11 Healthiest Cooking Oils & How To Pick Them

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Written by: Christopher Karam | ✔️ Medically Reviewed by: Dr. Riad M., M.D - G.P and Micheal B., M.D | Last Updated: 2020 July 03

Table of Contents

  1. History of Dietary Fats and Cooking Oils
  2. How Are Fats Used in The Body
  3. List of Healthy Oils
    • Extra virgin olive oil
    • Sesame oil
    • Coconut oil
    • Avocado oil
    • Grapeseed oil
    • Soybean oil
    • Peanut oil
    • Walnut oil
    • Pumpkin seed oil
    • Hemp seed oil
    • Flax seed oil
  4. Healthy Cooking Oils Used For Frying
  5. The Final List of Healthy Cooking Oils

History of Dietary Fats and Cooking Oils

During the early 1900s, many studies and food experts began looking into how our bodies metabolize the fat macronutrient.

Their results stated that Fats were the leading factor in the (first of many) surges of weight gain to happen through the 1990s in which the U.S state average obesity rate was around 10%. Heading into 2004 where the state average of obesity hit a record high of 30%.

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Increasing your intake of fatty foods and cooking oils can have a major impact on your body's ability to burn fat.

The calories you gain from eat fats are the highest of all macronutrients. At 9 calories per gram, this makes it very easy for you to over eat, surpassing your basal metabolic rate (BMR).

Your basal metabolic rate is the number of calories your body burns on a daily basis just to maintain survival, which includes brain function, cell maintenance, detoxification, digestion, blood pressure regulation, and much more.

How Are Fats Used in The Body

Let's take a round number and suggest your BMR is an average of 2000 Calories/day. Let's say you eat 2 eggs for breakfast, (depending on how you cook your eggs) you'd be hitting 18-25 grams of Fat minimum just from your breakfast, now just from Fat's you'll be at 162-225 Calories for the day.

If you were to take into consideration everything else you'd have for breakfast you'll easily hit over 350-400 Calories, which would mean that half of the average breakfast is full of Fat.

If we took into account the meats, toppings, and snacks you take in, you can bet that your 2000 Calories are going to have 1/3rd of them at the least coming from Fats.

Unlike red meats and other sources of proteins, there are quite a lot of seemingly healthy foods that are loaded in Fats and calories that you wouldn't expect to contain such a large amount.

Cereals and grains: Whole grain and Bran cereals are heavily advertised as being healthy and do quite well with the older side of the population to make sure that they keep their diets in check.

The largest side effects of cereal products is that they’re inherently bad for you, especially if you're looking to lose body fat. They’re usually full of low-quality sugars, oils, and grains, having a high number of calories in each serving.

The 2 largest nutrients found in the majority of these products are fats and sugar. As heavy as these calories are, you'll find it difficult to be full, or even left satisfied by these products unless you consume a larger amount than the recommendation.

You'd expect the fat to fill your craving but instead, you're left wanting to eat more because of the added sugar, coupled together increases makes it hard to feel satisfied.

Legume and vegetable oils: Almost every single legume and vegetable oil you can find are great for your diet.

Although, you must watch out for the small minority of vegetable cooking oils that are hydrogenated, rancid, or oxidized such as canola oil, vegetable oil, and certain brands of corn oil (mazola). Some harmful cooking oils such as canola oil and vegetable oils should be avoided entirely.

While avocados are technically a fruit, avocado oil is marketed as a vegetable oil. It’s one of the healthiest cooking oils you can regularly use.

They're one of the best fruits when it comes to diets and weight loss plans, they're very good for you, but if you're looking to lose weight they can get in your way of trying to sit in a caloric deficit.

Avocados are almost entirely composed of fat. A single avocado contains 22 grams of fat, 13 grams of carbohydrates, and 3 grams of protein weighing in at 240 calories each. That's 198 calories coming from just the fatty acids of the avocado.

Now some diets include 1 to 2 of these a day which is needless to say, a lot. If your BMR is 2000 calories a day, that's 24% of your daily calories in just 2 avocados. I'd personally recommend half an avocado a day if you enjoy them.

Half is enough to get the proven health benefits of avocados while maintaining a low calorie count.

