Whether you’re sautÃ©ing veggies or baking a dessert, you need cooking oil. But which is the best choice? Find out the pros and cons of four common cooking oils:
Olive Oil: This Mediterranean superstar is a staple in many kitchens ““ but it may not be ideal for every situation.
– Pros: Contains high levels of beneficial fatty acids, as well as antioxidants that play a role in fighting off free radicals.
- Cons: Can be expensive, especially for virgin and extra virgin varieties. Has a low smoke point, making it a bad choice for frying or high-heat cooking.
- Good for: Quick sautÃ©ing, dressings, dips, marinades
Canola Oil: Made from a naturally modified breed of rapeseed, canola oil is commonly used for cooking.
- Pros: Low in saturated fat. Contains beneficial monounsaturated fats and omega-3s. Subtle taste won’t interfere with the flavor of your dish.
- Cons: Has a low smoke point. Contains omega-6 essential fatty acids, which are overabundant in the Western diet.
- Good for: SautÃ©ing, low and moderate-temperature cooking/baking, dressings
Vegetable Oil: Vaguely labeled as “vegetable” oil, this product is typically made from a blend of several different oils, including palm, soybean, sunflower and corn.
- Pros: Inexpensive, long shelf-life. Contains essential fatty acids.
- Cons: Typically heavily processed and made from GMO sources. Some vegetable oils may be partially hydrogenated.
- Good for: Greasing pans (in a spritz or spray that delivers a very small amount)
Coconut Oil: This flavorful tropical oil is considered healthy by some, but has spurred deal of controversy due to its saturated fat content.
- Pros: Higher smoke point. Rich in antioxidants and beneficial medium-chain fatty acids (these medium-chain fats are a source of controversy because they are actually saturated fats).
- Cons: Can overpower the intended flavor of certain dishes.
- Good for: Moderate-temperature cooking, frying, baking, popping popcorn
Important things to remember about cooking oils:
- There are many other sources of oil, including sesame, walnut, peanut, flaxseed and more. Investigate them to find the one that’s right for your nutritional needs and cooking situation.
- Look for unrefined, organic oil made from non-GMO plants.
- Regardless of what the media says, no oil is 100% “healthy.” When used in place of butter, lard or other sources of saturated or trans fats, some oils offer a healthier alternative ““ but it’s important to use them in moderation.
- Don’t pour used or excess oil down your sink, as it could cause a clog. Discard in a leak-proof container.