What are the Healthiest Oils to Use?

Oil can be a very healthy part of your diet if you use the right oil and use it in moderation. Healthy fats can be good for your heart and brain as well as keep you full to help reduce cravings and overeating.

The most common types of oils include olive oil which is made from pressing olives, coconut oil which is pressed from the kernel of a coconut, and vegetable oils like canola and sunflower oil which are extracted from the seeds of plants.

We have had a look into what the latest evidence says the healthiest oil is.

What oil is the healthiest?

Extra Virgin Olive Oil has shown to be the stand out oil in terms of nutritional value and health benefits as it provides us with heart healthy fats and antioxidants.

Extra virgin olive oil has undergone no processing, it is just the juice squeezed directly out of the olive. It is a staple in the ‘Mediterranean diet’, which is a healthy eating pattern that many communities within the Mediterranean follow. The people in these communities are amongst the healthiest people in the world, with the lowest rates of obesity, diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

You will get the most nutritional value from extra virgin olive oil when it is unheated – extra virgin olive oil is raw and unheated. We recommend incorporating a tiny bit of raw extra virgin olive oil on your salads or veggies to see the health benefits.

What about vegetable and coconut oils?

Although vegetable oils are low in saturated fat and high in some healthier fats like polyunsaturated fat, it has undergone quite a bit of processing using chemicals and heat which turn them into a shelf stable oil. As a rule of thumb, it’s always best to go with unprocessed/unrefined whole foods as much as you can.

Coconut oil is good in the fact that it hasn’t undergone a lot of processing, it has come directly from the coconut flesh, however, it is very high in saturated fat so it should be used sparingly.

How much oil can I have?

Moderation is the key with all oils (including healthy oils) because of their high fat content, meaning that they are high in calories. One serving size of oil is about 1/2 teaspoon so it’s best to use sparingly when cooking or served on salads. You don’t need much to reap its health benefits.

What oil is best for cooking?

The smoke point is usually the indicator of what makes the best oil for cooking at high temperatures. The smoke point is when the oil is heated high enough that it starts to break down causing smoke and loss of both its health benefits and quality.

Vegetable oil has the highest smoke point, however recent evidence is suggesting that it’s the stability of the compounds within the oil when heated rather than the smoke point that determines the healthiest oil to cook with. Extra virgin olive oil has shown to be the most stable and retain the most antioxidants when heated at a high temperature.

So far evidence suggests both vegetable oil and olive oil are okay to cook with but remember to always use them sparingly. Because of coconut oil‘s high saturated fat content, it is not recommended to use this too often when cooking. Additionally, coconut oil has a very distinct flavour which may not always complement the meal you are cooking.

As for salad dressings, extra virgin olive oil is the winner as it not only has a subtle flavour but it has lots of antioxidants and health benefits.

Are there any other oils I should be considering?

Unrefined and cold-pressed avocado oil and nut oils like walnut or macadamia also contain healthy fats and antioxidants. However, these can sometimes have a stronger flavour be more expensive so if in doubt go for extra virgin olive oil!

Is it important to consume a variety of different oils?

It is important to consume a variety of healthy fats in your diet. So make sure you include other sources of healthy fats alongside oil such as nuts, seeds and fatty fish like salmon and tuna.

Take home message

Opt mainly for extra virgin olive oil! This oil has the most evidence around it’s health benefits so try and drizzle some into your diet!

Need to make some more healthy eating changes?

Download our Love Your Legumes recipe e-book. We make healthy versions of your favourite meals and boost their nutritional value by adding in legumes. Start feeling healthier now!

Love Your Legumes Recipe e-book

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