For legumes, the first thing that might come to mind is Nuts. We'll be focusing mainly on walnuts as a point of reference. I'd class them in the same scale of moderation with the avocado.

Walnuts are great for you and provide a high amount of good quality Fats.

They're composed of 2.6 grams of fat, 0.56 grams of carbohydrates, and 0.6 grams of protein per individual nut weighing in at 26.16 Calories each.

That does not sound that bad, especially since the amount of polyunsaturated Fat to monounsaturated Fat is about 5:1 respectively (which is a fantastic ratio).

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List of Healthy Cooking Oils

1. Extra virgin olive oil

Multiple studies have shown that diets rich in olive oil can drastically reduce bad (LDL) cholesterol levels. Healthy cholesterol levels reduce your risk of heart disease and strokes, which are the leading causes of death in North America.

The main health benefits of olive oil come from its abundance of monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants. Most of its fats are omega-9 (oleic acid), which are extremely powerful anti-inflammatory compounds that are effective at unclogging your arteries.

A diet rich in extra virgin olive oil helps lower your blood sugar levels, insulin sensitivity, risk of type 2 diabetes, and reducing inflammation.

Olive oil is highly sensitive to heat and isn’t appropriate for high-heat cooking, it should only be used when cooking over medium heat and is not effective at pan-frying.

Olive oil isn’t versatile, it can only be used for light pan-frying, drizzling over food, and light cooking.

2. Sesame oil

Sesame oil has one of the healthiest overall fatty acid profile out of any cooking oil. Sesame oil is made up of 42% polyunsaturated fats (omega-3s and omega-6s), monounsaturated fats (omega-9), and saturated fats (14%).

Its healthy list of fats makes sesame oil highly resistant to heat, oxidation, and rancidity which makes it have a long shelf life. Sesame oil has many health benefits related to improved heart health, reduces inflammation, lowers blood pressure, reduces stress, and helps recover from anemia.

Sesame oil also improves nutrient absorption, increasing your body’s ability to absorb iron, calcium, niacin, and Vitamin B complexes.

Sesame oil is highly versatile as well, it can be used for deep-frying, pan-frying, baking, and daily cooking.

3. Coconut oil

Its large list of health benefits and minimal side effects of coconut oil makes it a powerful superfood. Coconut oil has a unique set of fatty acids which makes it highly resistant to cooking, even more so than sesame oil.

The only caveat is it has a very from coconut flavor, making it stain all of your foods with a hint of coconut.

This can be avoided with high-heat cooking, as the food will absorb less oil and the minor chemical breakdowns remove the strong flavor from the oil. When baking, this can be beneficial as making healthy deserts can have their taste drastically improved by using coconut oil.

The heart-healthy medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) and long-chain fatty acids help improve heart health, promote weight loss, as well as improves cognitive health and function.

Coconut oil is also effective at burning fat by increasing your basal metabolic rate (BMR). Coconut oil removes excess stress on your pancreas as it's much easier to digest than other vegetable cooking oils.

Coconut oil is a versatile cooking oil that can be used for deep-frying, pan-frying, baking, and daily cooking.

4. Avocado oil

Avocado oil is made from the oil that’s been extracted by the avocado fruit. It’s full of healthy fats and antioxidants while being low in saturated fatty acids, making it an all-around good cooking oil.

Most of its fats are made of monounsaturated fats (omega-3s) which have more than 2 double bonds making it highly resistant to heat, similar to canola oil, but canola oil is very unhealthy for you.

Avocado fruits as well as avocado oil have a very subtle flavor, making it a neutral cooking oil. Avocado oil is rich in oleic acid, giving it some powerful heart promoting benefits.

Some of the benefits of avocado oil include improving heart health, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, improves eye health, increases nutrient absorption, reduces inflammation, and improves oral health.

Avocado oil is highly versatile as well, it can be used for deep-frying, pan-frying, baking, and daily cooking.

5. Grapeseed oil

Grapeseed oil is an oil extracted by pressing the seeds of grapes, which makes it highly available and low-cost since it’s a residue of winemaking.

Grapeseed oil is rich in powerful antioxidants like vitamin E, a major contributor to its anti-inflammatory effects. Vitamin E is highly effective at lowering blood pressure, blood sugar, and reducing your risk of heart disease.

