasionally is perfectly fine.

Strive for balanced omegas

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are two types of PUFAs. While whole fish and fish oils are arguably the best sources of omega-3s, you can also find them in some cooking oils. Ideally, it’s best to seek out oils with a more favourable ratio of omega-3 to omega-6, like walnutcanola, and flaxseed.
But, again, don’t freak out: Ultimately, it comes down to moderation. Using plant-based oils with a higher omega-6 to omega-3 ratio occasionally won’t be detrimental to your health.

Nutritional profile

Some oils contain specific nutrients and antioxidants. For example, extra virgin olive oil is rich in antioxidants, while virgin coconut oil contains lauric acid. Consider the oil’s nutritional profile and choose one that aligns with your dietary needs and preferences.

Flavour and aroma

Oils can vary in flavour and aroma, which can impact the taste of your dishes. Some oils, like sesame oil and toasted sesame oil, have a distinct flavour that might be desirable for specific recipes. Consider the flavour profile of the oil and how it will complement the dish you’re preparing.

Processing method

Pay attention to the processing method of the oil. Cold-pressed or expeller-pressed oils are typically less refined and retain more natural nutrients than refined oils, which go through processes like bleaching and deodorizing. Opting for less processed oils may provide additional health benefits.

Cold-pressed

Cold-pressed oils are pressed at low temperatures, which means they retain all the flavours, aromas, and nutrients that heat would otherwise destroy.

Expeller-pressing

Expeller-pressing is another clean way of producing oil: Oil was extracted mechanically (i.e. good old-fashioned squeezing) instead of chemically.

Allergies and dietary restrictions

If you or anyone you’re cooking for has specific allergies or dietary restrictions, ensure that the chosen oil suits those needs. For example, if there is a nut allergy, avoid oils derived from nuts like peanut oil.

Ultimately, the best cooking oil depends on your health goals, taste preferences, and cooking needs.
It’s a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian for personalized recommendations based on your specific situation.

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Which oil should you use?

Different oils have different qualities that make them better for different uses. Before you pick an oil to use, it’s important to assess the needs of your recipe. Some are best for baking, some for frying, and some for salad dressings.

But which is best for which? 

If you’re trying to fry something, you’ll want to opt for an oil with a neutral flavour and a high smoke point.
If you’re looking for something to bake with, again, it’s best to opt for a neutral
For sautéing and searing, you should choose a more flavourful oil with a lower smoke point.
And as for dressing, the flavourful stuff is always best.

What are Canada's food guide and US Dietary Guidelines' healthy eating recommendations?

Canada’s food guide and US Dietary Guidelines‘ healthy eating recommendations are to decrease levels of saturated fats (fats from meats, poultry, cheese, dairy products and tropical oils, such as coconut and palm oils) to reduce their risk of heart disease. People should replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats, including polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.
Suppose you’re wondering which is the best cooking oil for your health. Here’s a description of the main types of oils and fats, plus tips on how to use them right—and which ones you shouldn’t be using to help you select some of the healthiest oils while still pleasing your taste buds.

olive oil

Extra virgin olive oil is rich in healthy monounsaturated fats and antioxidants. It has a relatively high smoke point, making it suitable for various cooking methods, from sautéing to roasting.


Flaxseed oil is a rich source of healthy omega-3 fats, like alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), that offer numerous health benefits. Studies have found that consuming flaxseed oil can reduce inflammation, improve heart health, and lower the risk of certain cancers. It also provides antioxidant vitamin E to protect the body against free radical damage. Including flaxseed oil in your diet can promote overall wellness and reduce the likelihood of chronic diseases.

Flaxseed oil

Those cooking oils have health benefits. However, Canada’s food guide doesn’t mention them. But it says, “These foods contain healthy fats: nuts, seeds, and avocado.”

Avocado oil

Like olive oilavocado oil is high in monounsaturated fats. Its high smoke point makes it suitable for high-heat cooking methods like grilling and stir-frying.


Walnut oil is a healthy, nutty oil with high amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that support brain function and heart health and reduce inflammation. It also includes antioxidants, melatonin, and vitamin E that may reduce the risks of chronic diseases. It’s a suitable substitute for other oils in cooking and salad dressing.

Walnut oil
almond oil


Almond oil is a healthy source of fats that benefits the heart, reduces inflammation, and lowers cholesterol. It also helps prevent type 2 diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s, promoting healthy skin, hair, and nails. Adding almond oil to your diet or skincare routine can improve your well-being.

Macadamia oil is rich in healthy fats, antioxidants, vitamin E, and phytosterols. It improves cholesterol levels, lowers blood pressure, and reduces inflammation. It’s also a good source of omega-7 fatty acids for healthy skin, hair, and nails. Macadamia oil is an excellent choice for cooking, baking, salads and more!

macadamia oil
Peanut Oil

Peanut oil is also high in monounsaturated fats and has a high smoke point. It is often used in Asian cuisine for stir-frying and deep-frying.

