Mastering your nutrition can be complicated enough, never mind trying to figure out which oil is best for dressings, sautéing or cooking, and which ones we should ditch altogether. Below we will simplify a few of the most popular oils on the market today to help you decide which ones are best for you and your lifestyle.
Made from olives and is an unsaturated fat.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO): Comes from the first press of the olives. It is “cold-pressed” which means it is done without heat, in a dark environment and the oil is then sealed in light eliminating jars. This type of oil has the most nutrients and health benefits.
Olive Oil: Comes from the second, third, and fourth press of the olive. Usually done with heat to exact all remaining oil. Some of the flavour and nutrients are stripped away in this refinement process.
Health Benefits of EVOO: Fights inflammation, reduced risk of heart disease, reduced risk of stroke, reduced cancer risk, alleviates depression symptoms, and promotes brain health.
How to use this: Olive oil has a moderate-high smoke point* so it is best to use this in dressing and dips, and at low-medium heat.
This is made from the flesh of the avocado fruit and is a monounsaturated fat. Like EVOO, avocado oil goes through a cold press to retrain nutrients and minimize heat-induced oxidation. Once the oil has been extracted from the fruit, it goes through a polishing separator to remove any remaining pulp.
Health Benefits: Reduces LDL (bad) cholesterol, improves heart health, enhances nutrient absorption, acts as an antioxidant, and reduces arthritis symptoms and inflammation.
How to Use it: However you like! This oil has the highest smoke point* at 570 F and stays liquid at room temperature making is extremely versatile. Dressing, dips, sautéing, frying, or marinades. This is the ideal oil to use.
Virgin Coconut Oil
This is made from the flesh of coconuts and is primarily a saturated fat. Coconut oil is cold pressed to preserve nutrients and flavour.
Health Benefits: Can lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol, improves brain health, reduces inflammation, and can boost your immune system.
How to use this: Can be used over low-medium heats or for roasting as it has a moderate-high smoke point* of 350 F. Coconut oil is generally solid at room temperature and could be used as a substitute for butter or margarine.
This oil is made from rapeseed, which itself is higher in unsaturated fats. The seeds, however, are crushed to extract the oil, washed with chemicals, deodorized to remove the bitter smell, bleached to lighten the cloudy colour of processed oil, and exposed to high heats. These high temperatures ruin the healthy fats and cause them to go rancid, leading to higher concentrations of cell destroying free radicals and trans fats.
Note – If you can get your hands on organic, cold-pressed canola oil, then it won’t be as high in oxidized fats and trans fats, so we can assume it would be okay to consume.
How to use this. While some canola oil products may be less processed than others, it is difficult to tell them apart. This type of oil isn’t the worst out there, but it isn’t great and you are better off using olive or avocado oil. In canola oil’s refinement process heat is added, nutrients are stripped away, and the oil itself goes bad.
This is often a blend of several different plants like soybean, corn, cottonseed, and sunflower, which can make it hard to know exactly what you are putting in your body.
Vegetable oil is made in a factory using genetically modified crops. Like canola oil, the crops and seeds are washed with chemicals, exposed to high temperatures, and then deodorized to hide the rancid smell.
How to use this. Try to avoid it. This oil can contribute to inflammation, cancer, heart disease and elevated LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. There are plenty of healthier alternatives to this cooking oil.
Margarine vs. Butter
There has been a lot of confusion about these products, making it difficult to understand which one is best for you. Looking into how both margarine and butter are made will help you understand what you should be putting in your body.
Margarine is the processed version of vegetable oil and is created through hydrogenation. In this, the vegetable oil is heated to a high temperature, exposed to high pressure, and filled with hydrogen gasses until it becomes solid at room temperature. The trans fats created in this process are strongly correlated with heart disease, poor cholesterol levels, and chronic illness.
Butter, however, is made by churning cows milk until solid – that’s it. While butter does contain saturated fats, having this in moderation has shown to have no association between cardiovascular disease or poor cholesterol levels, and can play a role in a healthy diet. Butter from grass-fed cows even has the potential for higher concentrations of heart healthy nutrients and vitamins.
So, which one should we choose? …Butter! It is a minimally processed fat and heart-healthy alternative to the trans-fats found in margarine.
Just as with any food, eat with moderation in mind and choose real, minimally processed fats as often as your can. When in doubt, remember: “Nature doesn’t make bad fats, factories do!” – Dr. Cate Shanahan