Cooking Oils: 9 Popular Oils Compared

The world we now live in provides us with plenty of choices and that also applies to the types of cooking oils we can buy and use. Some, like vegetable oil, we are more familiar with and others, like avocado or canola oil, maybe less. A question most of us may be thinking then, is which oil is actually better to use? Read on for Cooking Oils: 9 Popular Oils Compared!

In order to determine which is the most suitable oil to use, we need to think about several factors, such as the fat type of the oil, health effects, smoke point (when the oil starts to burn and smoke) and how you are planning to use it: for frying, low-heat cooking or drizzling? Once it is past the point, not only is the flavour is altered, but also the molecules in the oil denature and change, releasing free radicals which are harmful.

Contrary to the public view that fat is not needed for a healthy diet, there’s research showing that use of higher-fat diets can reduce cardiovascular risk and lower cholesterol. However, this is only possible if the “right” type of fat is consumed which is made up of different types of fatty acids (FA).

The three main categories of FA are Saturated FA (SFA), Monounsaturated FA (MUFA) or Polyunsaturated FA (PUFA) which are determined by their chemical structure. Structural differences in PUFA further decide if it is omega-3 or omega-6.

Table Comparing Various Types of Cooking Oils

Oil Type of Fatty Acids Suitable Usage Smoke Point Nutrition information
Olive MUFA and some PUFA Low and medium-heat cooking, dressing 193°C Contain vitamin E and K, antioxidants (11% PUFA)
Avocado MUFA and some PUFA Stir-fry, high-heat cooking 250°C Source of lutein (antioxidant for eyes) (13% PUFA)
Sunflower PUFA (mostly omega-6) Medium and high-heat cooking 227°C High in vitamin E. Lots of omega 6
Canola (rapeseed) MUFA and some PUFA Stir-fry, high-heat cooking 238°C Similar benefits as olive oil but can be less due to processing
Palm SFA and MUFA High-heat cooking 235°C 50% SFA
Coconut SFA Medium-heat cooking 175°C More saturated fat than the same amount of butter or lard (85% SFA)
Sesame Both MUFA and PUFA High-heat cooking 232°C 42% PUFA
Vegetable Mix of random oils so vary depending on manufacturer High-heat cooking 232°C Mix of different types of oil so unable to determine.
Flaxseed PUFA and some MUFA Dressing 107°C High in omega-3 (68% PUFA)

SFA is associated with bad health because too much of it can lead to an increase of cholesterol (specifically “bad” low-density lipoprotein cholesterol) in your blood which can increase risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Contrarily, unsaturated fatty acids can help to lower the “bad” cholesterol and maintain the “good” HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. PUFA in addition are essential fats, they can’t be made by the body thus have to be provided by the diet.

They are required for regulation of inflammation, immunity, blood vessel health and more. So select oils that have a higher percentage of unsaturated fat with a smoke point that is suitable for your purpose of use.

With all that said, a total removal of fat in our diet, however, is not recommended. They have important structural and functional properties within our bodies, for example providing insulation and protection of the organs, and being carriers of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, K in the circulation.

Therefore, the best way to manage a healthy diet is to have moderation in everything. Also remember that the recommended intake of total fat should not exceed 35% of the calories, or energy, you consume each day. Which cooking oils do you find the be the healthiest and do you most ‘savour the flavour’ of? Let us know in the comments below or join in the conversation on FacebookTwitter Instagram!

Maria Hii

Maria is a Nutrition and Food Science graduate who is passionate about sharing nutrition and health knowledge to help others make proper, informed diet choices. After learning about the science behind nutrition, she came to the conclusion that “moderation in everything” is the ideal way to approach health. In her spare time she loves exploring new food places, reviewing them on Instagram, and travelling!

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