Which Cooking Oils Are Best for Your Health?

Which Cooking Oils Are Best for Your Health?


Fats play an essential role in your health. Incorporating healthy fats into meals and snacks can improve nutrient absorption, promote heart health, and help boost your food’s flavor and satiety factor.



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However, choosing the right kinds of fats, including cooking oils, is critical. While some oils are more appropriate for higher-heat cooking and may also provide health benefits, others may harm health if used too often.



Here are the best and worst cooking oils for your health, and tips for choosing the best oils for your needs and preferences.

The Best Cooking Oils for Health

If you’re looking for healthy cooking oils, these healthy fats make excellent choices. Not only are they appropriate for everyday cooking, but they’ve been shown to offer a health benefits, including lowering heart disease risk and providing protective antioxidants.

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Olive Oil

Olive oil is made by crushing, milling, and pitting olives to obtain their oil. It’s rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, vitamin E, and polyphenol antioxidants, which promote health in several ways.


Studies show that diets high in olive oil are associated with numerous benefits, such as a reduced risk of common health conditions like heart disease.

Olive oil-rich diets have been shown to protect against the development of atherosclerosis, which is considered the main cause of heart disease. A diet high in olive oil may also protect against and reduce other heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure and high blood lipid levels, thus lowering your risk of heart disease.


A 2020 study that included data on nearly 923,000 U.S. adults found that those who consumed more than a ½ tablespoon (tbsp) serving of olive oil per day had a 14% lower risk of total heart disease and an 18% lower risk of coronary heart disease, which is the most common heart disease in the U.S., compared to people who didn’t consume olive oil.


There are many types of olive oil to choose from, most of which are appropriate for everyday, moderate-heat cooking use. Virgin olive oils, including extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), are considered the highest in quality, as they’re unrefined and more concentrated in protective compounds, such as vitamin E and polyphenols, compared to refined olive oil. Refined oils undergo a refining process that extends their shelf life and makes them more stable at higher temperatures, but also strips them of protective nutrients. The smoke point of extra virgin olive oil lies between 350 and 410 degrees Fahrenheit, while refined olive oil’s smoke point ranges from 390-470 Fahrenheit.


Olive oil is an excellent choice for most low-to moderate-heat cooking methods and can also be used as a finishing oil. When shopping for olive oil, you’ll want to choose a product in a dark glass or opaque metal container, as heat, oxygen, and light exposure can impact oil quality. Research suggests that most olive oil products have a shelf life between 12 and 18 months, but it’s best to check the bottle for exact “Best By” dates.5


Avocado Oil

Avocado oil is another heart-healthy fat that makes an excellent choice for cooking. Avocado oil is made by extracting oil from the fruit of ripe avocados. Like olive oil, the majority of the fat found in avocado oil is in the monounsaturated form, which is linked to heart health benefits such as supporting healthy blood lipid levels.6


Avocado oil is rich in vitamin E, as well as plant compounds like polyphenols, proanthocyanidins, and carotenoids, all of which function as powerful antioxidants, helping to protect cells against oxidative damage. Though there are many more studies investigating the effects of olive oil on human health, limited evidence suggests that incorporating avocado oil into your diet may have anti-inflammatory benefits and may help protect against heart disease by lowering LDL cholesterol levels.

Like olive oil, you can purchase unrefined or refined avocado oil, the latter of which is best for high-heat cooking methods, like frying and roasting. Both refined and unrefined avocado oil have a higher smoke point than olive oil, of 482 and 520 Fahrenheit, respectively.

When shopping for avocado oil, it’s important to choose products made with 100% avocado oil, as many avocado oils contain avocado oil blended with cheaper oils, like soybean oil. Like olive oil, avocado oil is sensitive to light, so it’s best to choose avocado oil products in dark glass or opaque metal containers.

According to research studies, avocado has a shelf life of around 210 days when stored at room temperature.


Sesame Oil

If you’re looking for a flavorful oil that’s suitable for moderate-heat cooking, give sesame oil a try. Sesame oil is derived from toasted or raw sesame seeds, which are tiny seeds that are packed with vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and plant-based protein.


The oil derived from sesame seeds is a good source of healthy fats, including monounsaturated fats, as well as antioxidants such as sesamin and sesamolin, all of which contribute to sesame oil’s health benefits. Studies show that consuming sesame oil may help lower heart disease risk factors such as LDL cholesterol and may also promote healthy blood sugar levels.10


A 2022 review of 12 studies found that sesame oil consumption significantly lowered fasting blood sugar levels, inflammatory markers, blood pressure, and levels of the long-term blood sugar control marker hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) compared to control treatments.

Unrefined sesame oil has a smoke point of 350 Fahrenheit, while refined sesame oil has a smoke point of 450 Fahrenheit, which is similar to that of olive oil. Sesame oil has a nutty and earthy flavor and is popularly used in Asian dishes, like stir-fries and noodle dishes.

When shopping for sesame oils, choose sesame oil products in dark or opaque containers that protect the oil from light and temperature fluctuations.


Cooking Oils to Limit or Avoid

Although your diet as a whole is what matters most when it comes to overall health and disease prevention, it’s recommended to prioritize healthier fats, such as the oils listed above, while minimizing your intake of less healthy oils and foods made with them.


Highly Refined Vegetable Oils

Highly refined oils like canola oil, corn oil, and soybean oil go through a refining process in order to extend their shelf life and give them a more neutral color and taste. This process, which includes bleaching and deodorizing, strips the oil of beneficial compounds like polyphenol antioxidants and vitamin E.


What’s more, some vegetable oils, such as corn oil and soybean oil, are higher in polyunsaturated fats, which are prone to a process called oxidation when exposed to very high temperatures. Oxidation is a reaction that takes place between fats and oxygen that creates harmful compounds called free radicals. These oils are commonly used to fry foods and are often repeatedly heated, which makes these oils even more susceptible to oxidation. The compounds generated during oxidation can cause cellular damage and harm overall health, which is why it’s recommended to reduce your consumption of fried foods.


In fact, research shows that regularly consuming repeatedly heated vegetable oil may increase inflammation and harm heart health by increasing blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood vessel inflammation.


These vegetable oils also have a much higher content of omega-6 fats compared to healthier oils, like olive oil. Though omega-6 fats are necessary for health, most American diets are too high in omega-6 fats and too low in omega-3 fats. This imbalance contributes to inflammation in the body and has been associated with numerous health conditions, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.1314


Unfortunately, these oils make up a large part of most people’s diets as they’re commonly used to fry foods and are added to a number of products, from sandwich bread to salad dressings.


Although it’s not necessary to completely avoid highly refined oils, consuming them too regularly could harm health, so it’s best to limit vegetable oils like corn oil, soybean oil, and oil blends and instead use oils that have been linked to health benefits, like olive oil.


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