Avocado? Flaxseed? How to choose a cooking oil

palm fruit oilBack in the '80s, the only cooking oil in your pantry may have been all-purpose vegetable oil (the exact vegetable a mystery). Today, the choices can leave just about anyone standing paralyzed in a grocery aisle, agonizing over which to choose. This handy guide from Chef Gerard Viverito, Director of Culinary Education for Passionfish, a NGO non-profit organization dedicated to educating people around the globe on the issue of sustainability in the seas, can help you determine which cooking oils to add to your culinary collection for the New Year. 

The Everyday Healthy Oils

Each of these healthy fats deserves a place in your pantry.

1. Olive oil. Rich in monounsaturated fat, this oil is great for your heart and skin health. Use it for salad dressings and drizzling over breads, but don’t use for high-temperature applications. This healthy oil starts to degrade before you hit 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Butter. There’s no need to avoid this tasty fat. The myth about saturated fat has been busted. Butter is fine to use in moderation for adding flavor to veggies or potatoes.

3. Malaysian palm oil. This up-and-coming healthy tropical oil is a popular replacement for harmful trans fat. This non-GMO, balanced, and ultra-nutritious oil can already be found in many of your favorite packaged foods. It tolerates heat extremely well, so it’s an ideal all-purpose cooking oil. All palm oil isn’t the same. Look for Malaysian certified sustainable palm oil. The Malaysian palm industry adheres to the 3Ps sustainability model.

4. Coconut oil. Another tropical oil which is gaining in popularity, coconut oil’s medium chain fatty acids (also found in grass-fed butter and palm oil) are easily utilized as body fuel, which may help you manage your weight. Coconut oil’s natural sweetness makes it a great choice for baking.


The Special Occasion Oils

These oils have limited uses, and often a high price.

5. Avocado oil. Avocado oil is rich in nutrients, because it is extracted from the fruit’s flesh. This process is similar to olive and palm oil production. Avocado oil tolerates heat up to 500 degrees, which makes it great for broiling.

6. Macadamia nut oil. Although more commonly used a beauty aid, this sweet and buttery oil is good for your health, too. It contains a 1:1 ration of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. Why is this important? Many health experts believe the Western diet contains too many inflammatory omega-6s. Try macadamia nut oil in salads. 

7. Flaxseed oil. Flaxseed oil is nutritious, yet delicate oil. It begins breaking down at just 225 degrees, so can’t be exposed to heat. This oil is extremely rich in heart-healthy Omega-3, but unfortunately, many people find its flavor unappealing. Consider adding a teaspoon of flaxseed oil to your next smoothie to reap its health benefits.

8. Sunflower oil. Sunflower oil is rich in skin, brain, and heart-healthy vitamin E tocotrienols. Unfortunately, it’s also high in inflammatory compounds, so instead of cooking with it, rub some on your cuticles or use it to smooth your hair. Get your tocotrienols from Malaysian certified sustainable palm oil, nature’s richest source.

Avoid These Oils

If you’re trying to avoid bad-for-you or genetically modified foods, put these oils on your “do not buy’ list. 

9. Soybean oil. Soybean oil is often very highly refined and used in highly processed foods.

10. Canola oil. Canola oil is high in caloric content and often is hydrogenated (aka full of trans fat). 

11. Corn oil. Corn oil is high in inflammatory Omega-6 fatty acids.

12. Cottonseed oil. Cottonseed oil is relatively low in healthy Omega-3 fatty acids and high in saturated fats.