What Oils Are the Best?
Common Oils, Uses and Health Considerations
When it comes to cooking oils, you have a variety of delicious and nutritious options to choose from for making your dishes and bettering your health — each comes with its own unique flavor, nutritional benefits, and ideal cooking uses. To help you choose the healthiest oil that also suits your tastes and your cooking style, here are nine of the most common cooking oils that support healthy fat intake.
1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Produced from the first pressing of olives, extra virgin olive oil is an unrefined, unprocessed oil made through cold-pressing, a method of oil extraction performed at low temperatures to keep the integrity of the oil. As a result, extra virgin olive oil retains much of the original flavor, antioxidants and monounsaturated — or good — fats of the original olive source, making it robust, complex, and rich in taste. Depending on the region in which it is made, extra virgin olive oil can have an aroma and flavor that is fruity, buttery, grassy or sometimes slightly bitter. It is healthier and more expensive than regular olive oil, and it makes an excellent addition to salad dressings, snacks or to drizzle over finished dishes — but extra virgin olive oil's low smoke point means it is not ideal for high-heat cooking or deep-frying.
2. Olive Oil
Produced from ripe olives and essential as a staple of the Mediterranean diet, regular or pure olive oil is lighter and less aromatic than extra virgin olive oil. Milder than its cold-pressed counterpart, olive oil is still packed with healthy antioxidants and monounsaturated fats — and because of its more neutral aroma, it is ideal for infusing with other flavors like garlic, pepper, and more for a fuller taste. Olive oil is just as heart-healthy as extra virgin olive oil, but it has a slightly higher smoke point, making it better for sautéing. It is also ideal for dipping bread, drizzling over pasta, and adding to salads.
3. Coconut Oil
Solid at room temperature, coconut oil is a natural saturated fat that is made from the fruit of the coconut palm. Rich and similar to butter in texture and consistency, it is ideal for low-heat purposes like butter substitutes in baking, sautéing vegetables or spreading on cooked chicken. Because it is a saturated fat, it is not recommended in heavy or frequent doses in your diet. While it is a healthier alternative to butter, make sure to use it sparingly to flavor and enhance your dishes.
4. Sesame Oil
Popular in Middle Eastern, Asian and Mediterranean cooking, sesame oil is heart-healthy seed oil with a nutty aroma, a bolder flavor, and a plethora of fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals that make it a healthy choice for a variety of cooking endeavors. With a medium-high smoke point, this oil is ideal for sautéing, frying, coating pans or woks before stir-frying, or seasoning your dressings, sauces or salads.
5. Peanut Oil
With its elevated percentage of monounsaturated fat, peanut oil is a pale, flavorful oil with an especially nutty aroma and rich taste. It also contains some saturated fat — but not to an unhealthy extent. When you are looking for a healthy, strong-tasting oil to add to your Asian-inspired dishes and deep-fried chicken, peanut oil is an excellent ingredient for your cooking endeavors.
6. Grapeseed Oil
Extracted from the grape seeds left over from the process of wine-making, grapeseed oil is a mild, healthy oil high in polyunsaturated fat and effective in delivering vital supplies of fatty acids. With a mild flavor and a high smoke point, grapeseed oil can be used for almost anything — including combining with other oil flavors, sautéing, roasting, grilling, and dressing dishes.
7. Avocado Oil
Especially rich in monounsaturated fat, avocado oil is a vegetable oil with a mild flavor and a versatile range of uses. Delivering healthy doses of fatty acids to promote good cholesterol levels and enhance nutrient absorption, this oil also has a high smoke point. It's ideal for high-heat purposes like searing, sautéing, frying, grilling and roasting, as well as simpler purposes like drizzling and adding to salad dressings.
8. Walnut Oil
Containing a variety of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and other essential nutrients, walnut oil is a natural, flavorful oil that is healthy to consume and ideal for recipes that could use a touch of nutty sweetness and richness — like desserts or Asian stir-fries.
9. Canola Oil
Also referred to as vegetable oil, canola oil is high in both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats — which, in addition to its low saturated fat content, makes it an excellent source of the right kinds of fatty acids for your diet. Derived from the Canadian rapeseed, canola oil has a neutral flavor and versatile for cooking. Use it for baking, stir-frying and high-heat purposes to get your daily dosage.