Additionally, grapeseed extract is also commonly added to hair products since it’s so rich in vitamin E, which improves hair health and strength.

Out of all the previously mentioned cooking oils, grapeseed oil is moderately resistant to high-heats. It’s made up of 70% polyunsaturated fats which are only slightly resistant to heat, 16% monounsaturated fats, and 10% saturated fats.

Grapeseed oil isn’t very versatile, it should only be used for daily cooking.

6. Soybean oil

Soybeans or soya bean is a species of legume that’s native to East Asia. Soya beans are part of the dicotyledonous plants, the family of magnolias and roses, which belongs to the family of Fabaceae (Leguminosae), the family of legumes, peas, and beans.

Soybean oil is a vegetable oil extracted from soybeans. It has recently become a common household cooking oil among the various nuts and vegetable oils. Soybean oil is versatile, low-priced, and somewhat healthy.

The health benefits of soybean oil are minimalistic for men but very effective for women, this is due to soybeans being rich in estrogen. This makes it so that soybean oil is best suited to be consumed by women, as too much estrogen in men can lead to harmful side effects.

In general, soybean oil has been regarded as one of the healthiest cooking oils by healthcare professionals and dietitians because of its plant sterols, which lowers levels of saturated fat and cholesterol.

Soybeans are full of antioxidants like vitamin E, vitamin K, healthy fats, lecithin, and omega-3-6-9 fatty acids.

Soybean oil is slightly versatile, it should only be used for daily cooking and light pan-frying.

7. Peanut oil

Peanut oil is a seed oil extracted from the peanut plant, named the Arachis hypogaea. Peanut oil is also known as groundnut oil or Arachis oil, it's a popular vegetable oil often used for frying and cooking.

Asian cuisine typically uses high heats, and because refined peanut oil has a high smoke point it can tolerate most wok style dishes. Unrefined peanut oil is much healthier, although it lowers your cooking options.

Peanut oil is rich in vitamin E, vitamin E works as an antioxidant and helps fight free radicals in your body. Peanut oil also increases insulin sensitivity which regulates your blood sugar levels and helps to make you feel less hungry.

This also helps in preventing heart disease risks such as coronary artery disease, heart attacks, strokes, and risk of heart disease. In large amounts, peanut oil can be bad for you as it can cause inflammation.

Large amounts of omega-6 fatty acids can trigger pro-inflammatory proteins and immune responses in the body, promoting inflammation instead of reducing it.

Soybean oil is very versatile, it can be used for daily cooking, deep-frying, and pan-frying.

8. Flaxseed oil

Flaxseed oil is made from pressing flax seeds, retaining a lot of its nutrients. It’s a very well balanced cooking oil, similar to sesame oil.

Flaxseed oil is made up of 46% monounsaturated fats (omega-9), 36% polyunsaturated fats (omega-3 and omega-6), and 13% saturated fat.

This amazing balance of fatty acids, paired with high antioxidant content, estrogen levels, and high smoking point makes flaxseed oil a must-include cooking oil for women.

For men, foods high in estrogen can negatively affect libido, testosterone production, and cause weight gain. Similarly to soybean oil, flaxseed oil benefits women the most and has drastic side effects for men.

Flaxseed oil is highly antibacterial as well as resistance to heat, like coconut oil, and can be used for baking, cooking, pan-frying, and deep-frying.

9. Walnut oil

Walnut oil is the oil pressed out of walnuts, scientifically named Juglans regia. Walnut oil is high in polyunsaturated fats (especially omega-6s), similar to peanut oil, but contains much more antioxidants.

It has a very strong nutty flavor profile, narrowing its culinary applications. Walnut oil has many health benefits with few side effects as it’s full of antioxidants as well as antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral plant-based compounds.

Some of the health benefits of walnuts include being able to fight Athlete’s foot and other physical fungal infections, improve skin health, improves eye health, reduces inflammation in smaller quantities, and promotes good digestive health.

Walnut oil is very versatile, it can be used for daily cooking, deep-frying, and pan-frying.

10. Pumpkin seed oil

Pumpkin seed oil is pressed oil from pumpkin seeds and skin, which is rich in estrogen and testosterone boosting properties. The main issue with pumpkin seed oil is that it’s not a popular cooking oil and lacks a lot of scientific research.

