Guide to Cooking Oils

By Lauren Howland, Planet Green

What’s the healthiest oil to cook with?

Almost everyone uses oil in some sort of meal. Although there are a variety of types to choose from, depending on the food and flavor of your dish, most oils can come with an additional fatty side and are not necessarily healthy for your body. Also, due to each oil having a different smoking temperature, to reap the benefits some oils are best used in salads. Below are a list of popular oils and the ones you should stay away from.

Canola oil: This oil is made from the seeds of genetically modified rapeseed. Initially designed for routine use of herbicides during production, Canola generally won’t be labeled organic. The high level of monounsaturated fats found in its base helps to reduce “unhealthy” LDL cholesterol and instead increase “healthy” HDL cholesterol.

Olive oil: By mechanically pressing olives this oil is produced in large quantities. Like Canola oil, olive oil is high in monounsaturated fatty acids (the highest out of all oils). It offers great protection against heart disease by raising HDL cholesterol. Olive oil also works as premeditate care for treating gallstone formation. It activates the secretion of bile and pancreatic hormones, sometimes better than prescribed drugs. NOTE: olive oil should not be used for cooking because it has a low smoking temperature, which means it can alter the flavor of the food.

Virgin olive oil: This oil is extremely similar to regular olive oil except that it is produced (usually) with no chemical processing. With it comes powerful anti-oxidants called polyphenols. The naturally occurring antioxidants soak up free radicals before they can oxidize, which prevents the damaging effect of LDL cholesterol to arteries.

Corn oil: Made from mechanically pressed corn stalks, corn oil is one of the cheapest oils to purchase, and one of the worst for your body and for the environment. Corn oil is high in omega-6 fatty acids, which increase the risk of breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men.

Safflower oil: This oil is relatively neutral in flavor and has a high smoke point, which makes it a good oil for sautéing.

Peanut oil: Unfortunately many brands are chemically processed, but if you are interested, expeller-pressed brands can be found at specialty stores and online. The high smoke point makes it great for frying and the nutty taste leaves a delicate flavor in many dishes. Peanut oil is also high in monounsaturated fats like olive oil.

Sesame oil: This oil is high in polyunsaturated fats and vitamin E. Although it is used primarily for cooking it can also be used for skin and hair care. Sesame oil also contains two powerful antioxidants, sesamol and sesamin.

Avocado oil: This light-tasting oil can be used at high temperatures and has a high amount of unsaturated fats. If you haven’t tried cooking with it yet, then allow yourself the pleasure.

Grapeseed oil: It’s high in mono- and polyunsaturates, but can be used as a substitute for olive oil.

Sunflower oil: This mild-flavored oil is high in vitamin E. It has a lower heat temperature so it should not be used for sautéing.

Ghee: This Indian staple is used in many dishes and makes a great alternative to other oils. The clarified butter is a wonderful source of beta-carotene and vitamins A, D, E, and K.

Coconut oil: people tend to rave over the benefits of Coconut oil and it’s for good reason. By stimulating the thyroid gland, the oil helps to lower cholesterol, making it essential for preventing disease and slowing the way our bodies age. For the same reason, studies show that coconut oil can help with weight loss as well. Coconut oil also contains approximately 40 percent lauric acid—the same acid found in breast milk. The human body takes this acid and converts it into a substance that fights bacterial and viral infections in infants and also can help strengthen the immune system in adults. Not to mention it also makes a great conditioner for your hair!

Whats your favorite oil to cook with? Have any good recipes? Leave them in our comments section.

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Virgin olive oil is the one that should be used only as it comes,raw; but 0.4 degrees olive oil is a mixture of virgin and refined olive oil, which is more resistant to heat and in my opinion, suitable for cooking.

Susana O.
Susana Oliveira4 years ago

The difference between extra virgin, virgin, and regular olive oil is not the extraction process. Most of the olive oil is mechanical extracted. The difference is in the final acidity. Extra virgin and virgin olive oil cannot have an acidity higher than 0,8 % and 2% respectively (of oleic acid).
And you can cook with olive oil, as long as you use the cooking grade kind, which is actually cheaper than extra virgin. Trust me, I'm from THE olive country, even my last name translates to "olive tree"....

Marcia O.
Marcia Oyler4 years ago

What a great article!! Information I can use.

aj E.
aj E4 years ago


charles donoghue
beryl donoghue4 years ago

thanks for the info on the oils. I am having trouble finding coconut oil..where is it sold..can't find in the I have switched to peanut oil..

kate foley
kate foley4 years ago

So interestingly, olive oil shouldn't be cooked with at high temperatures. Yay for coconut oil and peanut oil.

charles donoghue
beryl donoghue4 years ago

where on earth do you buy coconut oil? I have been to five different grocery stores and can't find it at all.

Waltraud U.
Waltraud U4 years ago

Thank you - I change cookinghabits from now.

Marianne Norgan
Marianne Norgan4 years ago

I like Peanut oil, why dont we hear more about it? The flavour is delicate and does not interfere with other flavours, it is tolerant of high temperature, so CAN be used for frying and it does not cost the world! I wish it was available in smaller bottles, and I hope it NEVER gets into plastic containers!

Bonita Nowak
Nowak Bonita4 years ago

I use coconut oil as a treatment for Alzheimer's Disease. Arricept and others make me too ill to be up out of bed. I prefer coconut oil for cooking over any other oil. For AD, I add it to my coffee or hot tea ... 4 TBSP per day, 1 TBSP per cup. The brand I use is Nutiva, which has a very mild flavor. It's extra virgin and has not been treated in any way. I buy little squatty 15 oz. jars to make it easy to dip my spoon into for measuring. It's a soft solid at room temperature and I leave it out on the counter to remind me to use it. Coconut oil has been shown to lower your bad cholesterol and raise your good cholesterol. It converts to ketones in the liver and your brain uses the ketones for energy instead sugar. You can go to online and read the story of how a doctor helped her husband's Alzheimer's improve by using coconut oil.