What kind of oil should I use in cooking?

joannepunJoanne Pun, Registered Dietitian at NTO Wellness and Rehab provides her professional advice on what kind of oil you should use for cooking.

There are many different types of cooking oils popular on the market – coconut, vegetable, olive, avocado, just to name a few. So, which oil is best? When we are choosing which type of oil to use, we mainly have to look at 2 factors.

Factor #1: proportion of unsaturated/saturated fat.

Saturated fat is known as the “bad fat” – it raises your LDL-cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides (type of fat in your blood). When we have too much LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides in our blood, it can cause blockages in our hearts and brains, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke. Unsaturated fat, is a healthier fat because it helps lower “bad cholesterol”.

All cooking oils have varying proportions of unsaturated/saturated fat. Oils that have a high proportion of saturated fat (bad fat) include butter, lard, coconut and palm oil. Try to choose ones with a higher proportion of unsaturated fat (healthy fats). Some popular oils include – avocado, sunflower, canola, grapeseed, olive and vegetable.

Factor #2: smoke point

Smoke point is the temperature that causes the oil to smoke, making toxic fumes and cancer-causing agents. Different oils have different smoking points based on their chemical structure. This means that some oils are more suitable for cooking at higher temperatures (e.g. searing, browning) compared to others.

When using for:

– searing/browning, choose:  avocado, sunflower, almond

– baking/stir-frying, choose: canola, grapeseed, extra-virgin olive

– light sautéing, choose: corn, sesame

– dressing/dips/marinades, choose: flaxseed, olive

Keep in mind that oil is still fat and can cause weight gain when eaten in excess. Therefore, even if an oil is a good source of unsaturated (healthy) fat, it should be used in moderation. Having too many different types of oils in your kitchen is not recommended. When oils are in your cupboard for a long time,  they can be ruined by heat, light and air. It is best to just choose 1-2 different types.

I heard coconut oil is good for me. Is this true? In recent years, coconut oil has gained tremendous popularity from claims of improving health such as helping to burn fat, prevent infections and lowering risk of Alzheimer’s. However, these claims are based on very small clinical studies which means the benefits may not apply to everyone. Coconut oil is made of almost 90% saturated fat. It has been extensively studied and proven that a diet lower in saturated (bad) fat and higher in unsaturated (good) fat is best for heart health. Therefore, it is not recommended at this time to include large amounts of coconut oil in our diet.

If you have further questions about what oil to cook with, book an appointment to speak to our Registered Dietitian on your next visit to NTO Wellness and Rehab.