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 & a good source of Polyunsaturated)
Canola oil is one of the most neutral flavour options among all oils, making it extremely versatile. Made from canola seeds, a genetic variation of rapeseed, a flowering plant which is widely cultivated in Canada and is responsible for its name, a derivative of “Canadian oil, low acid.” (The “low acid” refers to versions of the rapeseed plant that are bred to have low erucic acid content. High levels of erucic acid can be toxic.).
Canola oil also has relatively high monounsaturated fat content. But although it contains a higher proportion of monounsaturated fat (61-62 %), canola oil is also a good source of polyunsaturated fat (32 %). In addition, canola oil has the lowest level of saturated fat among cooking oils (7 %). It is also one of the few oils that contain a good plant-based source of omega-3 fats, a beneficial type of polyunsaturated fat.
People often think of it as unhealthy because they associate it with fried food. It isn’t actually all that bad for you on its own. This is one of the healthiest oils available thanks to its fatty acid profile, omega-3 and low saturated fat contents. Canola oil is also very versatile as it has a neutral taste and light texture. The omega-3s and omega-6s may help with cardiovascular health. In 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decided that manufacturers could claim that 1 1/2 tablespoons of canola oil a day may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease when used instead of saturated fat.
Canola oil has a higher smoke point than olive oil and can be used safely for cooking at high temperatures. It doesn’t have as much flavour as some other vegetable and seed oils, though, so you may not want to use it in recipes like salad dressings where you want the oil to add some flavour.
The reason it has a high smoke point is that it is chemically processed, but that doesn’t have much of an effect on its health qualities. Canola oil tends to be highly processed, which means fewer nutrients overall. Cold-pressed or unprocessed canola oil is available, but it can be difficult to find. Canola oil is also often highly-refined, which removes undesirable tastes, smells, or colours. Refined and unrefined oils have the same fatty acid profile. However, cold-pressed or unrefined oils contain more plant chemicals that contribute to their healthfulness.
So, might not pack quite as many benefits as your other oil selections, but its versatility should still make it a staple. Canola oil is a versatile and practical cooking oil that’s not very expensive and can be used in a variety of ways, from baking and grilling to stir-frying and making salad dressings.
Made from: The seeds of the canola plant, a crossbreed of the rapeseed plant that’s lower in potentially dangerous erucic acid.
Best for: light cooking, searing meat, mayonnaise, frying, sauces, stir-fries, roasting, and baking, muffins and light cakes.
Not recommended for: Sautéing and salad dressings. Because it has a neutral taste that doesn’t do much for your food in the flavour department, cooks don’t usually recommend using it for sautéing.
Pros: This oil has it all: It’s higher in omega-3s than most other plant oils; it’s composed of mostly MUFAs. It has a relatively high smoke point, so it’s more resistant to heat-related breakdown. Thus it’s great for all-around cooking.
Cons: Almost all canola grown in North America is genetically modified, so choose organic if you want to avoid GMOs.
Note 1: use in all kinds of dishes, not drizzle to your heart’s content, as canola is still high-fat and caloric. You can use this oil to sauté, bake, roast, stir-fry and more. Also, you can cut 1:1 with olive oil when making salad dressings, if you think the olive flavour is nice, but a bit too strong.
Note 2: Non-organic canola oil is also usually processed using a chemical solvent called hexane, but the trace amounts of hexane found in the finished product are not a threat to your health. Still, if you really want to avoid it, choose organic (hexane is not allowed in organic production), cold-pressed, or expeller-pressed canola.
Other uses: Europe is putting a lot of stock into canola as a biofuel. You’ll also find it in candles, lipsticks, even newspaper ink. Again, “versatility” is the word.
- 220-230°C (428–446°F)
- (Rapeseed) Expeller press – 190-232°C (375-450°F)
- (Rapeseed) Refined – 204°C (400°F)
- (Rapeseed) Unrefined – 107°C (225°F)
(also known as maize oil)
(high in Polyunsaturated fats)
Corn oil is quite a healthy oil because it is composed mainly of polyunsaturated fatty acids and low on saturated fat. It is also used in skin care and hair care, besides many other industrial applications.
