An Expert Decides: Which Oil Is Healthy For Cooking? - Women's Health UK

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Wondering which oil is healthy for cooking?

You’re all guilty of turning oh-too-frequently to cupboard staple olive oil for your Friday night stir fry, but research suggests it might be undoing all the benefits of your HIIT training and lean protein eating.

According to a study from the University of Porto, olive oil loses its antioxidant benefits when heated. But it’s not all bad news – you can still enjoy the green stuff in all its health-boosting glory, just make sure you use it wisely. 

You should be wary of smoke points. Put simply, an oil’s smoking point is the temperature that causes it to start smoking, which produces toxic fumes and harmful free radicals. Different oils have different smoking points, due to their chemical make-up, which means that some oils are better for cooking at higher temperatures than others.

Got it? Keep scrolling to discover which oil is healthy for cooking and when you should use them.

WHICH OIL IS HEALTHY FOR COOKING?:
A COMPLETE GUIDE

1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Pros: ‘Extra virgin’ means olives have gone through the press once (versus twice for the regular kind), which may allow more heart-protecting polyphenols to make it to your table.

Cons: Clear bottles of the green stuff may look pretty, but light is the enemy of olive oil and can cause it to go bad. Solution? Purchase oils stored in dark, opaque glass.

Best for: Dipping bread. Minimal processing means the oil retains the deep, earthy taste.

2. Flaxseed Oil

Pros: It’s a good source of ALA, an omega-3 fatty acid that boosts heart health. Flax good news.

Cons: Not usually available in your local supermarket and can be pricey.

Best for: Dressing salad leaves. The mild, nutty flavour of flaxseed oil enhances the taste of your salad but doesn’t bulldoze fresh salad leaves, vegetables and greens.

3. Peanut Oil

Pros: Peanut oil has a good amount of healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats and, because it also has a high smoke point, you’re dodging some pretty nasty toxins, too.

Cons: Potentially deadly for those with nut allergies.

Best for: Frying. It won’t smoke and doesn’t impart a strong flavour to foods.

Which Oil Is Healthy For Cooking

4. Rapeseed Oil

Pros: This mild-tasting, homegrown oil has had a renaissance recently and with good reason. It’s chock full of omegas plus a rich source of vitamin E – great for your skin and immune system.

Cons: Some people find the flavour bland, so it’s not great for dressing salads and veggies.

Best for: Roasting and frying. Like peanut oil, it can be heated to high temperatures without its antioxidants, colour and flavour spoiling. Go for gold.

5. Hemp Seed Oil

 

Pros: High in polyunsaturated fatty acid, hemp seed oil has an ideal 3:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids.

Cons: Doesn’t have a long shelf life and needs to be kept in the fridge. 

Best for: Lightly sautéing vegetables or dressing salad leaves, due to its low smoke point and nutty, earthy taste.

6. Coconut Oil

 

Pros: Contains lauric acid, a type of saturated fatty acid that increases HDL – the good type of cholesterol that you want to be high. Also makes a great hair conditioner.

Cons: It ain’t cheap.

Best for: Frying because of its high smoke point or baking as a vegan substitute. For cakes and bakes, simply use 25% less coconut oil than the butter amount called for. Easy.

Feeling inspired to get in the kitchen? Check out our healthy dinner recipes and Joe Wicks recipes.