top of page

How to Select the BEST Cooking Oils in Your Kitchen

Healthy U's Guide on Oils



The time has finally come to answer a VERY popular question, “what is the best oil to use while cooking”? From a consumer perspective, this can be a loaded question as the shelves are bombarded with many different types of oils. There are a plethora of oil types and brands to choose from, and this can feel quite overwhelming. Our thoughts are simply questioning this choice selection - leaving many of us thinking, should we go with avocado oil, grapeseed oil or coconut oil? Or after hearing a lot about the benefits of olive oil, but how do we choose the best quality version? The reality is, we are using cooking oils on a DAILY basis, so it actually is important to understand how to choose the right oil type that supports your overall health, and also pairs well with your recipes. Keep reading to see if you should KEEP or DITCH your current kitchen oils, and to learn more about my simple oil pairing technique to ensure your recipes are calling for the healthiest (and tastiest) type of oil. 


Before we dive into the oil DEETS, let’s first discuss the benefits of including oils (or fats) in our menu. 


Fats, including oils, play a crucial role in our diet and offer several benefits. Here are some of the key benefits of including fats in our menu:


  1. Energy Source: Fats provide a concentrated source of energy, supplying 9 calories per gram, which is more than twice the energy provided by carbohydrates and proteins.

  2. Nutrient Absorption: Certain vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, E, and K, are fat-soluble. Consuming fats in our diet helps in the absorption of these essential vitamins.

  3. Cell Membrane Structure: Fats are vital components of cell membranes, which maintain the integrity and functionality of cells throughout the body.

  4. Hormone Production: Fats play a key role in the production and regulation of hormones such as estrogen, testosterone, and cortisol.

  5. Insulation and Protection: Fat serves as insulation to regulate body temperature and protect organs from shock.

  6. Satiety and Flavour: Fats can increase satiety, helping us feel full and satisfied after a meal. They also enhance the flavour and texture of foods, making meals more enjoyable.

  7. Essential Fatty Acids: Some fats contain essential fatty acids such as omega-3 and omega-6, which the body cannot produce on its own. These fatty acids are important for brain health, heart health, and overall wellness.

  8. Anti-Inflammatory Properties: Certain fats, such as those found in fish oil and olive oil, have anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases.


It's important to choose healthy fats, such as those found in olive oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds, and limit the intake of saturated fats for optimal health.


So, these words, “Saturated” and “Unsaturated” fats sounds like a chemistry term, not super easy to differentiate and translate into real-life food. What is the difference between these types of fats, and how do they impact our health? 


When considering fats in your diet, it's essential to differentiate between saturated and unsaturated fats and understand which types should be consumed more often and which should be limited. Here's a guide:


Choose More Often: Unsaturated Fats

Monounsaturated Fats (MUFAs): These fats are beneficial for heart health. Sources include:

  • Olive oil

  • Canola oil

  • Avocados

  • Nuts (such as almonds, cashews, and peanuts)

  • Seeds (such as sunflower and pumpkin seeds)


Polyunsaturated Fats (PUFAs): These fats include omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are essential for the body. Sources include:

  • Fatty fish (such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines)

  • Flaxseeds and chia seeds

  • Walnuts

  • Soybean oil and corn oil


Choose Less Often: Saturated Fats

Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature and have been associated with an increased risk of heart disease when consumed in excess. Sources include:

  • Animal products such as butter, cheese, and fatty meats

  • Coconut oil and palm oil

  • Cream and whole milk

While saturated fats can be part of a healthy diet in moderation, it is advisable to prioritize unsaturated fats and limit the intake of saturated fats.


Now, let’s start dabbling into oils and their smoke points, this is the MAIN way to determine which oils are best suited for cooking and recipe selections. 

The smoke point of an oil is the temperature at which it begins to break down and produce smoke. Cooking oils with higher smoke points are generally better suited for high-heat cooking methods such as frying, grilling, and sautéing, while oils with lower smoke points are better for low-heat cooking and finishing dishes.


