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Which Cooking Oil is the Healthiest?

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Which cooking oil is the healthiest?

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By Jessica Brown | 4th September 2020

Oils are all packed with fat and calories, but their chemistry – and effect on our health – can be very different.

Cooking oils are a kitchen staple. But there’s a lot of conflicting information regarding how healthy each of them are. With so many on the shelves – from coconut to olive, vegetable to canola, avocado to rapeseed oil – how do we know which ones to use, and if we should be avoiding any altogether?

Oils used for cooking tend to get their name from the nut, seeds, fruits, plants or cereals they’re extracted from, either by methods of crushing, pressing, or processing. They’re characterised by their high fat content, including saturated fat, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.

In recent years, coconut oil, which is around 90% saturated fat, has become the latest trendy “superfood”. It’s been hailed as a superfood (including that it's less likely to be stored in the body as fat and more likely to be expended as energy) – but one Harvard University epidemiologist calls it “pure poison”.

Consuming too much saturated fat – more than 20g for women and 30g for men per day, according to UK guidelines – makes the body produce cholesterol in our bodies that increases the risk of heart disease.

All fat molecules are made of chains of fatty acids, which are either held together with single bonds (saturated) or double bonds (unsaturated). There are three types of fatty acids: short, medium and long chain. Short and medium chain fatty acids are absorbed directly into the bloodstream and used for energy, but long chain fatty acids are transported to the liver, which raises blood cholesterol levels.

“Coconut oil enjoyed popularity three or four years ago, when there were claims it had a special effect,” says Alice Lichtenstein, Gershoff professor of nutrition science and policy at Tufts University in Massachusetts, US.

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Vegetable oils usually contain differing amounts of saturated fat, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids (Credit: Getty Images)

“But when you look at studies that compared it with other oils, the results showed it’s high in saturated fat, and no clinical trial supported any initial claims.”

Most randomised controlled trials show that coconut oil increases levels of harmful cholesterol low, density lipoprotein (LDL), which is linked with heart disease and stroke, but it also raises beneficial cholesterol, high density lipoprotein (HDL), which carries LDL away from the bloodstream.

One explanation as to why a food so high in saturated fat could increase HDL cholesterol is because it contains a relatively high amount of lauric acid, which has been found to raise levels of HDL in the blood far more than it does LDL .

But Taylor Wallace, an adjunct professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at George Mason University in Virginia, argues lauric acid is not as healthy as some claims suggest.  It is categorised as a C12 fatty acid, meaning it has 12 carbon atoms, and that puts it at the limit of the definition of a medium chain fatty acid.

“C12s are like long chain fatty acids that got categorised into medium chain,” says Wallace. “About 70% of C12s act as long chain fatty acids, which are transported to the liver.” Longer chain fatty acids are more likely to be stored in the liver as fat and could, over time,  cause health issues such as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

Instead, experts advise opting for an oil lower in saturated fat, and higher in other types of fats that are healthier in moderation. Polyunsaturated fat, including omega 3 and omega 6, and monounsaturated fat have been found to lower cholesterol levels and provide essential fatty acids and vitamins. They’re found in many different types of vegetable oils, although the exact amount depends both on the plant and the technology process used during their production.

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Replacing saturated fats such as butter with olive oil could lead to reduced risk of developing heart disease (Credit: Getty Images)

“Most studies indicate that foods higher in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease,” says Lichtenstein. “It’s recommended we replace sources of unsaturated fat with polyunsaturated fat, primarily plant-based oils, and nuts and seeds,” she says.

One observational study associated replacing saturated fat with olive oil, for example, with a lower risk of heart disease. Substituting butter, margarine, mayonnaise or dairy fat with olive oil reduced the risk by 5 to 7%.

Marta Guasch-Ferre, author of the study and a research scientist Harvard University’s TH Chan School of Public Health’s nutrition department in Boston, analysed the health and diets of more than 100,000 people over 24 years, and found that those with higher intake of all types of olive oil had a 15% lower risk of heart disease.

