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Cooking Oils 101

Updated: Oct 23, 2022

Cooking Oil is a form of FAT and we know Fat is one of the macronutrients we need to survive. But I’m sure like many you’re slightly confused on which cooking oils are truly better for you and your family.

The world of cooking oil has become more complex than ever! And, choosing the healthiest cooking oil can be extremely confusing, so instead of assuming which oil is best let’s learn what to actually look for in a healthy cooking oil.


First, There are 3 main factors to consider when choosing an oil:


  1. Fat profile

  2. Smoke point

  3. Oil Production


Fat Profile:

  • Oil is 100% fat, meaning it contains no calories from carbohydrates or protein.

  • The type of fat you’re eating is it’s “fat profile”, or the types of fat it contains.

  • There are 3 main types of fat:

  1. Saturated: Coconut Oil, Fatty Meal, Ghee, Lard, Butter

  2. Unsaturated: There are 2 Types of Unsaturated Fats

    1. Monosaturated Fats: Olive Oil, Canola Oil, Peanut Oil, Sesame Oil

    2. Polyunsaturated Fats: Corn Oil, Soybean Oil, Sunflower Oil, Seeds, Cold-water Fish

  3. Trans Fat: Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils, Fast Foods, Cookies & Processed Foods.

SHOPPING TIP: Look for Monounsaturated and omega 3 polyunsaturated fats as they are believed to be the healthiest types of fat, while trans fats are the unhealthiest.


Smoke Point:

  • Smoke point refers to the temperature at which an oil will begin to break down and produce smoke.

  • It ranges from around 325 degrees F to over 500 degrees F.

  • When oils begin to smoke, they can release chemicals and expose the body to harmful free radicals.

SHOPPING TIP: Choose oils with a high smoke point for higher temperature cooking and reserve those with a low smoke point for dressings and lower temperature cooking.


Oil production:

  • How the oil is manufactured, which is usually indicated by a label on the product.

  • Common terms like “virgin” and “unrefined” on oils. “Virgin” or “extra-virgin” means that an oil has been minimally processed and was extracted from the plant or seed as naturally as possible.

  • Refined oils are extracted using heat and sometimes chemicals to remove the oil, which can damage the oil and reduce its nutritional value.

SHOPPING TIP: Extra-virgin and unrefined oils are generally the best options to choose.


Healthiest Oils:


  1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

    1. Known as the most popular and most used healthy oil for good reason.

    2. Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats.

    3. Has a moderately low smoke point.

    4. Best for low-temperature cooking or using raw as a dressing.

  2. Avocado oil

    1. Probably the best oil for general cooking since it has a high smoke point (>500 degrees F)

    2. Retains its nutritional value and composition despite high temperatures.

    3. Avocado Oil is rich in monounsaturated fats.

    4. Commonly used for sauteing, roasting at higher temperatures, and the like.

  3. Flaxseed Oil

    1. Flaxseed & Walnut oil very few oils that contain beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.

    2. Flaxseed & Walnut oil are heat tolerant, so they should not be used in cooking.

    3. Best for cold uses like in dressings or taken as a supplement.

    4. Short shelf life and should be kept refrigerated to prevent spoilage.

  4. Unrefined Coconut Oil

    1. Most controversial of oils in recent years.

    2. Coconut oil contains mostly saturated fat (not-so good fats) so many people believe it can be harmful to heart health.

    3. Note the difference between saturated fat from plant versus animal sources.

    4. Studies show that saturated fats found in plant sources like coconut oil may improve cholesterol ratios.

    5. Coconut oil has a moderate smoke point

    6. Good for baking and medium temperature sauteing or stir-frying.

  5. Ghee

    1. Ghee is clarified butter which is made by melting butter and separating out the solid parts.

    2. Much higher smoke point than regular butter making it a better option for cooking.

    3. Contains almost no lactose or protein casein making it a suitable choice for people who have intolerances to lactose or casein.

    4. Ghee is a source of animal-based saturated fat, the amount used should be limited.

  6. Sesame Oil

    1. This oil has a strong nutty flavor and is great for Asian cooking.

    2. It is also rich in both mono and polyunsaturated fats.

    3. Has a moderate smoke point.

    4. Good for stir-frying at medium temperatures.


Least Healthy Oils

  1. Vegetable Oil

    1. Technically this term refers to any oil that comes from a plant source, yet as we’ve described, not all are created equally.

    2. Most vegetable oils are a blend of canola, corn, soybean, safflower, palm and sunflower oils, and none of those oils are the healthiest types

    3. Vegetable oils are highly refined and processed, and they are also usually a source of omega-6 fatty acids, which can contribute to harmful inflammation in the body.

  2. Canola Oil

    1. This one is also controversial in the media.

    2. Canola Oil does contain mostly unsaturated fats, but it is a highly genetically modified crop (>90% of canola crops are GMO).

    3. Highly refined using chemicals and heat to extract the oil making it more harmful to the body despite its fat profile.

  3. Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil

    1. Includes margarine and shortening and are often used as an ingredient in highly processed, packaged, or fried foods.

    2. Type of trans fat that is damaging to heart health and cholesterol levels.

It’s safe to say that you made the right decision when you picked up your Extra Virgin Olive Oil. But don’t stop there, try adding one of the Healthy Oils listed and let’s spice it up, switch it up & add some flavor to your meals. Remember, each oil has its own benefits & profile, keep exploring!

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