You’ve figured out your macros, you’ve got a gym membership, and maybe you’ve even bought a brand new apron. You’re ready to begin your health journey. Protein sources and carbohydrates are pretty self-explanatory, but the astonishing amount of types of oils to cook with can be a bit confusing. Not every oil can provide the same amount of flavor and necessary fatty acids to your diet, so let’s examine some of the most popular types and help you pick the right one during your next grocery store trip!
Before we dive into the world of refined and unrefined oils, it is important to mention the smoking point of oils. The smoking point of specific oil types is important in determining which one is a better option to cook with or just to be used in meals without heat preparation. Due to the differences in smoking points of oils, some are more suitable to use in salad dressings or as part of sauces, instead of throwing them onto the pan and grilling your latest batch of chicken breast.
Here are my top 5 cooking oils, I’d consider the best for cooking.
1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
You don’t have to be a salad lover to find a place for this icon of the Mediterranean diet. Olive oil has been linked to improving cardiovascular health, lowering cholesterol levels, and helping the body to reduce inflammation. I personally use olive oil in moderation as a substitute for salad dressing or when I marinate some meat overnight.
However, extra virgin olive oil is not the most suitable option for higher temperature cooking, due to its smoking point being only (320°F). Whenever I don’t have a convenient bottle of cooking spray around, I use olive oil to increase my healthy fats intake. You can shop around and find discounts in your local grocery store pretty often on this type of oil. Also, you should definitely pick up a bottle, because I’m sure anyone can find use for a good amount of monounsaturated fats (73%) and omega-6 fatty acids!
Recommended use: Salad dressings, marinating
2. Canola Oil
Despite many debates over the good and bad characteristics of this vegetable oil, numerous health related characteristics have been linked to it. Canola oil is characterized by low levels of saturated fatty acids, substantial amounts of monounsaturated fatty acids, and polyunsaturated fatty acids. All of these have been shown to be cardio protective substances. Its high content of alpha-linolenic acids (ALA) is actually higher than many other vegetable oils. These are advantageous to your heart and have been linked to decreased chances of coronary heart disease. Studies have shown lowering cholesterol levels after substituting saturated fats with foods derived from canola oil.
Recommended use: Stir-frying
3. Avocado Oil
Packed with mostly monounsaturated fats (70%), avocado oil has the highest smoking point of oils, which makes it a perfect choice for high heat cooking. Pick up a bottle in your local grocery store and incorporate in your kitchen creations. Avocado oil consists mostly of healthy omega-9 monounsaturated fats, specifically oleic acid, which has been linked to reducing inflammation and supporting heart function. This slightly more expensive oil is processed without the use of chemicals, giving it a healthier edge over some of the processed ones! This oil is definitely a good choice for anyone’s frying pan!
Recommended use: High heat cooking, roasting
4. Unrefined Sesame Oil
This oil is cold-pressed, making it more flavorful and healthier than some of the chemically processed oils. The sweet taste and higher smoking point (350°F) makes it an ideal choice for some oriental dishes on a relaxed weekend. Sesame oil adds a great amount of flavor to vegetables, so try to mix things up and substitute it in moderation for a serving of soy sauce! Sesame oil has a higher content of polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-3, 6) than most oils so make sure you keep the intake of healthy fats in balance!
Recommended use: Stir-frying
5. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is more suited for low-heat cooking, light baking, and fits well in healthy smoothies and shakes! The oil is in a solid state due to the high content of saturated fat, similar to lard or butter. Also due to its higher content of calories, I usually find a use for coconut oil during the bulking phase, but only in moderation! I try to incorporate coconut oil into morning shakes or homemade protein bars and baking!
Recommended use: Baking
Take Home Message
As with anything in the kitchen, variety in macronutrient sources can make the fitness journey much more enjoyable and reliable. All of these oils can make your cooking rich in flavor, provide you with the healthy fatty acids your body needs, and up your intake of calories whenever needed. My personal favorite is Extra Virgin Olive Oil as I use it in sauces, salad dressings and marinating. However, it is very beneficial to keep numerous kinds of oils around, because they all have different uses in a variety of cooking and baking methods! Happy healthy fatty cooking!