There are so many types of oils on the market that it can be confusing about which one to buy. It’s important to understand the difference between the types of oils, as they are all different and not all are healthy for us.

Good quality oils are essential for our health and shouldn’t be avoided. And no–they don’t make us fat–they can actually help to lose weight, as well as providing so many good things. So instead of avoiding oils, know which ones are healthy, and how to use them, and know which ones are not, and how to avoid them.

There are a few things to take in consideration that will make an oil healthy:

1. REFINED VS UNREFINED OILS

You can find refined and unrefined oils on the market.

Refined oils are the one you want to avoid. They are low quality, fully bleached and deodorized. No health benefits are present in refined oils. However, they are used because they are stable and will keep for a long time. They are good for high-heat cooking and frying. Refined oils are what are mostly used in processed foods and some types of restaurants.

Unrefined oils are what you want to choose. They are whole and healthy. Those oils are highly beneficial for our health as they contain many important nutrients and components.  They are normally more pronounced than refined oils and you want to use them in light cooking or in dressings, to keep their wonderful health benefits. They are more expensive than refined oils.

2. AVOID GENETICALLY MODIFIED OILS

Soy, corn, canola, and cottonseed oils are known to be genetically modified. They are refined and also high in omega-6s, which we want to avoid as we consume too much of them. They are found in almost all processed foods. Avoid cooking with them!

3. DON’T GO ABOVE THE SMOKE POINT

The smoke point of an oil is when the oil starts to smoke at a certain temperature. All oils start to smoke at a different temperature, as they are all different. When the oil starts to smoke, it creates fumes and free radicals; you want to avoid that.

You don’t need to know the smoking points of all the oils, but you need to know what oils are used for different type of cooking.

For light sautéing, you can use oils such as olive, canola, coconut, grapeseed, and sunflower oils.

For baking, you can use oils such as canola, sunflower, coconut and palm oil.

For frying, you can use oils such as peanut, palm, and sesame oil.

To use in vinaigrette or raw, use your high-quality oils, or fancy oils, such as extra-virgin olive oil, flax oil, walnut oil, and toasted sesame oil.

4. GOOD PURCHASE & STORAGE

Always choose oils that are sold in glass and dark tinted bottles, rather than transparent and plastic ones. That way, you protect the oil from oxidation caused by exposure to light. Whenever possible, choose cold-pressed oils, as they are more nutritious and healthier for you.

Keep them away from the light and the heat. Oils such as flax, chia, and walnuts need to be kept refrigerated.

OILS 101

Avocado: Pressed from the avocado, it’s an oil good for the heart. It has a high smoke point, which makes it a good oil for high-temperature cooking. Avocado oil is a good source of vitamin E and antioxidants. Choose cold-pressed extra virgin avocado oil to put on your salads.

Canola: Canola is a popular oil, especially due to its neutral flavor and its omega-3 fatty acids. However, canola oil is easily oxidized, and most of them are now highly refined and genetically modified. Choose organic and alternate with other oils. Canola oil is also known as rapeseed oil.

Coconut: Coconut oil is a great source of healthy saturated fats. It has many health benefits and won’t cause any inflammation in the body. Saturated fats are extremely stable which make coconut oil a good oil for high heat temperature cooking. Choose extra-virgin if possible as it’s not processed. Coconut oil will give a coconut flavor to your meal so it may not be good for all types of dishes. This oil is also wonderful on the skin.

Corn: Corn oil has a high smoke point and is very popular in processed food. It’s high in omega-6 and most of the corn oil is genetically modified. Avoid cooking with it.

Flax and chia: Flax and chia seed oils are great source of omega-3 fatty acids but they have to be eaten raw. They need to be stored in the refrigerator.

Grapeseed: The oil is extracted from the seed of the grapes. It has a high smoke point so it can be use for higher temperature cooking such as baking and frying. It’s a good source of vitamin E and antioxidants. Choose cold-pressed oil to get the most health benefits, and use it in salad dressings.

Macadamia: It’s a tasty and light oil that has a great ratio of omega-3 and omega-6s. It has a high smoke point and is very versatile.

Olive: There are different types of olive oil: extra-virgin, virgin, extra-light and refined. Choose cold pressed extra-virgin olive oil as much as possible, as it’s the most nutritious one. Avoid high heat cooking to preserve its wonderful health benefits. Keep your most expensive oil for salad dressings or to drizzle over a healthy dish.

Peanut: Peanut oil has a long shelf life and is one of the best oil for frying as it has a high smoking point. Cold pressed peanut oil has a richer color than refined peanut oil.

Safflower: It’s an oil extracted from the seeds of a plant. It’s high in omega-6s and vitamin E and K. There are two types of safflower oils: one that can be used for light cooking due to its lower smoke point, and one for higher temperature cooking. Safflower oil doesn’t give any flavor to the dish you cook.

Sesame: Sesame oil comes from sesame seeds. It has a sweet and nutty flavor, and is popular in Asian cuisine. Sesame oil has a high smoking point which makes this oil good for high temperature cooking. Toasted sesame oil, which is more flavorful, is best to use raw or at the end of cooking.

Soybean: It’s an oil extracted from the soybeans. Most soybean oil is highly refined and genetically modified. It’s found in almost all processed food and should really be avoided.

Sunflower: It’s a popular oil that comes from the sunflower seeds. It has a low smoking point and is best to use in light cooking or raw. It’s a great source of vitamin E.

Walnut: This gourmet oil is expensive and should be kept in the refrigerator. It’s a great source of omega-3 and antioxidants. Use raw in salad dressings.

A MAKE-IT-EASY OIL CHART

OILS GOOD FOR COOKING MED-HEAT (SAUTÉ) RAW HEALTHY IN MODERATION AVOID CARACTERISTICS
AVOCADO X X X X   Good source of vitamin E
CANOLA X X X   X   Has omega-3 fatty acids
COCONUT X X X X   Healthy saturated fats
CORN X X       X High in omega-6s. Mostly GM
FLAX-CHIA     X X     High in omega-3s
GHEE   X   X X   Clarified butter. It has a high smoke point
GRASS-FED BUTTER X X   X X   Better than regular butter, go organic
GRAPESEED X X X X   Neutral flavor, high in omega-6s
MACADEMIA X X X   Doesn’t add any flavors
MARGARINE X X   X Avoid, or choose non-hydrogenated
OLIVE X X X Choose cold pressed, extra-virgin
PEANUT X X X X Good choice for frying
SAFFLOWER X X X X High in omega-6s. Choose cold-pressed
SESAME X X X X Try toasted sesame oil in Oriental cuisine
SHORTENING X X Contain trans-fatty acids
SOY X X X High in omega-6s. Mostly GM
SUNFLOWER X X X X X Great source of vitamin E
WALNUT X X X X Good source of omega-3s