Olive oil’s health benefits can partly be attributed to its monounsaturated fatty acids, which contain vitamins and minerals, and polyphenols, micronutrients derived from plants.

“But it’s not just that you’re adding olive oil into the diet, but that olive oil is substituting other unhealthier fats,” says Guasch-Ferre.

Olive oil, which is made by crushing olives and separating the oil from their pulp, is renowned for being the healthiest of plant oils. One review of research found olive oil has beneficial effects on gut microbiota and heart disease, and that extra virgin olive oil can be beneficial in preventing cancer and type 2 diabetes.

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The smaller short chain and medium chain fatty acids in some vegetable oils are dissolved in the blood rather than being stored in the liver (Credit: Getty Images)

“The monounsaturated fatty acids and compounds found in olive oil help prevent noncommunicable diseases, not through any special mechanisms, but because our body needs them,” says Francisco Barba, professor at the University of Valencia’s preventive medicine and public health department in Spain.

Olive oil is synonymous with the Mediterranean diet, which is high in fruit, vegetables and legumes, and low in saturated fat, and is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, despite the high fat content.

“What makes the Mediterranean diet different from other types of healthy diets is olive oil,” Guasch-Ferre says. “Most other components – nuts, fruit and vegetables – are parts of numerous diets, including plant-based.”

However, some research suggests these health benefits could be partly driven by other components in the diet, rather than olive oil. One review of evidence found that the only benefit of olive oil independent of the Mediterranean diet was its ability to raise levels of beneficial cholesterol HDL.

Researchers reviewed 30 studies where participants’ diets were altered to test the effects of olive oil, and found that the Mediterranean diet led to lower glucose levels and higher LDL compared to the Western diet. Intervening that diet with olive oil, where it had a high polyphenol content, further increased HDL.

However, consuming olive oil by following the Mediterranean diet was associated with improved glucose levels, which is associated with a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes if it is too high. It also reduced the level of triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood, and LDL cholesterol levels.

These studies tested numerous types of olive oil, but some research has found that extra virgin olive oil is associated with the most health benefits, including a possible lower risk of heart disease.

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Experts advise opting for an oil lower in saturated fat, and higher in other types of fats that are healthier in moderation (Credit: Getty Images)

Extra virgin olive oil is rich in antioxidants and vitamin E, and researchers have found that it’s better at protecting against LDL cholesterol than other types of olive oil. Other types of olive oil are processed after the oil is extracted, which causes them to lose some nutritional qualities.

Extra virgin olive oil, however, has a lower smoke point, which means it starts to smoke at a lower temperature, and in recent years there have been concerns that this could release harmful compounds, and that some of its benefits are lost through the heating process.

“Extra virgin olive oil is especially beneficial when it’s not cooked, but even under cooking it has a very high percentage of monosaturated fatty acids,” says Barba.

Recent studies have shown that extra virgin olive oil is safe to use for cooking. Researchers carried out a number of experiments monitoring extra virgin olive oil as it cooked at 120C (248F) and (338F) on a pan for different lengths of time. They found that temperature, but not time, had some effect on the polyphenol content in the oil.

In 2011, the European Food Safety Authority concluded that makers of olive oil can say it reduces oxidative stress – an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body – and protects cells and LDL cholesterol from oxidative damage, which can age cells. The researchers carrying out the experiments found that extra virgin olive oil used for cooking still falls within the guidelines for the health claim.

Lichtenstein argues that olive oil doesn’t have any unique properties aside from what you’d normally expect from an oil high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. But what is clear is that the evidence supports using this and other vegetable oils instead of saturated fats, but to limit our intake of oil in general.

 “The message isn’t to add lots of oil because we think it’s good for us, because that’s just adding lots of calories,” she says.

 “Once we shift the balance of saturated fat to unsaturated fatty acids, we should then be able to choose the oil we prefer.”

