There are many different types of cooking oils available today and there are various considerations when it comes to choosing the best oil for cooking. Oils have different smoking points at which they lose many of their nutrients and may, in fact, convert into harmful compounds. When heated, oils also change color, texture, and taste.
Oils contain various levels of saturated fats, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats which all have different effects on the human body, as well. Let’s discuss various oils one by one to so you’ll know which one is the best oil for cooking.
Different Types of Cooking Oils
One of the most commonly used cooking oils is sunflower oil, which is extracted from the seeds of the sunflower plant. Sunflower oil is high in vitamin E and contains polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Sunflower oil has a very high smoking point, which means it retains its nutrients at high temperatures. This makes sunflower oil one of the best oils for deep frying. Remember to limit heat exposure, especially for potato products, to reduce the accumulation of harmful chemicals in the food. Sunflower oil can lead to increased sugar levels and should be used sparingly by diabetics.
Coconut oil is extracted from coconuts and is high in saturated fats. Coconut oil has a high smoking level and is good for low heat stir fries as well. While coconut oil does improve HDL (good cholesterol) levels, it has also been shown to raise LDL (bad cholesterol) as well. Use coconut oil sparingly, especially if you have cholesterol problems or heart disease.
Peanut oil (also called groundnut oil) contains monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are the good fats needed by the body, but do contain some saturated fats at low levels. Peanut oil is used in various types of cooking, and the flavors work especially well with Asian dishes. This is one of the best oils for cooking, especially if you enjoy a nutty flavor.
While mustard oil is a good cooking oil due to its balance of good fats with minimal bad fats, it does, however, contain levels of erucic acid of 35% to 48% so it is not recommended for everyday use. You can mix mustard oil with other oils or use or only occasionally when cooking.
Another vegetable oil that has become very popular, canola oil is made from canola plant seeds and is one of the healthiest cooking oils. Canola oil has a very low level of saturated fats, while containing high levels of monounsaturated fats. Canola oil also contains Omega-3s, an essential nutrient. Canola oil has a medium smoking point and is the best oil for cooking foods at medium heats. Canola is great for sauteing and baking.
Grape seeds are pressed to create grapeseed oil after the winemaking process. Low in saturated fats and full of good fats, grape seed oil is one of the best oils for roasting, sauteing or even as a salad dressing. It does not have much taste, so can be blended with most foods and even other oils. Grape-seed oil must be stored in the refrigerator to prevent it from going rancid.
Another well-known oil made from olives, olive oil is full of monounsaturated fats which are good for your heart health. Olive oil is the best cooking oil for a quick fry up at low temperatures but is best used without added heat. Use olive oil in risottos, salads, and pasta as-is for a healthy addition to your meal. You can also use olive oil when baking or making foods such as pancakes. Extra virgin olive oil is a good choice for cold dishes to fully benefit from the antioxidants and polyphenols found in this oil.
Rice Bran Oil
A newer oil which is made from the outer layer of rice is high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. It also contains gamma oryzanol, which may reduce bad cholesterol. Rice bran is a good choice for baking and making curries and stews.
Full of the good fats, as well as Vitamin E, avocado oil is one of the most versatile cooking oils. Avocado oil is great for grilling and can also be blended with other oils for frying and baking. Avocado oil is especially good in salad dressing and mayonnaise. Avocado oil also needs to be refrigerated to prevent it from going bad.
Sesame oil made from untoasted seeds has a very mild flavor and can be used for frying, baking, roasting and more. Dark sesame oil is a lot more nutty tasting and works best in marinades, Asian food, and stir fries. Although this oil has a high smoking point, it should not be heated for extended periods, as it loses its nutrient value. Sesame oil also offers vitamin B6, copper, iron, magnesium, and calcium.
While there is perhaps no one specific best oil for cooking, it is actually recommended that you use various oils when cooking. This means that your body benefits from the varied fats, vitamins, and minerals found in a diverse range of cooking oils. No one oil has all the fatty acids, so it is useful to use a few different oils, or make your own blend of oils to get as much benefit from your cooking oils as possible. But remember to use cooking oils in moderation and avoid deep-frying, for optimum health.