The best healthy cooking oils to stock in your kitchen and how to choose the healthiest oil for each style of cooking.
There is so much misinformation out there about oils and fats and I still have clients coming to me asking “what are healthy cooking oils I can use?” or “what cooking oils should I avoid?”
I mean one day you hear that coconut oil is the BEST oil and you should eat it like crazy, and then the next, your hear that “Oops, never mind, it IS actually bad for you”.
It’s so confusing, and there is a lot of conflicting information out there.
So I finally wanted to clear the air, and give you the low-down on what exactly is healthy and what is not.
We’ll go over everything you need to know to feel confident in the kitchen. You’ll be able to stock your kitchen with the healthiest oils for cooking, and learn which oil should be used for what occasion.
What Cooking Oils Should I Avoid?
So let’s start with the cooking oils that you should avoid first. This way you can check your pantry and toss any that might be lurking in there. This will also create space for healthier oils instead.
First, you’ll want to look for anything that has the word “hydrogenated” in it. These are the problem fats that will cause the most damage to your body.
Starting in 2018 the government banned companies from creating partially-hydrogenated oils. These are the oils many restaurants and fast food companies used to make fried foods with. And also where found in many processed and packaged food like chips and snack foods.
These partially-hydrogenated oils where huge providers of the ultimate unhealthy trans fat. Luckily it’s pretty hard to find products now made with these types of oils.
BUT you can still find fully hydrogenated oils out there.
Hydrogenation is a process where manufacturers add hydrogen to a liquid fat, such as vegetable oil, soybean oil, corn oil, and cottonseed oil to turn it into a solid fat at room temperature.
The process allows the oils to have a more stable and longer shelf life, BUT creates unhealthy saturated fat.
These types of hydrogenated oils should be avoided, especially in excess. And instead you should opt to stock you pantry with healthy oils that will also provide so many more nutritional benefits.
And to be clear…there are plenty of solid state oils and fats that CAN be added healthfully into you meals without hydrogenation. Here are some of the best oils to keep stocked in your kitchen.
The Healthiest Cooking Oils
First, let’s just talk about smoke point for a second.
Every oil has a “smoke point”, this is the temperature at which it will start to burn and smoke. Not only does that affect the flavor, but it can also cause oxidation and break down the nutrients as a result of heat exposure.
Each oil in the list below will tell you the smoke point, this is the highest temperature you should use when cooking with that specific oil.
Most of us know olive oil as a staple for the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet. And it is a go-to for many of us for drizzling on salads, pasta, and bread. But here’s a little more about olive oil and how to choose the best type.
First, virgin olive oils are those in which the oil has been extracted without using chemicals, and extra virgin is the highest grade. Extra-virgin olive oil has naturally occurring antioxidants and polyphenols that may fight inflammation. (source)
Olive oil is amazing for heart health because it contains higher amounts of healthy monounsaturated fats. And monounsaturated fat can help lower your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, and may help improve HDL cholesterol (“good cholesterol”) — reducing the risk of heart disease.
You can use olive oil for sautéed dishes and as a finishing oil, but it does have a relatively low smoke point, so it’s not good for high-heat cooking — such as anything over 350-375°F.
Just be sure to get good quality olive oil — choose 100% Italian, Greek, or Californian Olive Oil, and make sure it comes in a dark green bottle. (Did you know that olive oil is one of the most counterfeited products ever??)
Coconut oil is filled with a type naturally occurring saturated fat called medium-chain triglycerides. Which are a great source of energy AND may help you burn more fat when eaten. (source)
And while saturated fats have been getting a bad rap for a long time there have been a lot more studies debating this particular type of naturally occurring fat.
But as with anything saturated fats in moderation are completely fine — our body actually needs them in small amounts.
And coconut oil, like most saturated fats are usually a healthier oil to use when cooking at high temperature since they have a higher smoke point.
Coconut oil is also a great oil to use while baking — especially as a substitute for butter when baking vegan treats!
It’s also great to grease pans and baking dishes like muffin tins and cake pans without using hydrogenated oils.
In terms of smoke point, unrefined coconut oil can be cooked up to 350°F, while refined coconut oil has a smoke point of 450°F. Both are great, but refined does go through a small amount of processing.
Avocado oil is high in monounsaturated fat (again, typically touted as a good fat or healthy fat) and is generally considered one of the healthiest cooking oils. We love getting a large liter of avocado oil when we do our healthy Costing shopping.
