Oil – we use it in frying, baking, salad dressing and even themed whole cakes around it. Although oils are not a major food group, they are still an important source of unsaturated fats and vitamin E which improve high density lipoprotein or “good” cholesterol levels.
But some oils contain trans fats, which are often used in restaurant fryers.
So how do you determine which oil is the healthier choice? Here’s what a dietitian has to say.
What is the healthiest oil for cooking?
Oil at the grocery store can be consumed all over the aisle, so how do you know which bottle to choose for the healthiest results? The answer is not so simple, says dietitian Abbey Sharp.
“Variety is the spice of life,” she says, pointing out that different types of oils contain varying fat contents. “All of these different fatty acids have unique benefits and roles in the body, so the healthiest diet is one that includes a variety of different fats.”
One of Sharp’s favorite oils is flaxseed oil because it’s high in omega-3 fatty acids, but it has a low smoke point that makes it difficult to cook with. For cooking, Sharp has two favorites: avocado oil and olive oil.
“Both have really great and supportive monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat profiles, so they’re likely to lower LDL, which is bad cholesterol, and raise our HDL,” Sharp says. “Plus, avocado oil contains 50% of your daily vitamin D intake and many other antioxidants.”
Sharp recommends using more unrefined oil because the refinement process depletes some of the important nutrients. But, says Sharp, these oils also tend to be more expensive and have a shorter shelf life. Oil in moderation, even if refined, is not bad for you.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the four main types of fat found in different types of oils and foods:
Trans fat: Usually found as a partially hydrogenated oil, which is known to increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes
Saturated fat: It’s most commonly found in meat, butter, and coconut oil and has often been touted as “bad,” but studies have shown there’s no significant link between saturated fat. and cardiovascular disease
Monounsaturated fatty acids: A more heart-healthy option over trans and saturated fats that increase HDL levels
Polyunsaturated fatty acids: Contains beneficial omega-3 fatty acids (often found in fish, nuts and hemp hearts) and omega-6 fatty acids
“The quick and dirty thing is that we should be less concerned about total saturated fat intake versus our ratio of saturated to unsaturated fat,” Sharp says.
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Is canola oil bad for you?
Canola oil has been considered an unhealthy or unsafe oil option by many in the online health community. But canola oil isn’t bad for you in moderation, Sharp says, and she sees it getting a bad rap because of the misinformation that it’s an “inflammatory” food due to its omega-6 content.
“Isolated omega-6s are not the problem with our health,” says Sharp. “They’re inflammatory, but when it comes to understanding inflammation in the body, it really comes down to the ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s.”
In fact, the oil has a favorable ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 and is low in saturated fat.
“The reason it’s been so heavily demonized is because it’s commonly found in many highly processed foods, because it’s so readily available and easy to work with,” Sharp says, referring to the long shelf life of the plant. canola oil and its good smoke point. “But that doesn’t mean the oil itself is poisonous or poisonous.”
Is cooking with oil bad for you?
The internet is full of posts promoting oil-free diets or the dangers of oil consumption. These attitudes are harmful, says Sharp.
Sharp’s online profile is dedicated to dismantling diet culture with science. Misinformation and fear around food are the reasons she decided to put her nutrition knowledge online in the first place.
“There are so many young people on TikTok consuming this information and getting the majority of their health knowledge from TikTok,” Sharp says.
You shouldn’t be afraid to incorporate oil into your diet, she says, because the way we consume oil is designed to be moderate – you add a tablespoon or two to a pot, not have a glass of it.
“The reality is, I don’t recommend people aiming to get a lot of their nutrients from cooking oil, period,” Sharp says. “I think we can use oils in moderation to improve the cooking process and enhance flavor (and) get heart-healthy fats.”
The energy she wants her followers to put into their diets is whole foods, rather than something like oil. These are the decisions that will give you a full, satisfying, and nutritionally dense plate, like adding a whole avocado to your diet rather than trying to get those nutrients from just a few tablespoons of avocado oil.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What’s the Healthiest Oil? Both of these options may be preferable for cooking with