People are increasingly realizing the importance of including healthy fats in their diet plans. This means learning to decipher the difference between the various types of fats including unsaturated, polyunsaturated, saturated, and trans fats.
Oils are typically used as a source of fat in cooking, but it’s important to understand the differences between the various oils; some offer health benefits while others are best avoided. We’ve put together a guide to different types of cooking oils and the nutritional value of each.
The following oils supply your body with healthy sources of fat and should be used regularly in your cooking.
Olive oil is one of the more popular oils and it gets a gold star as far as health is concerned. It’s a great source of essential fatty acids, and is a source of monounsaturated fat, making it a great choice for maintaining a healthy heart.
A higher intake of olive oil in your diet will also help to increase the level of antioxidants present in your system, helping to fight free radicals that can cause disease.
Best use: Olive oil has a low smoking (burning) point, so it’s best used in dishes that aren’t cooked, like salad dressing or drizzled over vegetables after they’ve been cooked.
Although coconut oil contains a high percentage of saturated fat, these fats are in the form of medium chain triglycerides, which are handled by the body differently than regular saturated fats. Your body will use them immediately for energy and they won’t pose the same health threat as typical saturated fats do.
Best use: Good for frying due to its high smoking point or eaten cold because of the unique flavor it offers.
Fish oil is a relatively healthy oil because it contains the omega-3 fatty acid precursors EPA and DHA, which work to reduce inflammation throughout the body.
Best use: Fish oil isn’t extracted and sold for cooking the way other oils on this list are; most people take fish oil supplements in capsule form, but you can also get fish oil when you eat fattier varieties of fish such as salmon or mackerel.
This particular oil is an extremely good source of essential fatty acids and has a 3:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 essential fatty acids, which is what the body needs for optimal functioning. This oil also helps with the treatment of eczema and is commonly found in facial products.
Best use: This oil is not good for frying, making it best consumed cold or in supplemental form.
Grape Seed Oil
Grape seed oil is a good source of essential fatty acids, with approximately 69% of the fat coming from omega-6 fats and 15% from omega-8 fatty acids. It does contain small amounts of saturated fat, but the benefits from this oil far outweigh the disadvantages. Grape seeds contain polyphenols (which are also found in red wine), which are a form of antioxidant.
Best use: Grape seed oil has among the highest smoking point of any cooking oil, so it’s great for preparing stir-fries and sautés.
Sunflower and Safflower Oil
Sunflower and safflower oils are a combination of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat and contain omega-6 fatty acids. Sunflower oil is also a rich source of vitamin E, so anyone looking to boost their intake will benefit from using this oil.
Best use: These oils have a lighter taste and are great for making stir-fries or salad dressings.
The following oils supply your body with less healthy sources of fat, including saturated and trans fatty acids. Make an effort to reduce or eliminate these oils from your diet whenever possible.
Primarily used for creating many of the processed foods on the market, palm oil is a reddish color due to its beta-carotene content. It is quite high in saturated fat so it’s best avoided.
Best use: Look for palm oil that maintains its reddish color, since that means it’s less processed and healthier to use (but still not ideal). Use it in the same way as any other cooking oil.
Partially Hydrogenated Canola Oil
Any time you see the words “partially hydrogenated canola oil” on an ingredient’s panel, avoid eating that food or product if you can. While canola oil is a good source of healthy fats, when it goes through the process of hydrogenation, it transforms into trans fats, which increase your risk of coronary heart disease. Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil is commonly found in commercially prepared snack foods as well as fast foods, fried foods and baked goods.
Best Use: None — these should be always avoided.
While cotton seed oil is made up of 50% omega-6 fatty acids, it contains virtually no omega-3 fatty acids, so the imbalance between these could lead to health problems if not carefully balanced with other sources of fats rich in omega-3. Furthermore, cottonseed oil also contains 24% saturated fat and is very frequently partially or fully hydrogenated, which is extremely bad for your health.
Best use: If you are going to consume cottonseed oil, you are best off using pure cottonseed oil to make a salad dressing.
Source: Shannon Clark, AskMen