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The 15 Best Cooking Oils For Your Health

The 15 Best Cooking Oils For Your Health

Cooking oils are vital to our diets, contributing to overall health and wellness. They contain essential fatty acids, vitamins, and nutrients that support bodily functions, help absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, provide energy, aid in cell growth, and maintain healthy skin. Oils like olive and canola are heart-friendly, while coconut oil has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Recognizing their importance can improve well-being.

The best cooking oils for health are olive oil, avocado oil, and canola oil. Olive oil is rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and antioxidants. Avocado oil has a high smoke point and is packed with vitamins and healthy fats. Canola oil is low in saturated fats and versatile for various cooking methods.

Understanding Cooking Oils

cooking oils with salad

Cooking oils, derived from plants, seeds, fruits, and nuts, are used for frying, baking, and cooking, enhancing flavor, browning, and adding texture. They can also be used in salad dressings and marinades. Popular oils include:

  • Olive Oil: Especially extra virgin, known for health benefits.
  • Canola Oil: Heart-healthy and versatile with a high smoke point.
  • Avocado Oil: Ideal for grilling and frying, rich in monounsaturated fats.
  • Coconut Oil: Suitable for medium heat, with debated health benefits.
  • Peanut Oil: High smoke point, perfect for frying.
  • Sesame Oil: Enhances flavors in Asian cuisine.
  • Sunflower Oil: Rich in vitamin E, commonly used for frying.
  • Grapeseed Oil: Associated with the Mediterranean diet.
  • Corn Oil: Versatile for various cooking methods.
  • Safflower Oil: Known for unique properties.
  • Flaxseed Oil: Used in various culinary applications.

These oils are essential for nutrient intake and overall health, aiding in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Different oils have varying proportions of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats. For example, olive oil is high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Despite their benefits, oils should be consumed in moderation due to high calorie content.

Cooking oils enhance the richness and diversity of global cuisines. Each oil's unique composition makes it suitable for specific culinary uses. Maintaining a balanced use of different oils can lead to a healthy and flavorful diet.

Factors to consider when selecting cooking oils

Smoke Point and Its Significance

The smoke point is the temperature at which an oil begins to break down and produce visible smoke, affecting flavor and nutritional value, and potentially generating harmful compounds. Knowing the smoke points of various oils is essential for choosing the right one for your cooking method.

pouring oil into pan

When oils reach their smoke point, they lose beneficial properties and nutrients. Exceeding this point can release harmful compounds like free radicals, which may cause inflammation and cell damage.

Different oils have varying smoke points. For example, flaxseed oil has a very low smoke point, making it unsuitable for most cooking methods. Conversely, oils like avocado, safflower, and canola oil have high smoke points, allowing them to withstand high heat without breaking down.

Healthiness and Smoke Point

The healthiness of cooking oil isn't solely based on its smoke point. Some oils, such as coconut oil, have a high smoke point but are high in saturated fats, which can raise cholesterol levels and contribute to heart disease. In contrast, oils like olive and avocado have moderate to high smoke points and are rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.

Sunflower Oil at High Heat

Sunflower oil is preferred for high-heat cooking due to its stability under high temperatures. It consists mainly of polyunsaturated fats, making it more stable and retaining its beneficial properties better than some other oils like virgin olive oil. However, excessive consumption of sunflower oil can disrupt the balance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, potentially leading to health issues.

Understanding the Nutrient Content: A Guide to Selecting Healthy Oils for Your Diet

Cooking oils are essential in our daily meals, used in frying, baking, steaming, and salad dressings. However, not all oils offer the same nutritional value or health benefits. Here’s a concise guide to selecting healthy oils for your diet.

Choosing Oils with Beneficial Fats

Prioritize oils rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, and sesame oil. These fats help maintain heart health, reduce cholesterol levels, and control blood sugar. Check the nutrition label to determine the amount of these healthy fats.

Monounsaturated fats are abundant in olive oil, avocado oil, and nuts like almonds, peanuts, and cashews. Polyunsaturated fats are found in sunflower oil, corn oil, and fatty fish like salmon and mackerel.

