Not all oils are created equal. Ever wondered which oils are the healthiest option and why? You might be surprised to know that the answer to that question sometimes depends on what you are doing with the oil, because some oils work better at higher temperatures, whilst others can become carcinogenic. Some oils provide specific nutritional benefits, whilst others are full of saturated or trans fats.
Here is a list of 11 of the more popular oils used in the average kitchen, and the different pros and cons of each:
- Pros - Contains approximately 75% monounsaturated fats, making it a healthy heart choice.
- Cons - Can only withstand moderate temperatures, of around 190c, potentially turning carcinogenic when overheated.
- Pros - Sunflower oil is rich in vitamin E and can withstand higher temperatures of around 240c.
- Cons - It is available in high oleic (the best variety), linoleic or partially hydrogenated varieties. The partially hydrogenated varieties may contain trans fats which are linked to increased inflammation, high cholesterol and can contribute to insulin resistance.
- Pros - A good source of omega 3 fatty acids, canola oil can withstand high temperatures of up to 250c.
- Cons - It is often made from genetically modified grains, and turns into trans fats when chemically altered to create margarine.
- Pros - Often one of the cheaper oils, vegetable oil can withstand high temperatures of about 240c.
- Cons - Made from a combination of vegetables/grains, vegetable oil can contain high amounts of soybean oil.
- Pros - Contains a high concentration of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), which means that though it is high in fat, the body is able to easily convert it into an immediate energy source. This means it is less likely to be stored as fat. It is also able to withstand fairly high temperatures (virgin coconut oil can withstand around 180c, whilst refined coconut oil can withstand around 210c) and is also fairly resistant to rancidity.
- Cons - About 86% of coconut oil is saturated fats. It has a strong coconut flavour, which I love, however it can really change the flavour of your dish, depending on what you are making.
- Pros - Believed to be beneficial in reducing blood pressure, therefore helpful in preventing heart disease.
- Cons - Walnut oil doesn’t react well to temperatures and should not be cooked with.
- Pros - Rich nutty flavour that really enhances Asian style dishes
- Cons - Does not withstand temperatures and therefore should be added as flavouring after a meal is cooked, or to salads.
- Pros - It is considered to be a fairly healthy oil, with 70% monounsaturated fats, 15% polyunsaturated and 15% saturated. It can also withstand high temperatures of up to 260c, depending on the brand.
- Cons - Not really much to say here except that it has a rich buttery flavour, which isn’t actually a bad thing, however, it might not be the ideal choice for all cooking.
- Pros - Rich in omega 3 fatty acids and essential nutrients, making it especially beneficial for vegans/vegetarians who do not eat fish.
- Cons - Should be stored in the fridge and away from sunlight to prevent oxidation. It does not withstand heat well and should not be cooked with.
- Pros - 83% unsaturated fats, very light in flavour.
- Cons - In its natural form it spoils easily when exposed to heat, air and light, therefore, is often heavily treated with chemicals to make it last longer. However, this increases the percentage of trans fats, which should be avoided.
Palm seed oil
- Pros - It has a long shelf life, because of its relatively high saturated fat content (about 52%)
- Cons - Contains about 86% saturated fats. The harvesting of palm trees has devastated the homes of many orangutans in Malaysia and Indonesia, putting the species at risk of extinction (which is why I opt to avoid this oil)