There are a lot of conflicting claims when it comes to cooking oils. Some cooking oils are better at certain temperatures, whereas others are better with specific types of food. What stirs the most controversy in the frying pan, however, is the question of which cooking oils are healthy and which ones aren’t.
It’s time for us to simplify. Plant oils are an optimal way to avoid unhealthy trans fats in comparison to lard, butter and animal-based fats. In the spirit of separating the sheep from the goats, the following list highlights which cooking oils to use and which to avoid, listed from best to worst:
1. COCONUT OIL: Coconut oil tops the list of best cooking oils. Coconut oil has a unique blend of both fatty acids and powerful medicinal properties. Approximately 92 percent of the fat content in coconut oil is saturated fat. It is made from medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs), which metabolize differently than the long chain fatty acids (LCFAs) found in burgers and steaks. MCFAs aid digestion, boost energy and help burn fat.
Coconut oil is also palatable and often consumed raw by the spoonful. The lauric acid in coconut oil kills bacteria, viruses and fungi that can cause infections. Coconut oil has also been shown to reduce seizures, lower the risk of heart disease and effectively moisturize the skin. Among all the oils listed here, coconut oil is king.
2. AVOCADO OIL: Avocado oil is extracted from the skin of the fruit, rather than the seed, giving it many of the health benefits attached to avocados. This oil is chock full of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, avocado oil has high amounts of beta-sitosterol, a type of cholesterol our bodies use to morph useless fat into useful fat. Avocado oil can also lower the risk of heart disease, improve digestion and strengthen the skin. It also has a 500-degree smoke point, making it great for sautéing, frying and baking.
3. OLIVE OIL: Olive oil a very important component of the Mediterranean diet. It’s a great source of monounsaturated fats, which can help lower LDL “bad” cholesterol without altering the levels of HDL “good” cholesterol. Olive oil is also a known carrier of vitamins A, D, E and K, which can help minimize the risk of cancer. Lastly, it also promotes a healthy digestion, thwarts gallstone formation and eases the symptoms of ulcers and gastritis.
4. SESAME SEED OIL: Sesame seed oil has been prized for its flavor and medicinal properties. The oil is rich in iron, calcium and magnesium. Multiple studies have attested that sesame seed oil can help lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of diabetes and even protect against multiple sclerosis. In addition to this, sesame seed oil can also be used as a mouthwash, since it can help remove dental plaque and improve overall oral health. For these reasons, sesame seed oil has been hailed as the queen of the oils.
5. MACADAMIA NUT OIL: Revered by many as the world’s finest nut, it should come as no surprise that macadamia nut oil made the list. This sweet and buttery oil is loaded with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Most importantly, macadamia nut oil has a rare balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Most food contain far more amino-6 acids than amino-3 acids, which can be a source of chronic inflammation and other maladies. This balance makes macadamia nut oil one the healthiest oils in the market.
6. CORN OIL: Corn is in almost all processed food, so why use it in cooking oil? While corn oil contains polyunsaturated fat, it also contains trans fat and is high in calories. Just one tablespoon of corn oil takes up 30 percent of your daily fat allowance. In addition, most corn oil is derived from genetically modified corn that is resistant to herbicides and pesticides. Research further suggests that genetically modified corn can be toxic to vital organs, including the liver, kidneys, spleen and heart.
7. SOYBEAN OIL: Soybean oil is the most common vegetable oil in in the United States. Genetically modified soybean oil made its way into the food supply under the guise that it is healthier than conventional soybean oil. Scientific evidence, however, suggests otherwise. UC Riverside scientists found that replacing saturated fat from coconut oil with unsaturated fat from soybean oil caused weight gain, diabetes and fatty liver in mice. These noxious health effects are unsurprising, since most soy grown in the United States is contaminated by herbicides.
8. COTTONSEED OIL: Most deep fried foods are soaked in cottonseed oil. Cottonseed oil says it has “zero-trans fat,” but don’t be deceived. This oil contains high amounts of trans fat and is laced with a cocktail of pesticides; thus, it can be a risk factor for both cancer and heart disease. In addition, cottonseed oil often has a shelf life of one to two years, meaning, it contains harmful preservatives that cause cancer in human cells. Word to the wise: Don’t get caught using cottonseed oil.
9. MARGARINE: Margarine is commonly used as a substitute for butter, but that by no means makes it healthy. Unable to match the taste of organic butter, margarine has a heaping amount of unhealthy components, including free radicals, synthetic vitamins, bleach and artificial flavors. Furthermore, many margarine brands contain high amounts of trans fat, which increase the risk of heart disease.
10. CANOLA OIL: Last and certainly least is canola oil. Canola oil is tied to a myriad of health problems, especially its genetically modified version. Canola oil is derived from rapeseed oil, which is toxic both to humans and animals. Hexane, a flammable chemical made from crude oil, is used in processing the oil. During the deodorizing process, the omega-3 fatty acids are converted into unhealthy trans fats. The end result is a recipe for cancer, heart disease, respiratory distress, kidney failure and blindness. If you want to shorten your life, try canola oil.
There is a vast amount of cooking oils for you to choose from, some of which are healthy, and some of which are toxic. You can use this list to weed through the scrapyard of bad cooking oils in order to choose one that’s not only good for your tastebuds, but for your health, as well.