There’s no shortage of options when it comes to cooking oils, and it’s difficult to pinpoint which ones you should be using in your kitchen. While there isn’t a single oil that is superior above the rest, there are a few top choices that can up-level your cooking game – both in terms of health and taste. These are some of the best healthy cooking oils you should add to your pantry, as well as their benefits and best uses.
Refined Avocado Oil
Avocado isn’t just for salads or toast. This healthy cooking oil, which is extracted from the pulp of the fruit, is good for the heart, as it is packed with oleic acid (omega-9). Oleic acid is a monounsaturated fatty acid that has been found in studies to reduce blood pressure. Additionally, some animal studies have shown that it may increase HDL (high-density lipoproteins, the good cholesterol) and reduce LDL (low-density lipoproteins, the bad cholesterol).
Aside from the health benefits, avocado oil has a smoke point of 520 degrees Fahrenheit), which is the highest of any other plant oil. The high smoke point makes it particularly useful for pan-frying. This oil has a mild flavor, so it’s a versatile pantry essential to have on hand.
Hemp Seed Oil
This versatile oil, which is derived from the seeds of the cannabis sativa plant, is used in both the beauty and cooking world. As a healthy cooking oil, it is rich in fatty acids (including linoleic, alpha-linoleic, and oleic acids) and other beneficial compounds. A recent animal study found that the oil can protect the brain against inflammation, thanks to the fatty acids and polyphenols. Additionally, a recent review of studies found that alpha-linolenic acid may minimize cardiovascular disease risks.
Hemp seed oil has a lower smoke point (332 degrees Fahrenheit), so it is not suitable for high heat. The light, slightly nutty flavor makes it the perfect oil for salad dressings, homemade sauces or dips (like pesto or hummus), or to drizzle on top of savory dishes.
This healthy cooking oil delivers benefits with a burst of flavor. Sesame oil is cold-pressed (not chemically processed), and it is full of monounsaturated fats, including heart-healthy omega-6.
A little bit of sesame oil goes a long way in terms of flavor. The higher smoke point smoke point (350 degrees Fahrenheit) makes it a great option for pan-frying or sautéing savory recipes that could use some sesame flavoring.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
There’s a good chance you already have a bottle of olive oil readily available – but make sure it’s extra virgin, which means it isn’t refined. Extra virgin olive oil is packed with monounsaturated fatty acids, as well as some polyunsaturated. Studies have shown that extra virgin olive oil can raise HDL cholesterol while reducing LDL cholesterol, making it a healthy cooking oil for the heart.
Olive oil has a lower smoke point (325-375 degrees Fahrenheit), so it is best suited for low heat cooking. It is also delicious used as a dip for bread, as a base for a salad dressing, or mixed into sauces. Refined Olive Oil can be used for higher temp cooking since it has a higher smoke point (465-degrees-Fahrenheit).