When it comes to healthy foods, does it feel like one day you are being told one thing and the next day something else? Are you confused as to what you should eat to be your best? If this sounds familiar, you are not alone – news about foods seems to change almost daily. Such is the case with superfoods and even the foods which we use to prepare our meals.
This is where many of us find ourselves when it comes to cooking oils. Yes, they seem like something innocent enough and yet they are so very important. These are the very essence of what you are using to prepare, cook, and even enjoy your foods. These oils may be simply a method for which you cook your food in. Though in some instances, the right high-quality cooking oil may actually be a nice complement to your favorite dish. Something like a pure virgin olive oil may actually taste as good as it is in your preparation.
Breaking It Down and Why It Matters
The cooking oils you use matter greatly and you want to be certain that you select the right one. You want to be sure that you go with something that will benefit your health, rather than hurt it. With recent news focusing so much on saturated fats, unsaturated fats, and even trans fats, you quickly find that cooking oils matter greatly.
If you choose carefully, you may take in good fats and healthy nutrients. If you choose wrong though, you could be consuming empty calories that might actually harm your health. You always want to be careful about portion because after all, this is a complement or method of cooking. You should never overindulge, even with the healthiest oil. A little goes a long way where your health is concerned. You can get all of the benefits if you focus on portion control.
So, let’s take a look at the best and the worst cooking oils. Yes there are big differences here and reasons as to why some are good and some are bad. Understanding these differences can ensure that your cooking oils are an extension of your healthy eating and true well being. Oil can add calories and fat—and these can either be good or bad depending on how you choose.
#1 Best Oil—Olive Oil
There is no doubt about it, olive oil is one of the very best cooking oils out there. You want to be certain that you go for a pure extra virgin olive oil to get the most benefits out of it. You don’t want to go for a blend because then you don’t get all of the wonderful parts of olive oil.
One benefit is that olive oil is a good fat. It falls into this category because it is high in Omega 3 fatty acids. It can contribute to better heart health, lower cholesterol levels, and even help with weight loss. As if that’s not enough of a benefit, you can also get plenty of antioxidants with olive oil as well. These are important nutrients that go after and target any toxins or bad cells within the body. This can help you to prevent disease such as cancer in the long term.
If you are going to cook with an oil, then olive oil is the best choice. It has a delicious flavor which makes it a perfect salad dressing or dip for bread. There are so many different ways to use olive oil, and you only need a little bit to get everything you want out of it. This is a wise choice and a great way to benefit your health when you use an oil in cooking.
#2 Best Oil—Coconut
This is quite different than the other cooking oils out there. You typically get this in solid form, and that means you are dealing with a very concentrated substance. Coconut oil is another good fat, and though it has slightly less Omega 3 fatty acids, it’s still a reputable amount. You can use a little bit of it for when it is heated it adds flavor, texture, and cooks the food well. Many people turn to coconut oil as a beauty product too. It can help to moisturize the skin and hair, and therefore has an external application.
For the purposes of cooking oil though, it can help to lower elevated cholesterol levels. This is perhaps the most important benefit that you will find with coconut oil. Many would argue however that if you find an oil that has both internal and external purposes, it makes for an excellent choice. It’s a relatively newly discovered cooking oil with the mainstream. It can bump up the nutritional content though and ensure that your dishes are full of good fat, rather than empty calories and undesired fat.
#3 Best Oil—Sunflower Oil
You may not hear quite as much about this cooking oil, but it has a significant place on this list. First and foremost, strictly from the point of cooking, it has a high heating temperature. That means that though you may cook with it at higher temperatures, it still holds onto its makeup. You will still get the same nutritional benefits, even when you cook with it at a high temperature. What this particular cooking oil is known for is the high Vitamin E content. This matters greatly to healthy skin, nails, and hair, and it is therefore used in many cosmetic products.
The thought process here though is that you can still gain those same benefits from the Vitamin E by cooking with sunflower oil. Sunflower oil has a very subtle taste and it is versatile enough to use in many different dishes. It may not be as well known as other cooking oils, but it can help you to take in a very important nutrient. You can use it externally but as a cooking oil it’s very helpful too. It’s ideal if you are cooking something at a high temperature, particularly if you want it to be crispy. You can get that same texture and great taste without any unwanted fat, which makes it a great option.
