Recent reports on nutrition and healthy eating state that more and more households turn to vegetable oils at the expense of animal-based, saturated oils.
This is definitely good news, but not all vegetable oils are good for you. Despite the word ‘vegetable’ popping up, the key term we’re looking for is ‘refined’. If you see this word on the oil label, turn around and walk away!
How to Tell Which Vegetable Oils Are Bad for You
The most widely used oils are processed seed oils referred to as “vegetable oils”. During the process of refining, they undergo pressing and heating at very high temperatures upon which they are also infused with industrial solvents and chemicals.
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When consumed regularly, these oils increase the amount of omega-6 fatty acids. When the balance of these (normally healthy) fatty acids is disturbed, they can seriously damage your health. Refined oils are also loaded with trans fats which are highly toxic and can increase the risk of various chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes. Here is a list of refined oils to avoid:
Rice Bran Oil
Which Oils are Good?
That is why we should all turn to more natural, cold-pressed oil alternatives. They might be more expensive than the refined vegetable oils but buying them it is a worthwhile investment into yours and your family’s health.
Cold-pressed oils offer a plethora of health benefits, but they also add a new flavor twist to your favorite dishes. Following are our five favorite healthy vegetable oils along with recipe ideas to help you put them to good use.
Note: It is worth mentioning that different oils react differently when exposed to high temperatures during cooking. They may alter the color, texture and/or taste. But, more importantly, when the oils reach their smoking point, most of the nutrients are destroyed and they can form potentially harmful compounds. All this depends on the smoke point of each oil, i.e. the temperature at which the oil starts to be smoking in the pan.
And finally, one more precaution: no matter which oil you decide to use, make sure to limit the daily intake to two teaspoons per person.
#1 Olive Oil
Olive oil has a long history dating back to ancient civilizations. Its most beneficial variety, the extra virgin, is very rich in anti-inflammatory compounds, antioxidants, healthy fatty acids, and many heart-friendly nutrients. Olive oil has been credited with reducing the risk of various diseases like heart disease, dementia, depression, and obesity. Plus, it is known to be one of the natural regulators of testosterone levels in the body which is very important for men’s health!
Olive oil is perfect for Mediterranean dishes like pastas, Greek salads, and risottos, but it also works great with our staples such as eggs, pancakes, seafood, chicken…
Recipe suggestion: Sautéed Greens
#2 Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is considered one of the healthiest foods on the planet and there are more than 1500 scientific studies to prove it! Besides the amazing flavor it contributes, this oil is so beneficial that it is often used both as a natural remedy as well as a beauty product.
It is packed with healthy medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) which take the credit for coconut oil’s health benefits including hormonal balance, improved digestion, better skin, cellulite reduction, energy improvement, cholesterol regulation, and more! The fact that coconut oil withstands high temperatures, makes it even more perfect.
Recipe suggestion: Paleo Onion Rings
#3 Canola Oil
Considered one of the healthiest cooking oils, canola oil has the lowest content of saturated fats of all healthy oils in the market. This oil is obtained from crushed seeds of the canola plant and is very rich in monounsaturated fats and Omega-3 fatty acids.
Due to its medium smoking point, this oil is ideal for baking and sautéing, whereas its taste works perfectly in Indian and Mexican dishes.
Recipe suggestion: Waffled Breakfast Quesadillas
#4 Sesame Oil
There are two varieties of sesame oil. The lighter one is obtained by cold-pressing toasted sesame seeds and mostly used in the Middle East and India. It has a high smoking point and mild taste. The other variety is darker, with more prominent nutty flavor and aroma and is often used in Asian cuisine.
Both these sesame oil varieties are high in polyunsaturated fats and rich in vitamin B6, as well as essential minerals like copper, magnesium, iron, and calcium.
Note: Sesame oil has a low smoking point and should not be heated for too long.
Recipe suggestion: Sesame Chicken Stir Fry
#5 Avocado Oil
Besides coconut oil, avocado oil is another type of oil ranking among the healthiest. It is credited with diabetes prevention, high cholesterol regulation, and weight loss facilitation. In fact, avocado oil is so healthy, it has received an arthritis prescription drug status in France!
This oil is obtained from the fruit of the avocado tree, by pressing the pulp. This makes avocado oil one of the few oils not obtained from seeds. It is very rich in healthy fats, especially essential fatty acids and oleic acids.
Besides for uncooked recipes like dips and salads, avocado oil can be used in various cooked dishes like pork and beef, fried rice, baked fish, etc.
Recipe suggestion: Caribbean Inspired Salted Cod
Other Healthy Oils to Consider
Besides the above-listed oils, there are more healthy alternatives to take into consideration. For instance, oils like pumpkin seed and flaxseed oil are full of nutrients but they can’t be used for cooking due to their extremely low smoking points.
To take advantage of their health benefits use them in dips, salads, and soups or try one of these recipes:
Try also nut and peanut oil, fish oil, and palm oil:
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According to nutrition experts, it is a good idea to try different types of oils for cooking. This way, you will not only try different flavors, but you will also give your body different kinds of nutrients and essential fatty acids.
I believe that food should not only taste good, but make you feel good as well and that is why I am so interested in exploring ingredients, preparing meals, and finding ways to make the whole cooking experience fun and exciting! Being a blogger for MyGreatRecipes unites my two passions – food and writing, and I am enjoying every second of it!