Here's a list of common oils and their approximate smoke points:


High Smoke Point Oils (above 400°F or 204°C):

  • Avocado Oil: Around 520°F (271°C)

  • Ghee (Clarified Butter): Around 485°F (252°C)

  • Refined Safflower Oil: Around 450°F (232°C)

  • Refined Sunflower Oil: Around 450°F (232°C)

  • Refined Peanut Oil: Around 450°F (232°C)

  • Refined Canola Oil: Around 400-450°F (204-232°C)

  • Refined Grapeseed Oil: Around 420°F (216°C)

  • Refined Corn Oil: Around 450°F (232°C)

  • Refined Vegetable Oil: Around 400-450°F (204-232°C)


Medium-High Smoke Point Oils (350-400°F or 177-204°C):

  • Refined Olive Oil: Around 468°F (242°C)

  • Refined Sesame Oil: Around 410°F (210°C)

  • Refined Coconut Oil: Around 400°F (204°C)


Medium Smoke Point Oils (300-350°F or 149-177°C):

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Around 375-405°F (190-207°C)

  • Virgin Coconut Oil: Around 350°F (177°C)

  • Unrefined Sesame Oil: Around 350°F (177°C)


Low Smoke Point Oils (below 300°F or 149°C):

  • Flaxseed Oil: Around 225°F (107°C)

  • Walnut Oil: Around 320°F (160°C)


Oil Cooking Recommendations:

  1. High-heat cooking

Choose oils with high smoke points such as avocado, safflower, or canola oil.

  1. Medium-heat cooking

Use oils such as refined olive oil or coconut oil.

  1. Low-heat cooking and finishing

Oils like extra virgin olive oil and flaxseed oil are best used for dressings or low-heat cooking.


By selecting oils with appropriate smoke points for different cooking methods, you can avoid the breakdown of oils and the production of harmful compounds.


OKAY, now there are also different cooking methods to consider, what goes with what? 

Different cooking methods require different oils depending on their smoke points and flavour profiles. Here's a guide to various cooking methods and the best oils to use for each:


Sautéing and Stir-Frying

Cooking Temperature: Medium-high heat

Best Oils: Use oils with high smoke points and neutral flavours such as refined avocado oil, refined canola oil, or refined sunflower oil.


Frying (Deep or Pan Frying)

Cooking Temperature: High heat

Best Oils: Choose oils with very high smoke points such as refined peanut oil, refined safflower oil, or refined sunflower oil. Ghee (clarified butter) can also be used.


Grilling and Broiling

Cooking Temperature: High heat

Best Oils: High smoke point oils like avocado oil, canola oil, or refined peanut oil work well for grilling. A light brushing of oil can help prevent food from sticking to the grill.


Baking

Cooking Temperature: Low to high heat, depending on the recipe

Best Oils: For general baking, vegetable oil, canola oil, and light olive oil are good choices. You can also use melted butter or coconut oil for a richer flavour.


Roasting

Cooking Temperature: Medium to high heat

Best Oils: Oils with moderate to high smoke points such as olive oil, canola oil, or refined avocado oil work well for roasting. They add flavour and help achieve a crispy texture.


Dressings and Finishing

Cooking Temperature: No heat

Best Oils: Use high-quality, flavourful oils such as extra virgin olive oil, flaxseed oil, or walnut oil for dressings and finishing dishes. These oils are not meant for cooking, as their delicate flavours and beneficial compounds can be damaged by heat.


Low-Heat Cooking (Simmering, Poaching)

Cooking Temperature: Low to medium heat

Best Oils: Use oils with moderate smoke points such as light olive oil or avocado oil. These oils can add flavour without burning.


Tips:

  1. Avoid Overheating Oils: No matter the cooking method, avoid overheating oils to prevent smoke and degradation of nutrients.

  2. Choose High-Quality Oils: Whenever possible, opt for cold-pressed, minimally processed oils for the best flavour and health benefits.

  3. Store Oils Properly: Keep oils in a cool, dark place to maintain their quality.


By matching the right oil to the appropriate cooking method, you can optimize the flavour and healthfulness of your meals.


Does the quality of oil matter? YES! Let’s decipher between high quality versus processed oils, and how this is linked to our health (e.g. internal inflammation).


The quality of oils you use in your diet can have a significant impact on inflammation and overall health. Here's how high-quality and processed oils differ and how they can affect inflammation:


High-Quality Oils

  1. Extraction Method: High-quality oils are often extracted using cold-pressing or expeller-pressing methods, which preserve the natural nutrients and beneficial compounds in the oil.