Refined avocado oil also has a higher smoke point than most plant-based cooking oils (about 500°F). This makes it one of the most efficient pantry items.
You can use it for sautéing, roasting, searing, grilling, and drizzling.
It has a mild, buttery flavor that works well in both sweet and savory recipes. And the subtle taste and doesn’t overpower the flavor of your dish. Once you open it, there’s no need to refrigerate it — just store it in a cool, dark place.
Sesame oil is rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These types of polyunsaturated fats are essential to your diet, and play an important role in heart disease prevention.
It also contains sesamol and sesaminol, two antioxidants that may help reduce cell damage caused by free radicals and prevent inflammation and disease. (source)
Sesame oil adds a delicious, nutty flavor to a wide variety of dishes. It’s a popular ingredient in Asian cuisine.
Unrefined sesame is light in color, offers a nutty flavor, and is best used when cooking at a low to medium heat, under 350°F.
Refined sesame oil, which is minimally processed, has a neutral flavor and is best for deep-frying or stir-frying up to 400°F. It’s also great for roasting asian-inspired veggies.
Organic Grass-Fed Ghee
Ghee is not technically an oil, it’s clarified butter. But I’m going to mention it because it’s a great option to cook with as well.
Ghee is made by melting butter, skimming the fat off to save, then discarding the leftover liquid. It’s basically the BEST part of butter.
It’s rich in healthy fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, D, E, and K. These are vitamins important for promoting bone health, brain health, and boosting your immune system.
Ghee is perfect for high heat cooking up to about 475°F, because it won’t break into free-radicals like other oils when cooking at high temperatures — think stir-fry!
How to choose the Healthiest Oils for Different Cooking Methods
Best Oils for Baking
Because coconut oil is solid at room temperature, it is an ideal oil for baking with, and greasing baking pans with.
Best Oils for Sautéing
Depending on what you are sautéing coconut oil, avocado oil, and sesame oil are your best options.
Avocado oil is a great neutral oil to sauté with, while coconut oil and sesame oil are amazing with asian-inspired meals.
Best Oils for Roasting
Because roasting if a high heat style of cooking — usually over 400°F — Avocado oil is a great option for its high smoke point.
Roasting is such an amazing and EASY way to cook, and a very hands off — especially when cooking veggies! If you haven’t started roasting veggies yet, I have an entire guide on how to roast vegetables and I totally recommend using avocado oil.
Best Oils for Grilling
Just as with roasting, grilling is another high heat style of cooking, making avocado oil or ghee and great choice.
For grilling, take a fresh paper towel or fresh kitchen towel and roll it tightly, then dip it into some avocado oil or ghee. Then using tongs to hold the towel, rub the grill grates with your oil to lightly grease your grill to ensure that whatever you’re cooking doesn’t stick.
Best Oil for Garnishing + Finishing
Now some oils with low smoke points are better for finishing dishes and in salad dressings. They also make great sauces, and marinades that don’t require heating.
Here are some of the healthiest oils to use when you aren’t heating them.
Healthy Oils to Have on Hand, but NOT for Cooking with…
Sweet Almond Oil
While unrefined almond oil is a rather delicate oil that can’t withstand very high cooking temperatures, it is still a great oil to keep on hand as a finishing oil because is a great source of the antioxidant vitamin E that protects cells from free radicals.
It’s great when used to make a light vinaigrette for a salad or to drizzle over when finishing some roasted vegetables. Or you can also use it to drizzle over some cooked pasta for a light pasta topping.
Sweet almond oil is also an amazing oil to have on hand for your beauty routine too, and has amazing moisturizing properties for your hair, skin, and nails.
Flaxseed oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids, and specifically the form alpha-linolenic acid (also called ALA). Omega-3’s are an important addition to any diet because they are a type polyunsaturated fat that you body cannot produce on it’s own.
And while flax oil should not be heated above 225°F, it has been shown to have several health benefits, such as reduced blood pressure, boost brain function, and improve regularity. And simple ways that you can add this amazing oil into your diet are using it in salad or even drizzling in a tablespoon into your smoothie for a powerful heart and brain booster.
It’s also an amazing oil for seasoning your cast iron skillet. When you expose flaxseed oil to high heat, it creates a durable layer of seasoning that other oils don’t provide.
If you are looking around for the BEST all around go-to oil for you pantry, my recommendation would be Avocado oil!
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