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 level of bad cholesterol in your diet. Bad cholesterol, or low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, contributes to plaque that clogs arteries, leading to possible heart issues.
Amy Ornelas, registered dietitian at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital, 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 thing to remember with olive oil is that the smoking point is low so it is best used without heat in things like salad dressings,” says Ornelas who loves to infuse her pure olive oil with lemon or rosemary for additional flavor.
Extra-virgin olive oil — also known as EVOO — is a great source of monounsaturated fats and is high in 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 Ornelas.
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, boost immunity, and promote skin and heart health,” adds Ornelas.
4. Sesame oil
Used for stir-fries, salad dressings and finishing oil.
With a rich, nutty flavor, this oil is perfect to infuse vegetables. Ornelas 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, has cancer-fighting components and holds an anti-inflammatory compound,” says Ornelas.
In addition to her top four oils, Ornelas likes to mix up her cupboard’s collection with other oils, 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 Ornelas.
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 Ornelas.
“While coconut oil is full of saturated fats, in moderation, it can improve blood cholesterol levels and is beneficial for skin health and inflammation,” says Ornelas.
Ornelas reminds you to look for oils that advertise 100 percent purity, organic or cold-pressed. “Make sure it is not diluted with additives or other oils that will compromise the taste and nutrition,” says Ornelas.
Whichever oils you choose to invest in, make sure to alternate and compliment your ingredients, flavors and cooking methods accordingly.