Healthy Cooking Oils

healthy cooking oils

Replacing bad fats (saturated and trans) with healthier fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) is good for your heart.

One way you can do this is by choosing healthier nontropical vegetable oils for cooking and preparing food.

Use these oils instead of solid fats (including butter, shortening, lard and hard stick margarine) and tropical oils (including palm and coconut oil), which can have a lot of saturated fat.

Here’s an alphabetical list of common cooking oils that contain more of the “better-for-you” fats and less saturated fat.

  • Canola
  • Corn
  • Olive
  • Peanut
  • Safflower
  • Soybean
  • Sunflower

Blends or combinations of these oils, often sold under the name “vegetable oil,” and cooking sprays made from these oils are also good choices. Some specialty oils, like avocado, grapeseed, rice bran and sesame, can be healthy choices but may cost a bit more or be harder to find.

In general, choose oils with less than 4 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon, and no partially hydrogenated oils or trans fats.

You may find that some oils have distinctive flavors, so try different types to discover which ones you like. Also, some oils are better for certain types of cooking than others, so you may want to have more than one type in your pantry.

You can usually use cooking oils just like solid cooking fats. For example:

  • Make your own salad dressings, marinades, dips and sauces.
  • Grill, sauté, stir fry, bake or roast foods.
  • Coat pans to keep food from sticking.
  • Spread or drizzle on foods for flavor.
  • “Season” cast-iron cookware.
  • Substitute for butter, margarine or solid fats in recipes.

Tips for cooking with healthy oils:

  • The healthier oils listed here are generally safe for most home-cooking uses, including higher temperature cooking such as stir-frying and pan frying. We do not recommend deep-fat frying as a cooking method.
  • Any oil starts to degrade once it reaches its smoke point. So, if you accidentally let your oil smoke or catch fire, get rid of it and start over.
  • If oil smells bad, don’t use it. When an oil is stored too long it can become oxidized or rancid. It will have a distinct smell, and you should get rid of it.
  • Don’t reuse or reheat any cooking oil.
  • Buy cooking oils in smaller containers to avoid waste, and store them in a dark, cool place to keep them fresh longer.

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