Fats and oils are often demonized, labeled across the board as being bad for both your health and waistline. Not all fats are created equal though, and there are several oils that are beneficial to a healthy, balanced diet. Used in moderation, healthy fats can do all sorts of wonderful things for you. Many lower cholesterol, balance blood sugar, protect against heart disease, improve mood and mental function, and help fight fatigue. Many are anti-aging and help prevent wrinkles and improve skin elasticity.
Healthy fats you should eat include omega 3’s, monounsaturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats. The ones you want to avoid are transfats which are anything “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated”. It’s also recommended to reduce or eliminate most saturated fats.
With all these perks, you don’t want to avoid oils – just ensure you are using the right ones in the right way. What follows is a list of healthy oils we recommend, their proper usage and health benefits.
Tip: When cooking with any oil, you never want it to reach its smoke point. Once oil starts to smoke, it should be discarded immediately. Oils that are too hot break down, releasing toxins that are dangerous to your health.
Canola oil has the lowest saturated fat content of the majority of cooking oils used in the US. It is a rich source of Alph-Linoleic Acid (ALA), which has been proven in studies to reduce cholesterol and lower risks for cardiovascular disease.
Canola can be used to coat pans for non-stick baking. It can also be used for sauteing and stir-frying. Combined with vinegars, its light flavor makes an excellent dressing for salads and raw vegetables.
Unprocessed Coconut Oil
Unprocessed coconut oil is a naturally occurring saturated fat that has numerous health benefits. Coconut oil is a natural anti-inflammatory. It helps prevent heart disease and has been shown to boost the thyroid and increase metabolism.
Coconut oil is the best source of medium-chain fatty acids that are easily digested and burned for energy. It is also rich in lauric acid, which the body converts to monolaurin – a natural anti-bacterial and anti-viral substance.
Coconut oil is a solid that melts at 76 degrees. It can be used in cooking in either form and is great for baking or light sauteing. It adds a subtle coconuty flavor to your dish. There are many more uses for coconut oil, making it a great household staple. Read our 101 Uses for Coconut Oil here.
The monounsaturated fats (MUFA’s) found in olive oil provide several health benefits. They help reduce cholesterol, moderate insulin and normalize blood clotting.
Unrefined, cold-pressed oil is the most nutrient-dense. Olive oil is best for low-heat and no heat dishes. Enjoy it drizzled on vegetables or salads.
It’s nutrients degrade over time so it should be stored in a dark cabinet or even refrigerated. With refrigeration, olive oil may become cloudy, but that’s perfectly normal and it can be used anyway. Open oil should be discarded after six months.
Safflower is high in vitamin E, making it an anti-oxidant rich oil that fights free radicals that can lead to cancer. Safflower has anti-aging properties, restoring the prostoglandins in the body that reduce blood pressure, control muscles, and fight inflammation.
Safflower oil has a light texture and delicate flavor. It is able to take higher heat without losing its nutritional value. It’s ideal for medium or medium to high heat tasks like sauteing or stir-frying. It’s also perfect for baking since its mild flavor won’t overpower other ingredients.
Sesame oil is rich in linoleic acid which has many anti-aging benefits. It lowers cholesterol and provides essential nutrients to the cells. It has also been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering blood pressure. In Ayurvedic medicine, sesame oil is used to reduce stress and anxiety.
Sesame oil is used in a variety of Asian dishes. It has a stronger flavor that is sometimes bitter. Darker varieties are not good for high heat as they burn easily. Lighter sesame oils are ideal for stir frying. Sesame oil is often used as a seasoning, and has a longer shelf-life than most other oils.
Walnut oil has been proven to reduce the risk of heart disease. Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and vitamin E. They are also rich in phytonutrients and are an excellent source of magnesium, zinc, iron, and calcium.
Walnut oil is most beneficial if it is cold-pressed, fresh, and uncooked. It has a maximum six month shelf life. It can be used in cooking, but has a tendency to turn bitter and quickly loses a lot of its nutritional value once heated.
Use walnut oil in cold sauces and dressings. It has a rich, nutty flavor that is great on salads or tossed with pasta dishes.