Battle Of The Oils: Which Should You Actually Be Using?

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This post is from our contributor FP Naomi.

By now we all know that staying away from oils such as corn and vegetable is a good idea for our health. The problem is, there are so many other options that it’s hard to pick. There are, however, several reasons to choose certain oils over others, and also different uses for each.

To start, you always want to pick an oil that is cold pressed or expeller pressed. There are several ways to extract oil, but both of these ways are all natural and do not involve chemicals. Second, you want an oil that is high in monounsaturated fats and low in saturated or polyunsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats are not horrible for you, but they tend to contain more omega-6 fatty acids (which we get plenty of from other sources) and tend to oxidize in the system, making them harder on our digestive tract and immune system. Monounsaturated fats are rich in antioxidants, contain more omega-3 fatty acids, and help to lower LDL (bad cholesterol) while increasing HDL (good cholesterol). Beyond these first guidelines, the oil we choose is really based upon purpose. For cooking and high heat situations, we want an oil with a higher smoke point, while for no heat situations, such as salad dressings and marinades, we can use a lower smoke point oil.

Now that you get the basic parameters, here are some of today’s most popular oils, and how they stack up.

oil benefits

COCONUT OIL

Fats: Unfortunately, coconut oil is EXTREMELY high in saturated fats. It has even more saturated fat than butter. Typically, this is a bad sign, but there is a strange phenomenon with coconut oil. Several different types of saturated fat exist, and the kind mostly found in coconut oil happens to increase HDL (good cholesterol). Typically saturated fat increases LDL, so coconut oil falls as a slight exception.

Antioxidants: Coconut oil is rich in antioxidants, and also contains Lauric acid. Once in the body, Lauric acid converts to Monolaurin, and has been shown to boost the immune system.

Uses: High heat cooking, baking, and personal care.

The Verdict: Coconut oil is probably best when used sparingly. While it increases HDL, so do many other oils that aren’t high in saturated fats as well. Perhaps we should save the coconut oil for our occasional baking adventures and moisturizing needs instead of everyday cooking use.

oil benefits

PEANUT OIL

Fats: Peanut oil is high in monounsaturated fats, but it also has about 30% polyunsaturated fats and 20% saturated.

Antioxidants: Peanut oil is rich in the antioxidants resveratrol and vitamin E. Resveratrol has been shown to reduce the risks of cancers, heart disease, degenerative nerve disease, Alzheimer’s, and viral/fungal infections. Vitamin E combats free radicals, holds cell membranes together, and is very good for the skin.

Uses: Peanut oil has a high smoke point making it good for sautéing and frying. The flavor is very strong, and is the main reason to use peanut oil. I find it to be best used in Asian dishes.

The Verdict: Peanut oil is best for high heat cooking. If you like to make Asian food, you probably want this guy around; however, despite containing the good monounsaturated fats, you probably don’t want to use it all the time seeing as it does contain saturated fats.

oil benefits

SUNFLOWER OIL

Fats: At 80%, sunflower seed oil is mostly monounsaturated fats. The remaining 20% is polyunsaturated.

Antioxidants: Sunflower oil is very high in vitamin E, which as we just discussed is great for cell membranes, removing free radicals, and keeping the skin healthy. In sunflower seed oil, the vitamin E has also shown to help with rheumatoid arthritis.

Uses: Sunflower seed oil has a high smoking point and is best used for sautéing or frying.

The Verdict: Sunflower seed oil is a great pick. If you’re looking to give your skin a boost, think about incorporating more it into your diet.

oil benefits

OLIVE OIL

Fats: Olive oil comes in several different forms. Extra virgin is made up of 100% monounsaturated fats, while virgin olive oil contains a bit less, and light olive oil even more so. Nonetheless, all three types are very high in monounsaturated fats, and generally lead the pack.

Antioxidants: Olive oil contains the phytonutrient Oleocanthal, which helps to reduce inflammation in the body. It is also high in vitamin E, has been show to reduce risk of rheumatoid arthritis, and can prevent or sooth osteoporosis.

Uses: Extra virgin olive oil has a very low smoking point, and should not be used in any kind of cooking. This is your salad dressing olive oil, and it also goes nicely drizzled over a freshly made plate. Virgin olive oil has a slightly higher smoking point, but still should not be used for anything more than sautéing. Light olive oil is the one with the highest smoking point, and works well for frying/high heat cooking.

The Verdict: Olive oil is where it’s at. Keep this around for your salad dressings, and never feel bad about using it in your meal.

oil benefits

CANOLA OIL

Fats: Olive and sunflower oil beat out canola oil in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, but it comes in close behind.

Antioxidants: Canola oil delivers a good dose of vitamin E

Uses: With its neutral taste and high smoking point, canola oil works well in dressings and marinades, as well as in high heat cooking situations. For bakers, canola oil can be a butter, and can be used to grease pans.

The Verdict: Canola oil is a great all around oil. You definitely want to have this guy on hand for general use.

Thanks for reading, everyone! What’s your favorite oil?

Visit Naomi’s blog Numie Abbot.

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Comments

Lucille -December 27, 2013, 8:50AM

Safflower?

LamentingLizzie -December 27, 2013, 9:06AM

I thought canola does not exist in nature? I don’t use it at all for this very reason. I do enjoy some good olive, coconut, and sunflower oil though. I have also found almond oil to be a tasty substitute for vegetable or canola.

