7 Types of Cooking Oils and Health Benefits of Each

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  • When you’re headed to the kitchen to start preparing a meal, you have many choices when it comes to cooking oil. Some types of cooking oils are a healthy choice, while there are other cooking oils you should avoid. Choosing the right oil when it comes to taste and the temperature it can tolerate can be a challenge, so learn what types of cooking oils can improve your dish and benefit your health. But remember, even healthy cooking oils are still fats, which contain a lot more calories than proteins and carbs, so use them in moderation.

  • 1
    Omega-3 and Omega-6 Oils
    Food with unsaturated fats

    Cooking oils with omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids—polyunsaturated fats—are some of the healthiest choices you can make. Cooking oils with monounsaturated fats are also a healthy choice. Oils loaded with saturated fats and trans fats, on the other hand, are unhealthy choices, raising your bad cholesterol levels and your risk of heart disease. Cooking oils to avoid include coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil.

  • 2
    Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    closeup of oil pouring out of glass bottle

    Extra virgin olive oil is a healthy—and tasty—cooking oil option. Olive oil lowers bad cholesterol levels and elevates good cholesterol compared to unhealthier fat options, like butter. Olive oil also gives you a boost of beta carotene and vitamins A, E, D and K.

    The added benefit of choosing the extra virgin variety is that it has the lowest oxidation rate of all cooking oils. It also contains antioxidants, which help protect your body’s cells from damage that can potentially lead to cancer and other diseases. Extra virgin olive oil also contains the anti-inflammatory oleocanthal as well as hydroxytyrosol, which absorbs free radicals (created by oxidation) that can damage your skin.

  • 3
    Safflower Oil
    Dried saffron threads in a glass bottle and oil extract on a white background

    While both high oleic safflower oil and linoleic safflower oil are considered healthy cooking oils, it’s important to understand the difference. High oleic safflower oil has more monounsaturated fats, while linoleic safflower oil contains more polyunsaturated fats. Both types of fats are healthy, but high oleic oils have a higher oxidative stability, meaning they oxidize more slowly than linoleic oils. Oxidation creates free radicals, which are notoriously bad for our bodies. Does this mean polyunsaturated fats are actually bad? No, but it’s better to use oils high in polyunsaturated fat at a lower cooking temperature.

  • 4
    Avocado Oil
    Avocado oil on rustic wooden table

    Avocado oil is mostly monounsaturated fat, which has been associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and obesity. It also has some polyunsaturated fat, but it’s low in saturated fat. It has a mild flavor and a high smoke point, so it’s great for sautéing or searing food over medium-high to high heat.

  • 5
    Peanut Oil
    Peanut oil carafe next to bowl of peanuts on table

    Peanut oil is high in monounsaturated fats, making it an excellent choice if you’re planning to stir fry or sauté your dinner over medium-high heat. It’s also suitable for deep frying, but stay away from deep frying when possible, since that cooking method adds a lot more oil—and fat—to your food than sautéing or baking. While peanut oil is considered a healthy cooking oil, stay away from peanut oil if there’s someone with a peanut allergy in your household.

  • 6
    Canola Oil
    Bottle of rapeseed oil (canola) and repe flowers

    Canola oil has a bad rap but it’s actually heart healthy. It is high in monounsaturated fat and omega-3 fatty acids with low saturated fat, all good news for your cardiovascular system. You may have read that canola oil has been associated with a higher risk of dementia. However, that’s not exactly the case—the small study found that canola oil affected mice’s memory, which doesn’t necessarily translate to human risk, and the study itself had flaws. Canola oil doesn’t have much flavor, so it’s great for baked goods.

  • 7
    Soybean Oil
    soybean oil and raw soybeans on wooden table.

    When a restaurant’s menu advertises something is cooked in vegetable oil, it’s often soybean oil. This cooking oil has omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which can help lower your bad cholesterol level when you use it in place of saturated fat options. Just be sure to choose nonhydrogenated soybean oil, which contains no trans fats. The trans fats in partially hydrogenated soybean oil can raise your bad cholesterol level.

  • 8
    Cooking Oil Storage
    man holding bottle of cooking oil in pantry or cupboard with other Italian cooking ingredients

    Store your cooking oils properly for best flavor and health benefits. Heat, light and oxygen speed the oxidation of cooking oils, ruining their nutritional value. Oils can also go rancid, which not only makes them taste bad, it also is bad for your health because rancid oil begins to form toxic compounds. To extend shelf life, keep your oils closed tightly, away from heat and light. Store any seed or nut oils in the refrigerator for extended freshness, and always check expiration dates.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Feb 17
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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