Healthy Olive Oil Intake

olive oil in jar

Consuming 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil per day is generally recommended for a balanced diet. While high in monounsaturated fats, excessive consumption can lead to weight gain due to its fat and calorie content.

Decoding Nutrition Labels

Understanding nutrition labels on cooking oils is important. Focus on total fat content and levels of saturated and trans fats to ensure alignment with a heart-healthy diet. Choose oils high in unsaturated fats and low in saturated and trans fats.

Using Oils in Moderation

Use oils in moderation and consider nonstick cookware or cooking methods like grilling, boiling, or steaming that require less oil. Having a variety of oils in your kitchen can enhance flavors and provide different health benefits.

By making informed choices about your cooking oils, you can embrace a healthier lifestyle. Read our blog post on if cooking oils can be reused for tips on how to prepare used oils for storage.

Flavor Characteristics

Cooking oils not only serve as cooking mediums but also significantly enhance the flavor of dishes. Here's a brief overview of the flavor profiles of various cooking oils:

collection of cooking oils
  1. Olive Oil: Known for its fruity and peppery flavor, olive oil is ideal for drizzling over pasta, salads, or bread as a finishing touch.
  2. Coconut Oil: With its strong, sweet, and nutty flavor, coconut oil adds a tropical note, commonly used in Indian and Southeast Asian cuisines.
  3. Sesame Oil: Dark sesame oil has an intense, smoky, and nutty taste, perfect for Asian dishes, stir-fries, marinades, and salad dressings. Light sesame oil has a milder flavor suitable for deep or pan frying.
  4. Canola Oil: Mild in flavor with a high smoke point, canola oil is versatile for sautéing, grilling, frying, and baking, without altering the food's original taste.
  5. Avocado Oil: Boasting a buttery yet grassy flavor, avocado oil is excellent for high-heat cooking like grilling and roasting, and also as a salad dressing.
  6. Sunflower Oil: Neutral in taste and smell, sunflower oil is ideal for deep frying, roasting, and baking, often used in recipes with strong flavors.
  7. Peanut Oil: With a slightly nutty and sweet flavor, peanut oil is preferred for frying and is common in Asian and South Asian cuisines.
  8. Flaxseed Oil: Strong and slightly bitter with a nutty flavor, flaxseed oil is best used in small quantities for salad dressings, smoothies, and dips due to its low smoke point.

Each cooking oil brings a unique flavor to dishes, enhancing or complementing the ingredients. Use them wisely, considering their nutritional values, smoke points, and the type of cuisine you’re preparing.

Exploring the Healthiest Cooking Oils

Why Olive Oil Deserves the Title of Healthiest Cooking Oil

olive oil in jar

Olive oil is a staple of the Mediterranean diet and is celebrated for its numerous health benefits. It is considered the healthiest cooking oil for several compelling reasons:

Healthy Fats: Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats, which are healthier than the saturated and polyunsaturated fats found in many other oils. These fats help lower harmful cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Antioxidants: Olive oil is packed with antioxidants, including vitamin E and phenolic compounds like oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol. These antioxidants fight inflammation, protect blood cholesterol from oxidation, and lower the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.

Anti-inflammatory Properties: Olive oil's anti-inflammatory properties are vital for combating chronic diseases. Antioxidants like oleocanthal work similarly to anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen.

Brain Health: Regular consumption of olive oil can improve cognitive function and reduce the risk of cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.

Versatility in Cooking: Olive oil enhances the flavor of many dishes and is suitable for various cooking methods, including low to medium heat cooking, salad dressings, sautéing, roasting, grilling, and baking. Extra virgin olive oil, in particular, adds a robust flavor to cold dishes and salads.

Baking Substitute: Using olive oil instead of butter in baking reduces saturated fat content and keeps baked goods moist and fresh longer. It also imparts a delightful flavor when used for sautéing or frying.

In summary, olive oil's unique combination of healthy fats, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, and culinary versatility makes it an exceptional choice for any cooking endeavor. Whether focusing on heart health, brain health, or simply enjoying delicious food, olive oil is indeed a superior option.