The health benefits of pumpkin seed oil are that it may help reduce hot flashes and hormone-related complications in women, promoting hair growth, and promotes prostate health by relieving symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).

Pumpkin seed oil is a neutral cooking oil when used for cooking, making it highly versatile and usable in many different cooking styles and recipes. It has a slightly nutty flavor when un-heated.

It’s great for drizzling over salads, roasting vegetables, and grilling. It’s a somewhat sensitive cooking oil, making it not suitable for frying, sautéing, or pan-frying, and should be only cooked with over medium heats.

11. Hemp seed oil

Hemp seed oil is made from either hemp hearts or whole hemp seeds. Hemp seeds are a nutrient-rich superfood that can drastically improve vitamin and mineral absorption by your intestines.

Hemp seed oil is full of antioxidants like vitamin A and E as well as minerals such as calcium, magnesium, sulfur, potassium, phosphorus, iron, and zinc.

Certain brands of hemp oil contain CBD which has many health benefits including relieving stress, muscle tension, reducing inflammation, as well as improved recovery during and after sleeping.

Hemp seed oil is a sensitive cooking oil, making it useful for drizzling, light pan-frying, and light daily cooking applications.

Healthy Cooking Oils For Frying

The same advice goes with avocado's and with most nut oils in general, make sure to keep your intake from about a moderate to minimal to avoid overeating on the fat and keeping your calorie intake on track for your goal.

Eating foods with a strong chain of polyunsaturated fats makes the cooking oil resistant to high-heat cooking like pan-frying and deep-frying. Pan-frying your food in a pan filled with 1 to 2 inches of oil is much healthier than deep-frying.

Cooking oils high in omega-9 or omega-6 fatty acids are generally more sensitive to heat, as they have a single chemical bond holding the fats together.

Nut and seed oils are highly resistant to heat and minimally affect the flavor of the food you’re cooking. Here’s a list of healthy nut and seed oils used for cooking or deep frying:

  • Coconut oil

  • Avocado oil

  • Peanut oil

  • Hazelnut oil

  • Almond oil

  • Sesame oil

  • Walnut oil

Taking in too many calories from fats can also be a deterrent to your health and cause adverse health issues down the line. It could increase bad (LDL) cholesterol levels in your blood, which can increase your risk of heart disease and strokes.

Omega 6 for example, is commonly found in numerous nuts, seeds, and vegetable oil. Which the typical North American styled diet contains too much of. It's best to keep your intake of omega 3's much higher than your omega 6's since omega 3 is an anti-inflammatory fat. 

Keeping your oil in good care is also a factor, making sure it’s stored in a dark area, firmly sealed, at room temperature. Damaging your oils creates free radicals which increase oxidative stress in the body (which is very bad). So make sure your cooking oils are well taken care of!

All in all, overeating in any category of macros (whether its fats, carbohydrates, or proteins) will end up storing the excess calories your body does not need as lipids (body fat).

It’s much easier to hit your fat macronutrient’s daily caloric limit since it’s so dense in calories.

Although It’s also the easiest to burn off through digestion (not when it's already stored as lipids) since it requires some of the least amounts of processing in the digestive tract of the body to convert the Fats into usable energy.

oils mixed oil cold pressed olive flax hemp canola healthy mydietgoal

List of Healthy Cooking Oils

There are many options out there when it comes to cooking oils. The list of best cooking oils include:

  1. Extra virgin olive oil

  2. Sesame oil

  3. Coconut oil

  4. Avocado oil

  5. Grapeseed oil

  6. Soybean oil

  7. Peanut oil

  8. Flaxseed oil

  9. Walnut oil

  10. Pumpkin seed oil

  11. Hemp seed oil

If you were to only pick 1 type of cooking oil to buy and use at home, it should be extra virgin olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil has a flavor profile that works with almost any type of recipe or food and its good for cooking on low to medium-high heats.

Regularly using 2 types of cooking oils in your home can be really good for your health as well as your family’s. 2 great cooking oils for your diet are coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil. The flavour profile of coconut oil does not go with everything but allows you to cook with much higher temperatures than olive oil.