Juliette Laura -December 27, 2013, 9:25AM

SUCH a helpful article. Seriously helps make sense of the oils. Although, my family cooks with olive oil all the time!

xo, Juliette Laura
http://juliettelaura.blogspot.com

Emily Chick -December 27, 2013, 10:17AM

Do you have any information on grape seed oil? My boyfriend uses it all the time!

Naomi -December 27, 2013, 10:30AM

Hey guys, thanks for all the good questions! To answer a few:

- Canola oil is made from rapeseed which is a relative of mustard, cabbage, and turnips. It is commonly heavily sprayed with pesticides or genetically modified, so be sure to look for the organic, expeller-pressed kind.
- Grapeseed oil is also a great option. It’s high in both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, while low in saturated. It has a high smoke point, so it’s a good one for high heat cooking. Tell your boyfriend to keep on using it. :)

Lilus -December 27, 2013, 5:15PM

Yes, “canola” comes from “canadian oil” ;)

Alyssa -December 27, 2013, 7:22PM

I can’t believe canola oil is mentioned. Not very cohesive with being health conscious but oh well. You should have mentioned sesame oil or ghee!

Mei -December 27, 2013, 7:23PM

What about sesame oil?

cheyenne -December 27, 2013, 9:07PM

Not to mention that coconut oil is great as a sexytime lube!

Dannielle -December 27, 2013, 10:06PM

This was very helpful. Would really appreciate it if you could follow up with a similar post on the various milks we’re told to use instead of dairy – coconut, almond, rice etc.

Gita -December 28, 2013, 7:01AM

My favorite is still the coconut oil, I’d use it a lot. Apart from olive oil, of course.
Really helpful post, thanks :)!

xx
http://gita-oddsandends.blogspot.com/

Jessi Larson -December 28, 2013, 9:48PM

Thanks for the information. I have never compared them before. I only use olive oils, grape seed oil for cooking. I haven’t used coconut oil in any of my cooking yet I mainly use it for a moisturizer.

http://onsradesigns.com

J -December 28, 2013, 10:01PM

These photos are so on point.

Naomi -December 29, 2013, 1:20PM

Mei – Sesame oil is higher in polyunsaturated fats. It’s much like peanut oil, in that you should really just use it for the flavor. I happen to love the taste, it’s another good one for stirfry and Asian dishes. I’ve also heard that sesame oil oxidizes in the body, and is a bit harsher on digestion. If you’re trying to boost the immune system or looking to cleanse, avoid sesame oil for this reason.

Angela -December 29, 2013, 2:22PM

Wow why a helpful article !!!! Absolutely helpful please do more like this ! Props to the writer for being so knowledgable !

Natalie -December 29, 2013, 11:37PM

This is an extremely helpful article… thank you so much for posting this! I always wondered about the different types of oils. The author is very knowledgable!
xoxo
Halfway to Harmony

jessi -January 1, 2014, 2:22PM

why isn’t there anything on olive oil? that’s my go to oil and it would be nice to see some information on it!

Elizabeth -January 2, 2014, 10:53AM

Great article! It is really helpful to know which kind of olive oil to use for what. I knew that it wasn’t the best for cooking with, but didn’t know that light olive oil can stand up to more heat and that evoo should never be used with heat.

I love using oils in personal care! Lately I’ve been using coconut oil as a hair mask (my hair feels great afterwards!), olive oil as a body moisturizer when I am feeling particularly dried out from these cold winter days, and sweet almond and jojoba oil for a facial oil cleanse. The almond and jojoba oil cleanse I’ve had mixed results with, I still have just as many outbreaks as I did when using store bought facial cleansers, but it isn’t any worse since switching over (I’ve been using the oil cleanse for a few months now), however my skin isn’t as dry as when I used the store bought cleansers and I don’t have to put any weird chemicals on my skin so I’ve stuck with it. Recently I heard about an oil cleansing method with evoo and castor oil, so I’m thinking that could be interesting to check out and see if I get different results.

An additional thought for the article that I had was perhaps advising people to look for non-GMO canola oil. According to nongmoproject.org “Approximately 90% of the canola in the United States is GMO, so if you choose to use canola oil make sure you buy a Non-GMO Project Verified product.”, which I think is pretty good advice knowing what we do about GMO these days.

michiko -January 7, 2014, 11:45AM

I am using olive oil for as a makeup remover. It works and keep my skin moist and makes me feel back to natural but just need to double wash after wiped down oil.

Amy -January 8, 2014, 9:59PM

Where’s Avocado Oil? Higher in Mono unsaturated fats than Olive Oil, Shown to raise your HDL’s, higher smoke point than most oils 480-500F, and PACKED with antioxidants.

Lisa Barnes -January 19, 2014, 8:58AM

I think it is important to point out the fact that we should also be consuming unrefined oils. Most of what you pictured are refined versions of these oils, which leave them damaged and devoid of most of their nutritional properties. The refining process yields more stable shelf lives and higher smoke points, by removing the volatile (and nutritious) parts of the oil. You can test this out by simply smelling refined vs. unrefined versions of the same oil- you will notice that the refined version lacks all of the aromas and flavors that the unrefined version naturally holds.

Rams -February 24, 2014, 11:27AM

What about grape-seed oil?
I use EVOO for literally everything but have really been wanting to get into coconut oil. I think its the one I’ll try next.

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