A Guide to the Healthiest and Worst Cooking Oils
While many people are obsessed with the health benefits of coconut oil for everything from cooking nutritious meals (complete with healthy fats!) to boosting your beauty routine, there are many, many more to choose from that are also great for you. In fact, the variety of options in the grocery store can be somewhat overwhelming if you don’t know what you’re looking for. That’s why we talked to an expert to find out exactly which oils are healthy, which ones you should probably skip, and what to look for when you’re shopping for them.
Oils your body loves
“The best cooking oils and fats come from unrefined animal fats and naturally occurring oils from plants,” says nutritionist Cate Ritter. These oils are higher in saturated fat, monounsaturated fat, and omega-3s — all things that are great for your body. “These fats and oils include unrefined coconut oil, unrefined red palm oil, avocado oil, pastured pork lard, pastured beef or bison tallow, duck fat, and grass-fed ghee,” Ritter notes. Of course, organic is best when it comes to all of these products, she adds.
It’s also important to keep in mind what happens when certain oils are heated, the temp can change their chemical composition and reduce their health benefits. “The best oils for raw use are MCT oil (made from medium-chain triglycerides), grass-fed butter, and extra virgin olive oil,” says Ritter. Though olive oil is commonly used for cooking, it loses many of its health benefits in the process, so it’s a good idea to use something different for high-heat cooking. This goes for many other oils made from nuts and seeds, like flaxseed oil, sunflower oil, and sesame oil. Ritter recommends that you “preserve these oils by keeping them tightly sealed in the fridge and use sparingly for raw purposes only. Avoid storing oils in sunny or hot spots, such as by a window sill or next to the stove top.” Two oils that have a very high smoke point and is great for cooking? Palm oil and avocado oil.
As for what to look for on the label, she suggests seeking out products that list just one ingredient and are organic. Keywords like “cold-pressed” and “expeller-pressed” are indicators that an oil is minimally processed and therefore, better for your body.
- Raw Use: MCT Oil, Grass-Fed Butter, EVOO, Flaxseed Oil, Sunflower Oil, and Sesame Oil
- High Heat: Unrefined Red Palm Oil and Avocado Oil
- Animal Fats: Pastured Beef or Bison Tallow, and Grass-Fed Ghee
- Look for: Organic and Cold-Pressed Brands
Stay away from these OILS
You probably know that some ultra-processed oils, like corn and canola oil, aren’t great for you. According to Ritter, oils that are man- or machine-made by processing plants using high temperatures, deodorizers, and chemicals are ones you definitely want to stay away from. A few more examples of ones you should skip? Grape seed oil, cottonseed oil, safflower oil, peanut oil, and soybean oil. “Although these are referred to as vegetable oils, they’re not made from vegetables,” explains Ritter. “These tend to be higher in polyunsaturated fats that aren’t heat stable (meaning it’s not a great idea to cook with them).
Unfortunately, many of these oils are also made from genetically modified ingredients. Research shows that as much as 90 percent of canola oil is genetically modified,” she adds. While not *all* genetically modified plants are harmful to your health, there’s growing evidence that certain foods, like soybeans, may carry health risks when genetically modified.
Cooking Oils to Avoid:
- Ultra-Processed: Canola Oil and Corn Oil
- High in Polyunsaturated Fats: Grape Seed Oil, Peanut Oil, and Soybean Oil
Mix it up for the best health benefits
Once you figure out which oils you like the most, don’t be afraid to rotate them every so often, since it gives you a chance to ingest a wider variety of nutrients. “For example, grass-fed butter and ghee are good sources of fat-soluble vitamins and conjugated linoleum acid (which has anti-cancer properties),” says Ritter. “Coconut oil is rich in fat-burning medium-chain fatty acids that support metabolism. Avocado oil has even received prescription drug status in France for its ability to reverse arthritis!” Pretty amazing, right?
What’s your favorite oil to cook with? Tell us about it @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)