Sesame oil, particularly toasted sesame oil, adds a distinct flavour to dishes. Its medium smoke point makes it suitable for light sautéing and dressings.

sesame oil
safflower oil

Safflower oil is a healthy source of unsaturated fatty acids, including omega-6 and linoleic acid, which can reduce inflammation, prevent chronic conditions and is low in saturated fat. It is also a great source of vitamin E, an antioxidant. Excessive consumption can lead to inflammation too.

Cold-pressed sunflower oil is low in saturated fat and contains a good amount of vitamin E. Its high smoke point makes it suitable for frying and baking.

sunflower oil
canola oil

Canola oil is low in saturated fat and contains a good amount of monounsaturated fats. It has a high smoke point, making it a versatile choice for cooking.

Corn oil is another oil that is high in omega-6 fatty acids. While small amounts of omega-6 fats are necessary for the body, an excessive intake of omega-6 fatty acids can promote inflammation and may increase the risk of chronic diseases.

corn oil
grapeseed oil

Grapeseed oil has a mild flavour and a high smoke point, making it versatile for various cooking methods.

Cottonseed oil is often heavily refined and may contain residues of pesticides. It is also high in omega-6 fatty acids, which, when consumed in excess, can contribute to an imbalance in the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio.

vegetable oil

Canada’s food guide recommends those cooking oils. However, they are not the healthiest choice. They are generally recommended to be avoided or used sparingly due to their potential adverse effects on health.

soybean oil

Soybean oil is commonly used in processed foods and has a high omega-6 fatty acid content. Like corn oil, excessive intake of soybean oil can lead to an imbalance in the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio.

Often labelled as “vegetable oil,” this oil is typically a blend of different oils, including soybean oil and/or other oils high in omega-6 fatty acids. It’s better to opt for specific oils rather than generic vegetable oil.

vegetable oil
Coconut oil

While coconut oil has recently gained popularity, it is high in saturated fats and may raise LDL cholesterol levels, which is considered the “bad” cholesterol. Moderation is vital when using coconut oil.

Palm oil is high in saturated fats, which can contribute to an increased risk of heart disease when consumed in excess. Additionally, it is often associated with deforestation and habitat destruction.

palm tree oil
margarine


Margarine is made from vegetable oils and is usually cholesterol-free. Margarine is high in unsaturated fats that help reduce “bad” cholesterol linked to heart disease. Apart from this, it is fortified with many vitamins and minerals, making it a nutrient-dense food. Some margarine products may contain unhealthy artificial trans fats, so choosing brands that are free from them and high in unsaturated fats is important. Moderation is essential, so using margarine in a balanced diet is best.

Lard is a type of fat that has received a bad reputation due to its high saturated fat content. However, recent studies show that lard can be a healthier option than margarine or vegetable shortening due to its monounsaturated fats and lack of trans fats. It is also rich in vitamin D and, when consumed in moderation, can be a healthy part of a balanced diet.

Lard
ghee


Ghee is a clarified butter often used in Indian cuisine. It contains medium-chain fatty acids like butyric acid, which has been shown to improve digestion, reduce inflammation, and boost immunity. Ghee is also rich in vitamin A, which is important for skin, vision, and immune function. However, saturated fats should be consumed in moderation as they can raise cholesterol and the risk of heart disease. Moderation is key when incorporating ghee into a healthy diet.


Butter contains healthy fats such as monounsaturated and saturated fats that can improve heart health and cholesterol levels. It also contains vitamins A, D, E, and K for maintaining healthy skin, vision, bones, and blood clotting. However, butter is high in calories and should be consumed in moderation to prevent weight gain, high cholesterol levels, and other health issues. Use it as part of a balanced diet.

Butter
Shortening


Not all types of shortening are created equal regarding health. While traditional shortening made from partially hydrogenated oils contains trans fats, which are harmful to overall health, there are healthier alternatives available. Choose healthy shortening options by checking the label for trans fats and healthy fats. Use less or substitute it with applesauce or yogurt for a healthier choice.

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Moderation is vital when using any oil, as it is still a calorie-dense food.
It’s also important to consider the oil’s smoke point, as using oil beyond its smoke point can create harmful compounds.
Ultimately, it’s best to incorporate a variety of cooking oils in a balanced diet for optimal health.

It’s important to note that individual health needs and preferences may differ, so it’s always a good idea to consult a healthcare professional or registered dietitian for personalized recommendations.

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I hope my easy tips will give you the confidence to step into the kitchen and prepare delicious meals to eat with a handful of close friends.

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