healthiest type of oilExtra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) was all the health rage for several years, but now it seems that dozens of types of oils are popping up on Instagram and in recipes.  Are you overwhelmed by all of the types of oils?  Just want to know what the healthiest type of oil is?  Learn about smoke points, read through the benefits and drawbacks of each oil, and then discover my recommendation for the two best types of oils to keep on hand!

What is a smoke point?

To understand why different oils are healthier for different reasons, you need to understand what a smoke point is.  Simply, it’s the temperature at which an oil begins to smoke as it is heated.  But doing so has health complications – when an oil is heated past its smoke point, many of the healthy nutrients are destroyed (so you’re still getting the calories, without any nutritional benefit).  The oil can also oxidize, creating harmful free radicals, which are tied to long-term health complications and chronic diseases over time.

So, we only want to use an oil at a temperature under its smoke point.  If you’re consuming an oil at room temperature (or chilled), any oil is just fine.  But if you’re cooking, you’ll want to use an oil that has a smoke point under the temperature at which you’re cooking.  Usually, for stove-top pan-frying, this is around 300 degrees Fahrenheit, and for ovens, this is around 400 degrees Fahrenheit (depending on the temperature at which you set your stove).healthiest type of oil

What are the benefits of each oil type?

Oil TypeSmoke Point (in °F)BenefitsDrawbacks
Avocado Oil570
  • Has components that help prevent diabetes, high cholesterol, high triglycerides
  • Has properties that can lower blood pressure and improve arthritis symptoms
  • Neutral Taste
  • More expensive than olive oil
Extra Virgin Olive Oil320-370
  • Tastes great
  • Made without any heat or chemicals
  • Has properties that can benefit heart, brain, and skin health
  • Oxidizes quickly at high heat, so should not be used for high heat cooking
“Regular” or “Extra Light” Olive Oil390-470
  • Higher smoke point than extra virgin olive oil, so can be used in pan-frying without harm
  • Very difficult to control quality; is often a mix of chemically processed and low-quality oils
Coconut OilVirgin: 350
Refined: 400
  • High concentration of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) that are good for your metabolism and brain health and are less likely to be stored as body fat
  • More difficult to “work with” (e.g. when coating veggies to roast)
  • The virgin variety doesn’t have as a high a smoke point as most people think; the refined often has chemical additives or is of poor qualilty
Ghee485
  • Although it is made from butter, the majority of the lactose, whey, and casein (inflammatory components in dairy) have been removed
  • Gives a rich, buttery flavor
  • More difficult to “work with” (e.g. when coating veggies to roast)
Vegetable Oil320-450
  • Neutral flavor
  • This one sounds healthy, but is often a combination of low-qualilty canola, sunflower, or other plant-based oils
  • The partial hydrogenation and high heat used to process it make the omega-3s go rancid and can lead to health complications
Canola Oil (also called rapeseed oil)400
  • Rich in omega-3s
  • 90% is genetically modified
  • The partial hydrogenation and high heat used to process it make the omega-3s go rancid and can lead to health complications
Grapeseed Oil392
  • Usually non-hydrogenated
  • Has benefits for hair and skin
  • Neutral flavor
  • Very high in omega-6 fatty acids, which most Americans get too much of anyway and can lead to inflammation build-up
Sunflower or Safflower OilUnrefined: 320
Refined: 450
  • Light, neutral flavor
  • High in Vitamin E
  • When found in products, is often partially hydrogenated and heat processed, which can lead to oxidation

Which is the healthiest type of oil?

Overall, I recommend keeping one oil (I suggest extra virgin olive oil) on hand for drizzling on salads, making dressings, and using in any other raw or low-heat preparation.  I also recommend keeping another oil (I suggest avocado oil or ghee) for high heat cooking, stir-frying, and baking.  If you do a lot of roasting (here’s my method for roasting vegetables!), I also suggest a high-heat, preservative- and chemical-free cooking spray (I like this avocado oil spray).  With those 2-3 options on hand, you’re covered!

By the way, you may have noticed that most of my product recommendations link to brands that come in darker-colored bottles.  This helps prevent the oil from oxidizing when exposed to sunlight in your kitchen or heat from your oven.  I do suggest keeping your oil in the pantry or a cabinet that is not right above the stove, to keep it away from as much light and heat as possible!healthiest type of oil

If you love learning about nutrition…  join my free webinar on April 26th!  I’ll be describing each of the most popular diet trends (Paleo, Keto, Whole30, etc.), along with the benefits and drawbacks of each.  And you’ll leave understanding which diet approach is best.  Register free at bit.ly/whattoeatwebinar!

Now it’s your turn … Which oil is your favorite to keep on hand?  How many types of oils do you have in your pantry?

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1 Comment

  1. Victoria on April 17, 2018 at 8:05 am

    My whole life I’ve used extra-virgin olive oil for everything except a few baking recipes for which I use canola oil. But thanks to Megan I have replaced almost all canola oil with coconut oil. I love popcorn popped in coconut oil! Usually Once I’ve cooked a stirfry, I drizzle sesame seed oil over it for flavor. I’m excited to try avocado oil.

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