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200903-which-cooking-oil-is-the-healthiest

 

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Soupeod

Olive Oil

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RR3

The Olive Oil Scam: If 80% Is Fake, Why Do You Keep Buying It?

Olive oil smell 80s. Canola oil no smell, same benefits as olive oil.

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Salty Dog
12 minutes ago, RR3 said:

The Olive Oil Scam: If 80% Is Fake, Why Do You Keep Buying It?

Olive oil smell 80s. Canola oil no smell, same benefits as olive oil.

Well for many, it's the taste...

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Kreole

the Olive oil scam has been going on for ages, so it just comes down to trying to buy from a certified producer.  Good luck with that.  In the end, I don't give it much attention.  I buy what is available here and don't worry about it.  Honey, on the other hand, is much easier to detect with a few simple tests you can do at home.

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RogerDuMond

One of the healthiest oils for deep frying is coconut oil, but from personal experience, it sure changes the taste of your favorite dishes.

Coconut oil is a healthy choice

Coconut oil may be a good choice.

Studies have shown that even after 8 hours of continuous deep frying at 365°F (180°C), its quality still remains acceptable (2Trusted Source).

Over 90% of the fatty acids in coconut oil are saturated, making it resistant to heat.

Experts don’t agree on the benefits and drawbacks of using saturated fats.

Mainstream organizations, such as the American Heart Association, recommend limiting intake of saturated fats to 5–6% of total calories. However, various studies have concluded that saturated fats don’t increase the risk of heart disease (3Trusted Source, 4, 5).

Coconut oil may have various other health benefits. One study suggests that it may help you lose belly fat (6Trusted Source).

When choosing coconut oil, bear in mind that some varieties can leave a flavor or smell that not everyone enjoys. It’s best to try a few brands until you find one that’s suitable.

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/healthiest-oil-for-deep-frying#coconut-oil

14 hours ago, RR3 said:

The Olive Oil Scam: If 80% Is Fake, Why Do You Keep Buying It?

Olive oil smell 80s. Canola oil no smell, same benefits as olive oil.

Because it tastes better on salad than canola oil.

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lamoe

We have 3 types of oil - vegetable, olive, extra virgin olive oil.

vegetable for cooking - deep frying, peanut butter

Regular olive oil  with Thai pepper infused Soy Sauce in dish for dipping homemade bread

Extra Virgin with Mozzarella cheese for Caprese Salad

Edited by lamoe

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rfm010

Olive oil doesnt do well with hi temp cooking.  Coconut oil, besides the problems in the article, tastes too much like coconut.   Any oil on a salad tastes sucky, in part because of all the nasty vegetables in it.  May as well eat the grass over where i replaced the oil in the lawnmower.  Canola or soy should be just fine in most cases. 

the point of the above being that there is a relatively new, inexpensive product on the market, at least in the states, called vascepa, a purified isolate from fish oil, that has been shown to do goodly  in reducing your triglycerides and such , and reducing major adverse cardiac events by at least 20-30%.   Lots of money spent testing it for 6 years on 8000 people on the insistance of the fda who needed it proved.  Stellar results.  Then the company's patent was successfully challenged by generics makers on the grounds of "obviousness".   Spend 10s of millions of dollars to prove it said the fda.  Obvious, said the judges.   Dodged a bullet on that one by selling the stock early.  But i digress.  Point is, eat what you want (which is to say, not coconut oil), take your vascepa, and you'll live long enough to see arrowheads clinical products come to market.  12 -25% decreases in ldl, 30% increases in hdl, 50-60% declines in serum trigs--nobody will be worrying about the healthiest oils then.  It will be ice cream breakfast lunch and dinner.  With sanders caramel on top. 

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Salty Dog

We use Avocado Oil for high temp cooking. For other types of cooking and dishes, we uses Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The wife makes her own salad dressing and likes to use olive oil for that as well… 

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hyaku

We use olive oil but trying to stay away from fried food works even better.  Air fryers are cheap now.

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Goetz1965

All vegetable oil is unhealthy - thats why I switched to LARD - if you look around in the markets you find sellers, and LARD also is much cheaper than oil, plus it tastes better.

