Your Guide to Heart-Healthy Cooking Oils

An in-depth look at the top 5 healthiest oils to use when cooking 

Oil is a great go-to fat for any cook. It provides culinary function and flavor (FYI, oil is liquid fat and fat is solid oil).

The people of the Mediterranean eat tons of fat and live long lives.

It is important for heart-healthy dietary fat to be incorporated into a well-rounded diet. Your heart and brain need healthy fat to function properly.

Cooking oils are made up of a combination of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated fatty acids.

The predominant type of fatty acid(s) present, the amount of processing and the unique antioxidants present all determine the quality and health effects of oil.

All fats are similar calorie-wise. They provide the same amount of energy in the form of 9 kilocalories per gram.

Look at any supermarket shelf and you will see a large abundance of cooking oil options, all of which produce various health effects. This can become very confusing very quickly to the consumer.

Our guide analyzes the five healthiest cooking oils.

Avocado Oil

  • Smoke Point: 375-400°F (virgin); 450°F -520°F (depending on brand of oil and if refined)
  • If using an organic, refined avocado oil then this is a great option for higher-heat cooking as it has a high smoke point. It will not burn or smoke until it reaches anywhere from 450-520°F (check your label), which is good for searing meats or frying.
  • Try this organic cold-pressed avocado oil approved by The Drs. Wolfson.
  • Avocado oil is comprised of the heart-healthy fruit, the avocado. It comes directly from the avocado pulp. Cold-pressed avocado oils (like the one mentioned in the link above) are your best option as they are created through a natural technique of extracting the oil without chemicals. The term “cold-pressed” is a low-temperature method that preserves the fruit and its nutrients in it’s most highly bioavailable state. In the virgin state, the avocado oil also delivers a potent, detoxifying compound called chlorophyll.
  • Avocado oil delivers the same cardioprotective health benefits that you would get from avocados. Avocados are high in monounsaturated fatty acids and a unique polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), oleic acid, which is an omega-9 fatty acid. Due to their unique nutritional profile, avocados are anti-inflammatory foods that help to provide antioxidants, normalize blood lipids, reduce blood pressure and protect against atherosclerosis. I eat 3-4 per week!
  • A review of the literature found that avocado oil significantly normalizes blood lipid levels without affecting HDL levels1. It also has been found to significantly reduce CRP levels, a marker of systemic inflammation in the body and risk factor for Cardiovascular Disease (CVD)1. Overall, it protects against metabolic syndrome, which is also a known risk factor for CVD1.

Avocado oil is great for higher-heat cooking due to its stability. It is also good for other recipes, as well. Try this recipe for healthy, Paleo Avocado Oil Mayonnaise.

Coconut oil

  • Smoke Point: 280°F (virgin); 350°F (refined)
  • This oil is great for baking or frying. Choose an organic, non-hydrogenated, virgin coconut oil to get all the antioxidant and nutritional benefits. Due to its high smoke point, it can be used in place of butter and other oils when cooking.
  • Try this delicious brand of organic coconut oil that we use personally and sell in office.
  • When shopping for coconut oil you want to look for an organic, virgin coconut oil, otherwise known as unrefined coconut oil. You will want a non-hydrogenated product. The virgin version of coconut oil has a more pronounced coconut flavor than refined.
  • Coconut oil delivers plant-based saturated fat that can actually raise HDL cholesterol levels. It also is full of medium-chain triglycerides, which the body doesn’t readily store as fat, but rather burns as fuel.
  • Contrary to popular media propaganda, coconut oil is actually healthy. A study in Clinical Biochemistry found virgin coconut oil to actually be beneficial on lipid profiles specifically due to the active polyphenolic compounds it holds2. The study reported that coconut oil’s heart-healthy benefits by reporting that virgin coconut oil reduces LDL oxidation through its potent antioxidant action2.
  • A novel study released in 2018 in Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine corroborated coconut oil’s promising health effects. The study found that virgin coconut oil and its unique array of polyphenols prevents cadmium-induced dyslipidemia and reduces overall CVD risk through high antioxidant action3.

