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Sharp Health News

Choosing the right cooking oil

Aug. 31, 2016

Choosing the right cooking oil

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.

More options 
In addition to her top four oils, Bruce likes to keep other oils on hand, like avocado oil, for variety.

Avocado oil 
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.

Coconut oil 
Used for sautéing, baking and roasting.

While coconut oil is high in antioxidants, it's also high in saturated fat, which can raise your LDL or "bad" cholesterol. The American Heart Association counseled against using coconut oil in a 2017 report.

“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 was updated in June 2017.

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