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Salty Dog

I didn't realize lard was a cooking oil...:rolleyes:

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battleborn

Canola for high heat, Extra virgin olive oil for everything else including frying eggs.

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rfm010
14 hours ago, battleborn said:

Canola for high heat, Extra virgin olive oil for everything else including frying eggs.

Mostly spot on but butter for eggs unless you have some bacon grease handy.  

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noddle
4 hours ago, Goetz1965 said:

All vegetable oil is unhealthy - thats why I switched to LARD - if you look around in the markets you find sellers, and LARD also is much cheaper than oil, plus it tastes better.

Bake your spuds in Lard....  mmmm  lami...

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Daddle
18 hours ago, battleborn said:

Canola for high heat, Extra virgin olive oil for everything else including frying eggs.

Canola for high heat? Don't think so. Maybe for old fish. It is well known that Canola makes a foul rancid fishy odor when heated. Even at less than smoking hot heat. I'd only use Canola for baking and salad dressings.

If flavor is important olive oil is my choice. Like the article says it seems to be the healthiest. 

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battleborn
2 hours ago, Daddle said:

Canola for high heat? Don't think so. Maybe for old fish. It is well known that Canola makes a foul rancid fishy odor when heated. Even at less than smoking hot heat. I'd only use Canola for baking and salad dressings.

If flavor is important olive oil is my choice. Like the article says it seems to be the healthiest. 

Canola oil has a smoke point of 460f  Peanut oil which I used to use for stir fry has a smoke point of 450f.  Olive oils smoke point is 350f.

I have been using Canola oil for many years and have never noticed a " foul rancid fishy odor"

I find your post amusing

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Salty Dog
27 minutes ago, battleborn said:

I find your post amusing

Enough already. No need to act like this because you disagree. You could have just as easily left that sentence off. You would have still gotten your point across without possibly starting a pissing contest. 

The first article I found had different smoke points than your post. Does that nessarily mean you're wrong?  Of course not. No doubt I could read 10 articles and get ten different answers.

"Refined oils typically have a neutral taste and odour and a clear appearance. Light olive oil (light in colour, not in calories), for example, has been refined and has a higher smoke point (486 degrees Fahrenheit) than extra virgin olive oil (410 degrees F), which has not been refined.

Even so, the smoke point of extra virgin olive oil makes it suitable for many types of cooking. Cooking on average home stoves, such as roasting in the oven and sautéeing, pan-frying and stir-frying over medium-high heat, is typically done between 250 and 400 degrees Fahrenheit."

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health/smoke-point-matters-in-cooking-with-oil/article26569060/

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Daddle
21 hours ago, battleborn said:

I find your post amusing

Did you mean interesting? :-)

I Googled it a bit. Seems about 50% of people find the smell of cooking with Canola Oil objectionable enough to never use it. The other 50% swear there is nothing foul. Nothing to do with temperature. Personally I find the odor nauseating: Like cooking sardines found beside the highway. Some people say this foul odor does not appear in the finished food, but I'd have to say it makes such a stench in the house it doesn't matter.

Those used to filipino fish dishes made with dried fish may be more accepting to the odor. While I at times will eat the dried fish, it can be a rude surprise when I'm dreaming of a delicate fresh fried egg for breakfast.

Odd that Canola Oil became so widely popular with this significant negative.

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savarity

Avocado oil is what I hear most. Olive and sesame too.

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hyaku
On 9/12/2020 at 8:59 AM, battleborn said:

Canola oil has a smoke point of 460f  Peanut oil which I used to use for stir fry has a smoke point of 450f.  Olive oils smoke point is 350f.

I have been using Canola oil for many years and have never noticed a " foul rancid fishy odor"

I find your post amusing

Do you use oil at such a heat that it's smoking? I would not like to see you cook tempura.

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JamesMusslewhite

Mine, and maybe someday soon I will finally build the outbuildings to mass produce VCO...

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