#4 Best Oil—Flaxseed Oil
This is another one that may not be as well known, though the mainstream is starting to accept and understand the true benefits of alternative oils where good healthy fat is concerned. Flaxseed is another oil that has good fat content to it, and that makes it an important addition to the list. Just as you see with olive oil in particular, flaxseed oil has a good healthy concentration of Omega 3 fatty acids. That puts it in the good fat category and it can help with heart health and so much more.
There is more to this oil than just the good fat though, for it may help in other areas as well. Flaxseed oil may help with inflammation and is widely used by those with arthritis. That means that using just a bit of flaxseed oil may help to eliminate inflammation in the body. This is such an important benefit to this lesser known oil. It can be helpful to start cooking with this and olive oil in conjunction. You stand to gain some amazing health benefits, and you can enjoy a delicious light taste to your food in the process.
#1 Worst Oil—Palm Oil
You have probably eaten plenty of foods prepared with palm oil and never really realized it. The problem with this oil is that it is high in saturated fat. That is definitely not the good type of fat and it can lead to many health problems. If you are at risk of or suffer from heart disease or diabetes, then you definitely want to stay away from this oil. Though it may add flavor to your favorite processed or junk foods, it simply isn’t worth the risk. You are eating too much fat and too many calories, and you aren’t getting any nutrients out of it.
There is also the link between palm oil and trans fats which means that it isn’t being used in many restaurants. It is simply not worth the risk to your health or the unwanted fat and calories. You can find plenty of other cooking oils that taste good, cook your food well, and ultimately give you something back instead of hurt you. So if you are looking for oils to avoid, palm oil should be at the top of that list.
#2 Worst Oil—Partially Hydrogenated Types
You see this verbiage attached to several types of oils, and it is a danger. This is one of the worst types of oils because it is what trans fats are all about. These are the types of oils that have been banned to be used even in fat restaurants. They can lead to obesity, heart disease, and other such health conditions. In the here and now they may add taste or be easy enough to cook with, but they are not worth the risk.
When you look at it in a long term view, you have to wonder if there is any merit to cooking with these oils at all. They can harm your health, they can add undesired fat, empty calories, and they offer no nutrients. There’s a reason that these are being banned—trans fats are just that dangerous. So, if you are trying to use something that is heart-healthy and therefore good for you, stay away from this entire category of oils. They will give you nothing good and plenty of bad, and are therefore not worth the risk.
Summary: What Should You Do Now?
If you’re going to cook and focus on good healthy dishes, then the oil that you use does matter. You might not think that something like oil matters that much, but it can truly make or break your meal. You want to be sure to get oils that can benefit your health and not hurt it. You want to take in good fats and nutrients whenever possible. The right cooking oil can truly benefit you and act as a complement to good healthy food. Though this may take some getting used to, healthy cooking oils can make a huge difference in your overall eating plan.
Action Steps: Tips for Selecting The Right Cooking Oils
- Take a look at the type of cooking oils that you are currently using.
- Recognize which oils should go as they can hurt your health, and then get rid of them.
- Start to use healthier cooking oils and see how they can benefit you.
- Focus on portion control and ensure that you use these oils as a healthy complement.
- Seek out healthy recipes and dishes where you can use your best cooking oils.
Yes, it’s true that the right cooking oils really can make a big difference. If you are focused on healthy eating, then you want cooking oils that complement the best ingredients. You want to be sure that you are focused on the right amounts of the best oils out there. Take the time to read labels and be sure that you know exactly what you are getting—for you may find that there are hidden facts on cooking oils that you didn’t even know existed.
These oils represent some of the best and some of the worst so that you are informed and can choose wisely. Though the ingredients matter greatly too, these cooking oils can really make a difference in the overall health and nutrient content of your dishes. Choose wisely and you can take in some really great things, and now that you know you can help to protect your health with this one very important thin.
Megan is a freelance writer who loves to share recipes and write about women’s health and beauty.