The healthiest oil to cook with is one that is composed primarily of monounsaturated fat. Processed oils containing a high degree saturated fats are considered the least healthy by most doctors, but saturated fats from natural sources can have some benefits.
Contrary to popular belief, fat is actually a valuable part of one’s diet, allowing people to absorb nutrients that require fat in order to metabolize in the body. One of the healthiest oils is canola oil. Another good choice, and actually a frequent one is peanut oil, which is also high in monounsaturated fat.
Most oils from nuts are considered fairly healthy, but one should be careful using oil derived especially from peanuts or walnuts as these are most frequently indicated in severe nut allergies. If one plans to use peanut oil on a dish served to guests, be sure to verify that no guest has a peanut allergy.
Olive oil is considered by some to be the healthiest oil because it provides a mix of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. It can also be obtained in very pure form, which most health experts recommend. When looking for choosing an oil, one should look for oils that are minimally processed. Frequently, the more processed the oil, the less healthy it is.
Olive oil works well is medium-high cooking temperatures, and is also a great flavor additive to savory dishes. It may not be equally favored in sweeter baked goods because its flavor is relatively strong. Canola oil may be the healthiest oil and best choice for baked, sweet goods because it has minimal flavor.
Sunflower and safflower oil are higher in polyunsaturated fats but also have omega-6 fatty acids, which most doctors now recommend. In some cases either of these choices might be best for cooking. Safflower oil also has a high content of Vitamin E, which may consider very healthy.
Most experts recommend using peanut oil for high temperature cooking, canola oil or olive oil for medium temperature cooking, and a variety of polyunsaturated oils for baked goods. In a way there is no “healthiest oil” since each oil can offer different benefits and one may be a better choice than another in a cooking process.
Oils that can definitely not be considered as the healthiest oil are those derived from synthetically saturated fats. These include partially hydrogenated oils like Crisco. They often come in a solid rather than liquid form.
Even the healthy oils can contain a lot of calories so moderation is key. In general, use non-stick pans and a canola or olive oil cooking spray, which adds very little oil to a dish. The healthiest oil used to deep-fry will still be highly caloric, and in general give one more oil than is needed. Instead of deep-frying, stir-frying, grilling or baking are better methods for preparing food, since oil requirements in such dishes are much lower.