The Skinny on Healthy Cooking Oils

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Filed Under: General Health, Diet
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

The Skinny on Healthy Cooking Oils

Eating healthfully is one of the best things you can do if you want to live a long and vibrant life. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to know what that means.

Take cooking oils, for example. 

I can’t tell you how much confusion there is on this subject, and for good reason. Supermarkets are stocked with dozens of choices, and choosing the best oil depends on how you intend to use it. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Some oils, for example, are best for dressing your salads while others are better for cooking at high temperatures.

As a general rule, here are the types of oils best suited for different uses:

  • For salad dressing, choose olive or flaxseed oil. Studies show that olive oil helps reduce cholesterol, so you’ll be supporting your heart health by adding it to meals. For best quality, select an olive oil that’s certified organic extra virgin. Another option for salads is flaxseed oil. It is an omega-3 oil and a super-unsaturated fat that has a tendency to become rancid, though, so be sure to use flaxseed oil within three months.
  • For baking, go with canola oil. Canola oil is another omega-3 oil. It can lower “bad” LDL cholesterol levels without affecting “good” HDL cholesterol levels. Because canola oil has no taste, it won’t change the taste of foods that you bake. To ensure that you are cooking with the best quality canola oil, purchase unrefined, organic oil.
  • For light frying, use butter. You may be checking to see if you read that right, and you can be assured you did. If you insist on frying foods (regardless of how bad it is for you), then it’s best to cook with a small amount of butter. Because butter is a saturated fat, it is less affected by heat, air, and light and therefore doesn’t break down and become toxic at high temperatures as quickly as other oils.
  • For deep-fry die-hards, opt for canola oil or high-oleic safflower oil. Adding onions and garlic cloves to the oil as it heats will slow the breakdown of the oil.

Here’s to a healthy and great-tasting year!

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