Corn oil is dark in colour when unrefined. As it gets refined, it turns pale yellow in colour. It has a nutty taste with a hint of corn as well. One can literally feel the taste of corn on the cob in the unrefined, cold pressed oil. However, refined and processed oils lose their aroma and much of the taste as well.
Made from the endosperm of corn kernels, corn oil is used in the production of many kinds of margarine.
There is a popular misconception that corn is a vegetable. It is actually a grain. Corn originated and was bred from a tall grass-like plant that somewhat resembled wheat.
There are various methods of extracting oil from the seed-germs. However, the best oil in terms of health benefits is the cold pressed oil. The oil when extracted is dense and needs to be refined before it is used for cooking purposes. One can also use unrefined oil as it contains more of health-boosting plant phytochemicals. The common process of making corn oil involves expeller pressing. The oil is then treated with a solvent. After that, it is refined which gets rid of free fatty acids. Finally, it is sent through steam distillation to get rid of volatile organic compounds. However, this process leads to a loss of useful compounds and also leads to contamination with the solvent, although very small. A few producers make 100 % pure unrefined corn oil which is extracted using the cold pressed method. This is expensive than other corn oils, but it is natural and organic.
Corn oil is very easily available. One can get it any food store. However, one needs to do some searching to find extra virgin corn oil which is cold pressed and unrefined. This one would cost a few bucks more.
Made from: extracted from the germ (the small germinating part of the seed) of corn.
Best for: It can be used in baking, and because it has a high smoke point it is also good for sautéing, stir and deep frying.
Not recommended for: Corn oil makes hair more manageable, although it is not recommended to use it as hair oil.
Pros: Its high smoke point. Plus, the most studied property of corn oil is its ability to lower LDL blood cholesterol when taken within limits unless corn oil is taken in such high amounts that its saturated fat content increases cholesterol levels. Corn oil contains Vitamin E which is an antioxidant. Corn oil is good for the health of the cardiovascular system if taken within limits. Like olive oil, it reduces blood pressure post-consumption in hypertensive patients, however, as always, one should keep the consumption of fats within limits, no matter how healthy.
Cons: Reduction of LDL cholesterol alone does not mean your heart disease risk is reduced. Also, keep in mind that corn oil has an omega-6 to an omega-3 ratio of 49:1. The optimal ratio is 4:1. Corn oil has 58% omega-6 fatty acids, which, is too high and can lead to inflammation, like arthritis and acne. Therefore, one should make sure to eat enough omega-3 in the diet as well. It is all about balance. You probably also know that almost all corn grown in North America is genetically modified, so the corn oil will be, too (unless you buy organic).
Other uses: It is a nice emollient, though not as good as the well-known massage oils like olive, coconut or sweet almond, corn oil can be used for massage oil, although it is not that popular. It can carry essential oils and as such can be used in aromatherapy massages. It has a mild nutty flavour which should go well with essential oils of nuts. It is a moisturizer for the skin. Corn oil is a gentle oil and one can use it as a base oil for household products like lip balms, salves, creams, and night oils. Other common uses also are: Soap making, Carrier for medicines, As an ingredient in insecticides, Preventing corrosion on iron surfaces (rustproofing), Manufacture of nitroglycerin, It is also used in biodiesel technology.
Note: Corn oil is generally not toxic if it has been produced using the cold pressed method. If solvents were used to extract the oil, then it can lead to serious adverse health effects in the long run. Corn oil is one of the few vegetable oils that contains trans fats. However, 100 gm of corn oil contains just 0.3 gm of trans fats. Even though trans fats are really bad for cardiovascular health, this amount is pretty small.
How to store: This oil needs to be stored in the refrigerator otherwise it turns cloudy. It does not have an impressive shelf life and that only gets worse if it is exposed to light and heat.
- 230-238°C (446-460°F)
- Unrefined – 178°C (352°F)
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 .