It can be overwhelming walking down the aisle of oils at the grocery store and trying to pick out the one that’s best for you and your cooking style.
Using oil instead of butter in your cooking can help to cut down the amount of saturated fat in your diet. Saturated fat contributes to plaque that clogs arteries, leading to possible heart issues.
Angelea Bruce, registered dietitian at Sharp Memorial Laurel Amtower Cancer Institute and Neuro-Oncology Center, shares her top four must-have cooking oils to keep in your pantry.
1. Extra-virgin olive oil
Used for sautéing, salad dressings and finishing oil.
“The smoking point of olive oil is low so it is best used without heat in things like salad dressings,” says Bruce who loves to try olive oils infused with garlic or herbs for extra flavor.
Extra-virgin olive oil — also known as EVOO — is a great source of monounsaturated fats and a good source of antioxidants called polyphenols that have been linked to heart health.
2. Canola oil
Used for sautéing, roasting, baking and salad dressings.
With a neutral flavor, long shelf life and high smoke point, this oil is a necessary staple in any kitchen.
“It is low in saturated fat, and high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, like omega-3 fatty acids, which are important in your diet,” says Bruce.
3. Peanut oil
Used for roasting, sautéing and frying.
This oil lends itself to higher heats with a smoking point of 450 degrees.
“In moderation, peanut oil has heart-healthy phytosterols — essential plant fats known to lower cholesterol and support heart health,” adds Bruce.
4. Sesame oil
Used for stir-fries, salad dressings and finishing oil.
With a rich, nutty flavor, this oil is perfect to infuse vegetables. Bruce suggests using 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of sesame oil when stir-frying for two depending on taste and preference.
“Sesame is another oil that is good for heart health, due to its cancer-fighting and anti-inflammatory compounds,” says Bruce.
In addition to her top four oils, Bruce likes to keep other oils on hand, like avocado and coconut, for variety.
Used for grilling, pan roasting, salad dressings and finishing oil.
“This neutral-flavored oil is underrated and holds the highest smoke point at 510 degrees, making it a great alternative to peanut or canola oil,” says Bruce.
It has many of the same heart-healthy antioxidants and healthy fats as olive oil, and is also a good source of vitamin E.
Used for sautéing, baking and roasting.
Do not be thrown off by its appearance: coconut oil is a white, cream-like mixture that melts into a cloudy oil when it’s heated above 75 degrees Fahrenheit. “This oil has one of the longest shelf lives, but does not have the versatility of the other cooking oils when it comes to using in colder dishes or as finishing oil,” states Bruce.
“While coconut oil is mostly saturated fats, in moderation, it may improve blood cholesterol levels if substituted for other saturated fats like butter or lard.” says Bruce.
“Make sure that whatever oil you choose, it is 100 percent pure, extra virgin olive oil, or not mixed with other oils that will compromise the taste and nutrition,” says Bruce.
Whichever oils you choose to invest in, make sure to alternate and compliment your ingredients, flavors and cooking methods accordingly.
This article has been updated on February 1, 2017.