Avocado Oil: The Ideal Choice for High Heat Cooking

Avocado oil is highly regarded by both food enthusiasts and health-conscious individuals for its excellent qualities and health benefits. Its high smoke point makes it the best cooking oil for high-heat cooking.

High Smoke Point: Avocado oil can withstand temperatures up to 520°F (271°C) without smoking or breaking down, unlike olive oil, which smokes at around 410°F (210°C). This makes avocado oil perfect for roasting, grilling, searing, and frying.

Nutritional Benefits: Rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and around 20 vitamins and minerals, avocado oil helps lower bad cholesterol levels and promotes skin health by enhancing collagen production. It also contains lutein, which benefits eye health, and oleic acid, known for its anti-inflammatory and potential anti-cancer properties.

Versatility: Avocado oil's slightly buttery taste and deep green color enhance stir-fries, sautés, salad dressings, and dips. It blends well with other ingredients without overpowering their flavors. It also works as a marinade for meats and vegetables and can replace butter or shortening in baking.

In summary, avocado oil is a healthy, versatile choice, especially for high-temperature cooking. Its nutritional benefits and ability to enhance dish flavors make it a valuable addition to any kitchen.

Canola Oil

Canola oil, derived from a specially bred variety of the rapeseed plant, is low in erucic acid and belongs to the vegetable oil and mustard plant families. It is recognized for its health benefits and versatility in cooking.

Health Benefits: Canola oil is low in saturated and trans fats but high in monounsaturated fats and essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which help lower bad cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. It is also rich in vitamins E and K, beneficial for skin health, cognitive function, and overall immunity.

Culinary Uses: Canola oil's light and mild flavor makes it ideal for baking and frying without overpowering other ingredients. Its high smoke point suits frying foods like chicken and fries. Additionally, it works well in salad dressings, marinades, sauces, and various cuisines, and its smooth texture is perfect for grilling or sautéing vegetables and meats.

In summary, canola oil is a versatile, healthy cooking oil suitable for a wide range of culinary applications.

Exploring Coconut Oil; Is it Truly a Healthy Choice for Cooking?

coconut oil

Coconut oil has gained significant attention for its uses and health benefits. However, its high saturated fat content raises concerns.

Saturated Fat Content: Coconut oil is about 87% saturated fat, which can increase 'bad' LDL cholesterol and potentially lead to heart disease. However, it primarily contains lauric acid, a medium-chain fatty acid, which is absorbed more quickly and used for energy, possibly posing less risk for heart disease.

Nutritional Benefits: Virgin coconut oil is rich in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties. It is a good source of MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides), which can boost energy, enhance brain function, and potentially aid in weight loss.

Culinary Uses: Coconut oil is ideal for high-heat cooking like sautéing, searing, and frying due to its high smoke point. It adds a unique flavor to tropical dishes and works well in vegan baking as a butter substitute. Adding it to smoothies can provide a tropical taste and energy boost.

Conclusion: Use coconut oil in moderation as part of a balanced diet. It should not replace other healthy fats like olive oil, avocados, or fatty fish but can be a beneficial addition to a diverse diet.

Flaxseed oil (also known as linseed oil) is gaining attention for its impressive health benefits.

linseed oil

Flaxseed oil, derived from the seeds of the flax plant, offers numerous nutritional benefits. However, its suitability for cooking is debated.

Nutritional Benefits: Flaxseed oil is rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid that supports heart health and has anti-inflammatory properties. It also contains lignans, plant compounds with antioxidant and estrogen-like effects, which may protect against cancer and improve hormonal balance. Additionally, flaxseed oil may aid digestive health, skin health, weight management, and eye health.

Limitations for Cooking: Flaxseed oil has a low smoke point of 225°F (107°C), making it unsuitable for high-temperature cooking like frying or sautéing. Heating it can degrade its nutritional value and produce harmful compounds.

Best Uses: Flaxseed oil is ideal for cold applications such as salad dressings, sauces, and as a finishing touch on cooked foods. It can also be added to smoothies, yogurt, or oatmeal to boost nutritional content.

Conclusion: While flaxseed oil is highly nutritious and offers potential health benefits, it is not suitable for high-heat cooking. Understanding its best uses allows you to maximize its health benefits.

