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How Do I Choose the Healthiest Oil?

Peanut oil.
Sprig of rapeseed, which is used to make canola oil.
Oil from the safflower plant is often considered one of the healthiest oils.
A bottle of safflower oil.
Cooking oils.
Article Details
  • Written By: A.E. Freeman
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 29 June 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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Choosing the healthiest oil means picking a cooking oil that is low in so-called bad fats, such as saturated fat, and high in good fats, such as mono-unsaturated fat and poly-unsaturated fat. The healthiest oil tends to be extracted by a method called cold pressing rather than by chemical or high-heat methods. There are a variety of healthy oils made from the seeds of various plants. In the end, the healthiest oil for you may come down to a matter of taste and how you plan on using the oil.

Look at the types of fat listed on the nutrition label when looking for a healthy oil. Ideally, the oil will not have any saturated fat. If it does contain saturated fat, the total content will be 20 percent or less of all the fat in the oil.

The healthiest oil will have plenty of mono-unsaturated fat. Mono-unsaturated fat can lower your LDL cholesterol levels and increase your HDL cholesterol levels, which reduces your risk for heart problems and disease. This type of fat is also usually a good source of fatty acids such as omega-3s.

Some healthy oils also contain poly-unsaturated fat. While poly-unsaturated fat is not as heart-unhealthy as saturated or trans fat, you should choose an oil that does not contain a great amount of it. Soybean and corn oil usually have a lot of poly-unsaturated fats and are generally not the healthiest oil choices.

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When looking for oils, try to find out the method used to produce the oil. Cold-pressing is typically considered the healthiest method, as the seeds or fruit are not exposed to chemicals or high heat. The oil retains the most nutritional value if cold-pressed.

Olive oil, canola or rapeseed oil, and safflower oil are generally among the healthiest types of oil. Extra virgin olive oil may be the healthiest oil but has limited applications. It cannot withstand high temperatures, so it should not be used for frying or cooking.

High oleic oils, such as safflower or sunflower oil, are also very healthy and suitable for frying and cooking. The oils are neutral in flavor and won't change the taste of the food you are cooking. Both of these oils have a high smoke point, which means they can withstand the hot temperatures of the stove without burning or releasing free radicals.

Canola is another oil high in mono-unsaturated fats that can withstand high temperatures. The plant canola oil comes from may be genetically modified or contain a lot of pesticides. If that is a concern for you, choose a different oil or look for an organic version.

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