Healthy cooking oil including how to choose the healthiest cooking oil

When you go to the cooking oils section of the grocery store, the many varieties including coconut, corn, hemp, olive, walnut, and more, overwhelm you. It becomes difficult to choose the healthiest cooking oil.

Many of you are likely to pick on a familiar bottle and continue on your way. In this article, we’ve put up a simple guide to simplify the process of choosing healthy cooking oil, the list of healthy cooking oil, and how to store cooking oil so that you can prepare healthier meals for your family.

How do you choose healthy cooking oil?

First of all, we should accept the fact that all cooking oil is 100% fat. The phrase healthy cooking oil is a misnomer. That said, cooking oil should be used in moderation.

Although oil is 100% fat, you need it in your diet. Organs such as the heart use fat for energy. Also, fats contain nutrients, like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that are only found in fats.

We need fat to produce hormones, make strong cell membranes, and help us absorb fat-soluble vitamins. Despite all the above uses, you need to be picky about which fats you consume.

What makes up cooking oil? (Saturation)

Different types of fats make up cooking oil. There are good fats and bad fats which also vary from oil to oil.

Good fats refer to monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, with lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. Bad fats refer to trans-fat and saturated fat, which lower HDL (good) cholesterol levels and raise LDL levels.

When choosing a cooking oil, the first thing to consider is the saturation. People who consume monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat have better heart health compared to those that consume trans-fat and saturated fat.

The US Government guidelines suggest that no more than 10% of your daily calories should come from saturated fat.

The smoke point

Secondly, before picking on any oil, assess the needs of your recipe and the oil’s smoke point. It’s simply the point at which oil begins to smoke and become ineffective.

In case you need to fry your food: opt for oil with a neutral flavor and a high smoke point. Refined oils have high smoke points because their heat-sensitive impurities are removed through chemical processing, bleaching, filtering, or high-temperature heating.

With the high smoke point, we mean one that is above 375 degrees F. such oils include; canola oil, pure olive oil, avocado oil, vegetable oil, safflower oil, and peanut oil.

For baking: opt for neutral oil flavors such as canola oil, coconut oil, and vegetable oil.

For sautéing and searing: you need flavourful oil with a lower smoke point. These include; canola oil, extra-virgin olive oil, safflower oil, peanut oil, and sesame oil.

Dressing: requires flavourful oil such as extra-virgin olive oil or flaxseed oil

In summary, healthy cooking oil should contain less than 35 percent saturated fat, more than 50 percent unsaturated fats, and less than 0.5 percent trans-fat.

Always consider your recipe needs and the smoke point of different oils. This is because deep-frying, sautéing, or drizzling requires different smoke points.

Last but not least, check the manufacture expiry dates to make sure you are using fresh oil. oil deteriorates over time.

What are the healthiest cooking oils?

Below is our list of healthy cooking oil

1. Canola oil

The name “canola” comes from “Canada” and “ola,” denoting oil. It is an oilseed crop made by plant crossbreeding.

Canola oil has a high smoke point (400 degrees F) and neutral flavor that makes it excellent for frying. It’s low in saturated fats and can be used for roasting, frying, baking, and not recommended for Sautéing and salad dressings

2. Extra-virgin olive oil

Olive oil is a liquid fat produced by pressing whole olives. It is the most commonly used vegetable oil for frying foods or as a salad dressing. It is used in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and soaps.

Extra virgin olive oil is that with no more than 0.8% free acidity and has favorable flavor characteristics.

Extra virgin oil is high in monounsaturated fats and has a relatively low smoke point (325 to 375 degrees F), which means it’s not recommended for frying or roasting above 375 degrees F. It is best for sautéing and drizzling

Related; how to spot fake olive oil.

3. Avocado oil

This is an edible oil from the pulp of avocadoes, used both raw and for cooking. It is not chemically processed like canola and vegetable oil.

Avocado oil doesn’t have quite as much saturated fats but rather packed with monounsaturated fats, with a high smoke point (375 to 400 degrees F) and neutral flavor. Avocado oil is best for frying and not recommended for budget cooking

4. Vegetable oil

This is the oil extracted from seeds, or less often, from other parts of fruits. Vegetable oil is chemically processed, has a high smoke point (400 to 450 degrees F), and a neutral flavor. It is good for roasting, frying, and baking but not recommended for sautéing and salad dressings.

5. Safflower oil

This is the edible version of the pressed seeds of the plant. Safflower oil is commonly used in cooking and medicine. Of all cooking oils, safflower oil has the highest smoke point. It is low in saturated fats, high in omega-9 fatty acids, and it has a neutral flavor.