Here are some other healthy alternatives;

1. Grapeseed Oil: Grapeseed oil is great for cooking at high temperatures, like frying, because it has a high smoking point and a mild taste. It's also packed with vitamin E and antioxidants.

2. Sesame Oil: especially when it's toasted, adds a delicious depth to dishes. It's also rich in antioxidants and vitamin E.

3. Sunflower Oil: perfect for frying or sautéing because it has a high smoking point and doesn't have a strong flavor. It naturally contains vitamin E, omega 6 fatty acids and polyunsaturated fat. Just remember to consume it in moderation since it has low omega 3 content. Having too much can cause an imbalance between these fatty acids in the body, leading to inflammation.

potatoes frying in oil

4. Walnut Oil: isn't the best choice for high heat cooking, but it enhances the flavors of salad dressings, desserts and drizzles over vegetables wonderfully. It's rich in omega 3 fatty acids.

5. Safflower Oil: similar to sunflower oil with its mild taste and ability to withstand high temperatures for deep frying and sautéing purposes. It's also high in monounsaturated fats.

6. Peanut Oil: widely used in Asian cuisine due to its pleasant nutty flavor and ability to handle high heat well.

7. Almond Oil: can add a subtle sweetness and nutty flavor to desserts or salads and it also works well for sautéing or roasting because of its high smoke point. 

8. Hemp seed Oil: has a rich and nutty flavor and is packed with omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. It's best enjoyed raw in salad dressings or dips. 

9. Ghee or Clarified Butter: another option with a high smoke point and heart healthy fats, making it suitable for those with dairy sensitivities as it is lactose free. 

10. Rice Bran Oil: known for its mild flavor and high smoke point, is ideal for high heat cooking and frying while also being rich in antioxidants and vitamin E.

It's worth noting that each oil brings its own set of nutrients to the table and works best with specific cooking methods. By rotating between these oils in your kitchen, you can ensure a diverse nutrient intake.

Unhealthy cooking oils to avoid

Certain cooking oils can negatively impact health due to their fat content and potential risks. Nutrition science highlights the detrimental effects of these oils, which can contribute to heart disease, inflammation, and even some cancers. Here are some unhealthy oils to avoid:

chips frying in oil

  1. Palm Oil: High in saturated fats, palm oil can raise LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglyceride levels, increasing heart disease risk. It is also linked to environmental issues like deforestation and biodiversity loss.

  2. Shortening: This hydrogenated vegetable oil is rich in trans fats, which raise LDL cholesterol and lower HDL (good) cholesterol, elevating heart disease risk. It also has a high omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, leading to inflammation.

  3. Margarine: Made from hydrogenated oils, margarine contains trans fats and saturated fats, which can trigger inflammation and heart disease.

  4. Soybean Oil: While containing some heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, soybean oil is high in omega-6 fatty acids, causing an imbalance that can lead to inflammation. Non-organic versions often come from genetically modified (GM) soybeans.

  5. Corn Oil: Despite its high polyunsaturated fat content, corn oil is very high in omega-6 fatty acids. The typical Western diet already has an excess of omega-6, and adding corn oil can promote inflammation.

  6. Cottonseed Oil: This highly processed oil is often high in omega-6 fatty acids and can contain pesticides unless organic. It may also have natural toxins and pesticide residues.

Avoiding these oils can help maintain better health and reduce the risk of various diseases.


Cooking oils are essential for our diets, offering vital fatty acids, vitamins, and nutrients that support health. Oils like olive and canola are heart-friendly, while coconut oil provides antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Recognizing their importance can improve well-being.

Different oils have unique benefits: olive oil for its monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, canola oil for its versatility and low saturated fat, and avocado oil for high-heat cooking. Each oil enhances flavors and health benefits.

When selecting oils, consider smoke points, nutritional content, and health impacts. Favor oils high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats like olive and avocado. Avoid oils high in saturated and trans fats like palm oil and shortening.

Using a variety of oils in moderation enhances flavors and provides health benefits. Informed choices help incorporate healthy oils into your diet, supporting wellness and enjoying nutritious meals.