Is it Time for An Oil Change?
Taylor Lucas, MRH Dietetic Intern
Have you ever walked down the aisle in the grocery store and been puzzled about what cooking oil is the healthiest choice? There are so many to choose from, and there are endless fads built around them. Multiple aspects contribute to making a healthy choice, so ask yourself a couple of questions before you buy.
What are you looking for nutritionally?
In what way do you want to use the oil?
With those two questions in mind, let’s take a look at five of the most common oils.
The calorie and total fat content of each oil tablespoon are all identical, with 120 calories and 14 grams of total fat each. Still, different types of fat are utilized differently within the body. Refer to the table below for a comparison.
Olive oil, canola oil, and avocado oil are all excellent sources of monounsaturated fats. Vegetable oil contains the greatest amount of polyunsaturated fat. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats help lower blood cholesterol when used in exchange for saturated fat. As an added benefit, both canola oil and vegetable oil are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat. Omega-3s contribute to reduced inflammation in the body, which can lead to lowered blood pressure.
Coconut oil is primarily saturated fat, which is why it tends to be solid at room temperature. Saturated fat is a primary culprit for increased low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood, referred to as the “bad cholesterol.” Studies show that lowering your LDL cholesterol reduces your chance of developing heart disease. Overall, coconut oil should be used less often than olive, vegetable, canola, and avocado oils.
The smoke point of cooking oils is another important detail to consider when making a healthy decision. The smoke point of an oil is the temperature when the oil starts to burn and break down. When oil breaks down, harmful free radicals are released that can cause damage within the body. It is important to prioritize different oils based on the method of cooking that you use. The table below shows the smoke points of each oil in both their unrefined and refined varieties.
Oils with a higher smoke point are great for baking, grilling, searing, and roasting.
Oils with a lower smoke point are best for dressings, quick sautéing, and low-medium heat cooking.
Avocado oil is the best option for high-heat cooking due to its relatively high smoke point. Opting for avocado oil for high-heat cooking can help prevent free radicals and other harmful compounds.