Safflower oil exists in both chemically processed and cold-pressed varieties. It is good for frying and sautéing but not recommended for salad dressings

6. Peanut oil

Peanut oil (groundnut oil) also known as rachis oil is derived from peanuts. It has a strong peanut flavor and aroma. It has a high smoke point (450 degrees F), chemically processed, and low in saturated fat. Peanut oil is good for frying and sautéing.

7. Sesame oil

Sesame oil is one of the earliest-known crop-based oils. It is edible vegetable oil from sesame seeds with a distinctive nutty aroma and taste. Because it is highly flavourful, it is used as a flavor enhancer in many cuisines. It is cold-pressed and has a high smoke point (350 to 410 degrees F). Sesame oil is best for sautéing

8. Flaxseed oil

Flaxseed oil, also known as linseed oil or flax oil is that obtained from dried, ripened seeds of the flax plant by pressing, sometimes followed by solvent extraction. It can be colorless or yellowish oil.

Flaxseed oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids, sensitive to heat, and oxidizes quickly. You therefore can use it in salad dressings or drizzle it over dips like hummus but not good for cooking. Don’t forget to store it in a cool dark place because it is very sensitive to heat.

9. Coconut oil

This is an edible oil extracted from the meat of mature coconuts harvested from the coconut palm. It’s high in saturated fat, slow to oxidize, and resistant to rancidification.

Although it is high in saturated fat, we shouldn’t rule it out. In fact Walter C Millet, M.D. explains in a Harvard health letter that coconut oil, unlike most other saturated fats, raises “good” cholesterol.

Which cooking oils are bad for your health?

Like we discussed above, cooking oil that is high in saturated fat, omega-6 fatty acids, and trans-fats is bad for you Studies prove that large intakes of trans fats are linked to cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and cancer.

These may include;

  • Palm oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Corn oil
  • Cottonseed oil

How to store cooking oil

Although unsaturated fats are generally healthy, they are prone to oxidization and turning rancid. Therefore, it is important that we store oil in the perfect condition as possible.

Here are a few helpful tips on storing oil:

  1. Avoid exposure to oxygen by keeping the lid tightly closed.
  2. Store cooking oils in a cool dark place
  3. Use dark-colored bottles to reduce exposure to heat from sunlight in case you keep the cooking oil on countertops.
  4. Do not store cooking oils in iron or copper containers. Cooking oil can react with metals making it dangerous for your health.
  5. Take note of the shelf life for various cooking oils for example olive oil (15 months), peanut oil (2 years), rice bran, soybean, and sunflower oil (1 year), and sesame oil (6 months).
  6. If you are intending to store the cooking oil for longer, refrigerate the cooking oil. You should, however, leave them at room temperature for one to two hours for the oil to return to its regular consistency.
  7. For oil that is rarely used in home cooking, always buy smaller quantities to avoid lengthy storage times.

Others cooking tips

  • We do not recommend deep-fat frying as a cooking method.
  • If you accidentally let your oil smoke or catch fire, discard it and start over. This is because oil degrades when it reaches the smoke point.
  • If the oil smells bad due to overstaying, you should get rid of it.
  • Don’t reuse or reheat any cooking oil.

What are healthy alternatives to cooking oil?

There are many easy ways to cook great food without oil or butter. Oil-free cooking is healthier. You can steam, poach, boil, or stew your dishes and still get the nutritional value.

Here is how to sauté, stir-fry, bake, and roast without cooking oil.

1. Use non-stick pots and pans

You can use heavy stainless steel pans with good bottoms. Always use a flame diffuser in order to avoid burning the pan.

2. Sautéing and stir-frying with water

You can constantly add small amounts of water while you turn the food in the saucepan.

3. Baking with fruit puree

Fruit puree refers to fruits that have been ground, pressed, or blended. You can add 2 to 4 tablespoons of fruit puree to bake without using oils.

4. Using Lard

Lard is simply animal fat. It is healthier than cooking oils. Lard has the ability to remain stable even at high temperatures making it a better option for cooking even at high temperatures

Lard is high in monounsaturated fat, rich in oleic acid, and is good for weight loss

Bottom line

In summary, healthy cooking oil should contain less than 35 percent saturated fat, more than 50 percent unsaturated fats, and less than 0.5 percent trans-fat.

Always consider your recipe needs and the smoke point of different oils. This is because deep-frying, sautéing, or drizzling requires different smoke points.

Last but not least, check the manufacture expiry dates to make sure you are using fresh oil. Oil deteriorates over time.

Before you sign out, the following articles may be useful to you.

How to store food safely in the fridge

How to store spices fresh longer

Creative kitchen storage ideas that save space


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