Coconut oil is good on just about everything. Whether you’re cooking or baking, it is a great option. Just remember if you’re using the virgin variety, it can’t be heated above 280°F, or it will become unhealthy. You can also make some great Paleo Grain-Free Granola

Olive oil

  • Smoke Point: 325-375°F (extra-virgin olive oil)
  • This oil is rich in monounsaturated oleic acid, which promotes health. This is oil is great for cooking as it has a relatively higher smoke point. Extra-virgin is the best type to get as it has the highest level of antioxidants available.
  • Although you can cook with olive oil, I prefer to use it raw in our salad dressing. Recipe here.
  • Try this organic extra virgin olive oil.
  • Olive oil is the oil extracted from the fatty fruit of the olive tree. It is made up of mostly of a healthy monounsaturated fatty acid called oleic acid (73%), which delivers most of its health benefits. It also contains adequate levels of omega-3 and omega-9 fatty acids. Olive oil, especially those of extra-virgin varieties, has many anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
  • Studies have consistently found that extra-virgin olive oil can significantly reduce CVD risk in individuals who are at a high cardiovascular risk4. Even more interesting, the study found that for each 10 g increase of extra virgin olive oil treatment given there was a 10% and 7% decrease in CVD and mortality risk, respectively4.
  • A novel study, released in 2018, also found that extra virgin olive oil exerts some of the highest cardioprotective properties by a fat5. Specifically, it’s nutrient profile results in a decrease in inflammation, increased antioxidant action, increased vasodilation and a lowered atherosclerotic risk, all of which contribute to its significant cardioprotection5.

The people in the Mediterranean use olive oil in large quantities and are among the most long-lived people in the world.

Olive oil is a great oil to cook with, as well as to add to any dish for your health. Try this unique, herb-infused oil for extra flavor and benefits.

Walnut oil

  • Smoke Point: 320 °F
  • This organic, unrefined nut oil is best suited for lower-heat cooking as it has a relatively low smoke point compared to other cooking oils. Use it for salad dressing or paleo noodle sauce recipes.
  • Try our favorite brand of organic walnut oil.
  • Walnuts are tree nuts from the walnut family. They are one of the top nuts to provide the highest level of omega-6 linoleic polyunsaturated fatty acids. They also contain a relatively high level of heart-healthy omega-3 alpha linolenic acid (ALA), the plant- version of the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish. Additionally, walnuts contain numerous antioxidants. Walnuts are your go-to source to protect your brain, your heart and your health!
  • Walnut oil is highly heart-healthy. In studies, walnuts have consistently been shown to normalize blood lipid levels, increase antioxidants and decrease oxidative stress and inflammation, all elucidating cardioprotection6.
  • Furthermore, a study published in July 2016 found that when type 2 diabetic patients were given 15 g of walnut oil a day for three months it significantly decreased their HbA1c and blood glucose levels7. The study further concluded that walnut oil is a quality supplement for improving blood glucose homeostasis7.

Walnut oil is a great culinary oil to use as a tasty salad dressing. Try this recipe for Walnut Oil Vinaigrette.

Sesame oil

  • Smoke Point: 350°F (toasted); 445°F (refined)
  • This flavorful oil from sesame seeds comes in either the toasted type or regular/ light type. Try the toasted variety for a robust flavor addition to any dish! Always opt for the organic, unrefined oil.
  • Try this organic sesame oil.
  • Sesame oil is a healthy oil derived from sesame seeds. It is nutrient-rich in lignans, and polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which are heart-healthy and help to decrease inflammation in the body. Specifically, walnut oil has high levels of the omega-6 PUFA linoleic acid and omega-9 PUFA oleic acid. It is also great for cooking as it delivers a tasty, nutty aroma to foods.
  • Studies have consistently shown that sesame oil is highly anti-inflammatory and boasts numerous antioxidants, two mechanisms which contribute to its overall protection against atherosclerosis and CVD8.
  • Sesame oil has also been found to be anti-hypertensive. In a study using hypertensive rats, it was reported that sesame oil treatment significantly mitigated cardiac hypertrophy, hyperkalemia and subsequent hypertension, resulting in a decreased risk of cardiac pathologies9. The study revealed that the sesame oil treatment significantly decreased systolic and diastolic blood pressure and increased serum levels of potassium and magnesium9.

If you’re cooking dishes and want to add a little extra nutty flavor, try using sesame oil. You can also try using this oil as a flavor enhancer in various recipes such as Sesame Sweet Potato Noodles (with toasted sesame oil!):

 

References:

  1. Zarrabal et al., 2014: ttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3955619/
  2. Nevin et al., 2004: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15329324
  3. Famurewa et al., 2018: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29387575
  4. Ferre et al., 2014:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24886626
  5. Nocella et al., 2018: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29141571
  6. Banel et al., 2009: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2696995/
  7. Zibaeenezhad et al., 2016:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5219895/
  8. Hsu et al, 2017: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5587404/
  9. Liu et al., 2014: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23753993