  2. Minimal Processing: These oils are typically minimally processed and may be labeled as "virgin" or "extra virgin" oils.

  3. Health Benefits: High-quality oils, such as extra virgin olive oil and unrefined avocado oil, contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. They can help reduce inflammation and provide various health benefits.

  4. Flavour and Aroma: These oils often have richer flavours and aromas, making them great for enhancing dishes.


Processed Oils

  1. Refinement: Processed oils, such as vegetable oil and canola oil, undergo refining methods like bleaching, deodorization, and high-heat treatments, which strip the oil of its natural nutrients and beneficial compounds.

  2. Omega-6 Fatty Acids: Processed oils often contain higher levels of omega-6 fatty acids, which, when consumed in excess, can contribute to inflammation.

  3. Flavour and Stability: Processed oils often have a neutral flavour and longer shelf life, making them popular for cooking, but at the expense of health.


Recommendations:

  1. Prioritize High-Quality Oils: Choose oils such as extra virgin olive oil, unrefined avocado oil, and cold-pressed oils. These are less processed and contain beneficial antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.

  2. Limit Processed Oils: Reduce the intake of processed oils like vegetable oil, soybean oil, and corn oil, as they may contribute to inflammation due to their higher omega-6 fatty acid content and potential trans fat content.

  3. Balance Omega-3 and Omega-6: Aim to balance omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid intake to reduce inflammation. Consider incorporating sources of omega-3, such as fish and flaxseeds.


By choosing high-quality oils and limiting processed oils, you can support better health and reduce inflammation in your diet.


Recipes for inspiration that factor in room temperate vs. heated recipes, and taste SO yummy! 


Here are some recipe ideas that use oils both at room temperature and heated:


Classic Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  • Salt and black pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Whisk together the vinegar, mustard, garlic, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.

  2. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking continuously until emulsified.

  3. Use as a dressing for salads or drizzling over vegetables.


Stir-Fried Vegetables

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon refined avocado oil or canola oil

  • 2 cups mixed vegetables (e.g., broccoli, bell peppers, snap peas, carrots)

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari

  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic

  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger

  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Heat the oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat.

  2. Add the garlic and ginger, and sauté for about 30 seconds until fragrant.

  3. Add the mixed vegetables and stir-fry for 4-6 minutes, until tender-crisp.

  4. Add the soy sauce or tamari and season with salt and pepper.

  5. Serve hot as a side dish.


Pan-Seared Salmon

Ingredients:

  • 2 salmon fillets

  • 1 tablespoon refined olive oil

  • Salt and black pepper, to taste

  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges

  • Fresh herbs (e.g., dill, parsley) for garnish

Instructions:

  1. Season the salmon fillets with salt and black pepper on both sides.

  2. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.

  3. Add the salmon fillets, skin-side down, and cook for 4-5 minutes until the skin is crispy.

  4. Flip the fillets and cook for another 3-4 minutes, or until cooked to your liking.

  5. Serve with lemon wedges and garnish with fresh herbs.


Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

  • 2 tablespoons light olive oil or refined avocado oil

  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika

  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

  • Salt and black pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (204°C).

  2. In a large bowl, toss the sweet potato cubes with olive oil, smoked paprika, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper.

  3. Spread the sweet potatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet.

  4. Roast for 25-30 minutes, flipping halfway through, until the potatoes are tender and lightly browned.

  5. Serve hot as a side dish or in a salad.


These recipes showcase different ways to use oils at room temperature and when heated, providing inspiration for various meals and cooking techniques. Enjoy experimenting with different oils to find your favorite flavours!


Reference List:


  1. Mindbodygreen. (n.d.). The Healthiest & Unhealthiest Cooking Oils, According to Experts

  2. Environmental Science. (2022). Aerosol emissions and their volatility from heating different cooking oils at multiple temperatures. Website.

  3. HealthCanal. (2024). 7 Healthiest Cooking Oils for Your Health & What to Avoid in 2024

  4. American Heart Association. (n.d.). Healthy Cooking Oils. Website.

  5. Medical News Today. (2024). Reusing oil may increase neurodegeneration

  6. Medical Xpress. (2024, March 25). Study links long-term consumption of reused deep-fried oil with increased neurodegeneration. Website.

Comentários


bottom of page