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Which Cooking Oils Are the Healthiest?

by Yes Health

Walk into any supermarket and be prepared to be overwhelmed when you reach the cooking oil aisle. With so many options, it's tough to know which ones are the healthiest. Thankfully, the Yes Health coaches are here to help you choose the best oil for the job.

First, keep in mind that different oils have different uses. Some are perfect for baking, while others excel at roasting and sautéing and a few are best kept cool for drizzling and dressings. So how do you pick?

Your coaching team's favorite cooking oils are: 

  • Avocado oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Grass-fed butter and ghee
  • Sesame oil
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Walnut, hemp, flax, and macadamia oils

Some oils are naturally healthy, while others are best avoided completely. In addition, cooking certain types of oils can impact how healthy they are, which has a lot to do with something called the smoke point–the temperature at which an oil begins to smoke and therefore becomes ineffective (and less healthy for you to eat). Oils with high smoke points (typically above 375 degrees) are typically more refined, because their heat-sensitive impurities are often removed. 

COACH TIPS:

  • If you’re looking for something to bake with, opt for a neutral-flavored oil and one with a relatively high smoke point.
  • For sautéing and searing, choose a more lively-tasting oil with a higher smoke point.
  • For dressing, you can’t go wrong with extra-virgin olive oil, which has a low smoke point.
  • Choose cold-pressed over chemically refined oils whenever possible, and check your oils regularly to be sure they haven’t turned rancid. Rancid oils tend to have an “off” odor or sticky texture. Keep them in the refrigerator or on a shaded, cool shelf to maintain freshness.

Healthiest Cooking Oils

  1. Extra virgin olive oil – Your go-to for salad dressings, dips, and low-medium heat cooking, olive oil is high in anti-inflammatory monounsaturated fats. Known to support heart-health, olive oil can be used liberally for satiety (fullness), taste, and an impressive list of health benefits.
  2. Avocado oil – Touted for its heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, high smoke point (520 degrees F) and neutral flavor sans chemical processing. It’s lower in saturated fat (only 1.6 grams per tablespoon) than coconut oil, but also a bit more expensive than other healthy oils. Avocado oil is great for high-heat cooking, and delicious in salad dressings
  3. Coconut oil – Purported to raise your “good” cholesterol, coconut oil is fabulous in cooking and as a natural skin moisturizer! Its creamy, fatty quality makes it a great plant-based alternative to butter for vegan bakers. Some brands are more “coconuty” than others, so experiment to find one you like. High in saturated fat, use this oil in moderation. Coconut oil's smoke point is 35-450 degrees F, also making it a great choice for higher-heat cooking.
  4. Grass-fed butter – If you think you need to steer clear of butter, think again! Grass-fed butter means that the cows were fed a diet of grass rather than grains, and the resulting butter is much higher in vitamin A, omega-3 fatty acids, and other key nutrients. With a high smoke point of 300-480 degrees F, butter also works well for high-heat cooking.

  5. Grass-fed ghee– A century-old staple in Indian cuisine, ghee is clarified butter, meaning its' water and milk solids have been removed. Similar to grass-fed butter, ghee is a bit higher in conjugated linoleic acid, a polyunsaturated fat that might even promote a healthy weight. Ghee has the same smoke point as butter, and is perfect for high-heat cooking.

  6. Sesame oil – This highly flavorful, unrefined oil is packed full of antioxidants and is popular in Asian, Indian and Middle Eastern dishes. It has a medium smoke point (350-410 degrees F) making it a great sautéing option on medium heat. Like extra-virgin olive oil, it’s cold-pressed rather than chemically processed. Keep it in the refrigerator for a longer life.

Related content: Omega 3 vs Omega 6 Fatty Acids

If you're confused about the many types of fats (monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, saturated, and trans), check out The Skinny on Fats for more info.

Honorable Mentions: Best Cooking Oils

The options listed above aren't the only healthy cooking oils. Also consider lesser-known but delicious and healthy choices like hemp, flax, walnut and macadamia oils for no-heat cooking (like dressings and dips), and well-sourced duck fat and tallow for high-heat cooking.

Based on the latest research, your coaching team recommends ditching the more processed cooking oils like canola, cottonseed, grapeseed, corn, safflower, soybean, sunflower, and margarine. 

Reach out with questions in-app, and happy cooking! 

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