A Guide to Choosing the Healthiest Cooking Oils for Your Kitchen

A Guide to Choosing the Healthiest Cooking Oils for Your Kitchen

For years, dieticians, nutritionists, doctors, and health enthusiasts have debated the potential benefits and adverse effects of cooking oil on our health. As with most things in life, balance, moderation, and knowledge are key.

You don't have to avoid cooking oils like the plague; there are options out there that offer heart health, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory benefits. What would a Greek salad be without some delicious olive oil?!

From flavor to health benefits, each oil brings its own unique characteristics to the table.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore the different types of cooking oils and which ones are best suited for various cooking methods.

different types of cooking oils

There are many types of oils available on the market. From refined to unrefined, coconut to sesame oil, light to medium, and so much more. We're sure you've seen them on the grocery shelves and scrutinized the bottles, trying to figure out the differences!

These are some of the most common cooking oils and their differences:

Avocado Oil

Pressed from the pulp of ripe avocados, this oil has the highest concentration of monounsaturated fats, which provide anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and heart health advantages. Its buttery texture makes it ideal for cooking and salad dressings. 


Coconut Oil

Extracted from the flesh of coconuts, coconut oil has gained popularity for its unique flavor and potential health benefits, although it is high in saturated fats, which can raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase your chances of cardiovascular disease and stroke.


Canola Oil

Derived from canola plant seeds, this oil has less saturated fats than any other vegetable oil commonly used and is high in monounsaturated fats, making it one of the best oils for heart health. Canola oil has a high smoke point, making it great for high-heat cooking and frying.

Grape Seed Oil

Extracted from grape seeds, this oil is valued for its high smoke point and clean, neutral flavor, making it suitable for high-heat cooking. Grapeseed oil also has no trans fats, carbohydrates, or sodium, and is not hydrogenated and non-GMO. Studies have shown that grapeseed oil can increase good cholesterol levels and decrease bad cholesterol levels.


Olive Oil

Known for its rich flavor and versatility, olive oil is extracted from olives and comes in various forms, each with its own characteristics (more below!). Olive oil does not have a very high smoke point, so it is more suitable for dressings and low-heat cooking.


Peanut oil

Peanut oil is derived from peanuts. It contains predominantly monounsaturated fats, significant amounts of polyunsaturated fats, and a small amount of saturated fat, making it great for heart health. It is widely used in cooking, particularly in Asian, African, and Southeast Asian cuisines, due to its mild flavor, high smoke point, and versatility.

Sunflower Oil

Pressed from sunflower seeds, this oil is rich in vitamin E. With a mild, delicious flavor, and a high smoke point, sunflower oil is perfect for frying, sautéing, baking, or as a dressing.


Safflower Oil

Safflower is a tall plant with spiked leaves and yellow or orange flowers, and the oil is extracted from its seeds. The flowers were used as a dye for clothing in ancient Egypt. Today, some people use safflower petals to substitute saffron, a yellow spice often used to color and flavor rice dishes. This oil has a high smoke point and a neutral flavor, making it suitable for frying and baking.


Sesame Oil

Made from sesame seeds, this oil has a distinct nutty flavor and is commonly used in Asian cuisine for stir-frying and seasoning. Sesame oil has a lower smoke point than other cooking oils. Sesame oil is rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, particularly oleic and linoleic acids.


Vegetable Oil

Typically, it is a blend of about 85% oil from soybeans and the rest a mix of various plant oils like corn and olive oil, which are highly refined. Vegetable oil is not necessarily the healthiest, but it is more cost-effective, has a neutral flavor, and has a high smoke point, making it suitable for frying and baking.

The healthiest cooking oils

The healthiest cooking oils

When it comes to health, the healthiest cooking oils are those high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, low in saturated fats, and with a good antioxidant profile.

Olive Oil

Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats, particularly oleic acid, associated with various health benefits, including reduced heart disease and inflammation risk. Extra-virgin olive oil contains powerful antioxidants, such as polyphenols, which have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.

The polyphenols in olive oil may help reduce inflammation in the body, which is a risk factor for various chronic diseases.

Avocado Oil

Avocado oil is primarily composed of oleic acid, similar to olive oil, making it heart-healthy and beneficial for cholesterol levels.

It is a good source of vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage caused by free radicals.

The monounsaturated fats and antioxidants in avocado oil may help reduce inflammation and improve inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.

Canola Oil

Canola oil is low in saturated fat and high in monounsaturated fats, making it a heart-healthy choice. It contains alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid that benefits heart health and may help reduce inflammation.

Canola oil's high smoke point makes it suitable for high-heat cooking methods without producing harmful compounds.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is rich in medium-chain triglycerides, particularly lauric acid, which is metabolized differently than other fats and may benefit weight loss and brain health.

The lauric acid in coconut oil has antimicrobial properties that may help fight bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

Coconut oil's high smoke point makes it suitable for high-heat cooking without producing harmful compounds.

Although these oils are some of the healthier options, it's still important to consume them in moderation as part of a diverse range of foods for optimal nutrition.

different types of olive oil

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

This is the highest quality and most flavorful olive oil, made from cold-pressing olives without the use of heat or chemicals. It retains the highest levels of antioxidants and beneficial compounds.

Virgin Olive Oil

Similar to extra-virgin olive oil but with slightly lower quality and flavor. It is also cold-pressed but may have higher acidity levels.

Refined Olive Oil

This type of olive oil undergoes refining processes such as filtering and heating to remove impurities and enhance stability. It has a milder flavor and higher smoke point than virgin olive oils.

Pure Olive Oil

A blend of refined and virgin olive oils, pure olive oil has undergone refining using chemicals, heat and/or other methods to remove undesirable compounds and improve the smell and taste of the olive oil. It has a milder flavor and higher smoke point than extra-virgin and virgin olive oils.


the best oil for...

the best oil for...

Best Oil for Weight Loss

For weight loss, oils with more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as olive and avocado oil, are preferable. These oils can help improve satiety and promote overall heart health when used as part of a balanced diet.

Best Oil for Frying

Oils with high smoke points are best for frying to prevent them from breaking down and producing harmful compounds. These oils are also typically refined. Grape seed oil, refined avocado oil, coconut oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, and refined olive oil are excellent choices for frying due to their high smoke points and neutral flavors.

Best Oil for Cooking

For general cooking purposes, unrefined extra virgin olive oil, unrefined coconut oil, unrefined sesame oil, unrefined sunflower oil, and vegetable oil are versatile options for sautéing, roasting, and grilling due to their mild flavors and moderate smoke points.

Best Oil for Baking

When it comes to baking, oils with mild flavors and high smoke points are preferred to ensure that the taste of the oil does not overpower the other ingredients. Canola oil, vegetable oil, sunflower oil, and light extra virgin olive oil are popular choices for baking due to their neutral flavors and ability to withstand high temperatures.

*Oil Smoke Point Chart by Mountain Rose Herbs

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