6 Healthiest Cooking Oils

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healthiest cooking oils 4

I often get asked which are the healthiest cooking oils for a vegetarian or vegan. I have been outspoken about not using canola, vegetable soybean oil (You can read more about this in my post 5 Cooking Oils You Think Are Healthy…But Aren’t. Make sure you sign up for my email list to get updates). I know many vegans have grown accustomed to using canola or earth balance as their staple oil, so this is a list of oils that are healthy and useful for vegetarian or vegan cooking. Not all of the oils are vegan, but there are some vegan choices on the list.

Some of you may be surprised to find animal fats like ghee on a list of the healthiest cooking oils. We’ve been taught to fear saturated fats like butter for so long that it can be hard to look seriously at all the evidence that says that saturated fats are not something to fear. However, the amount of evidence that links saturated fats and cholesterol to heart disease is slim to none. Unfortunately, the medical world is slow to come around to this compelling information and continue to prescribe unhealthy and ineffective low-fat diets and cholesterol lowering drugs to those with heart disease. Watch this video to get a better understanding of this issue. Even world renowned heart surgeon Dr. Dwight Lundell has spoken out against the vilification of saturated fats:

Animal fats contain less than 20% omega-6 and are much less likely to cause inflammation than the supposedly healthy oils labelled polyunsaturated. Forget the “science” that has been drummed into your head for decades. The science that saturated fat alone causes heart disease is non-existent. The science that saturated fat raises blood cholesterol is also very weak. Since we now know that cholesterol is not the cause of heart disease, the concern about saturated fat is even more absurd today.” – Dr. Dwight Lundell, MD Cardiologist (source)

To put it simply, the evidence that links heart disease to inflammation caused by processed foods like white flour, white sugar and chemical additives is much stronger.

Dr. Lundell goes on to explain:

What you can do is choose whole foods your grandmother served and not those your mom turned to as grocery store aisles filled with manufactured foods. By eliminating inflammatory foods and adding essential nutrients from fresh unprocessed food, you will reverse years of damage in your arteries and throughout your body from consuming the typical American diet.”

This is why I am an advocate of traditional food. Traditional foods are precisely the ones that your great-grandmother served before most families’  pantries filled up with fake industrialized foods.

The following list will present 6 of the healthiest cooking oils. I’ll also list the smoke point of each oil, which is the highest temperature that an oil can be heated before becoming dangerous (oxidized or carcinogenic). Knowing the smoke point of each oil will help you determine whether to use it in low or high temperature cooking.

1. Ghee (Clarified Butter)

IMG_1857
Ghee is probably my favorite cooking oil. It was traditionally used in India for ayurvedic cooking. I use it the most because it has wonderful health benefits (only if you get grassfed ghee) and has a rather high smoke point. “ghee is rich in the fat soluble vitamins A, D, and K2. It is also rich in CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) — the essential fatty acid found almost exclusively in grass-fed animals which is now believed to protect against cancer, heart disease, and type II diabetes.” (source)

Because the milk solids have been removed from ghee, this means that casein and lactose, the elements in dairy that many people are sensitive to, have been removed. Often, those with dairy sensitivities can tolerate ghee (consult a doctor before trying). The removal of the milk solids also allows you to use ghee at a higher temperature (up to 485°).

I use ghee for any cooking in a skillet like stir frys, scrambled eggs, sauteed veggies, etc.

Smoke Point: 425-480° (depending on purity)

Where to buy: This is the brand I like. You can also make your own from butter.

2. Coconut oil

Coconut and organic coconut oil
Not only does coconut have a wonderful flavor that goes great with any sweet baked good or even some savory dishes (especially thai food) it also has wonderful health benefits. Sometimes cooking with this oil brings a coconutty flavor to the dish, but I have used it successfully in many dishes with other dominant flavors that mask the coconut flavor. Coconut oil has been said to aid in weight loss, support heart health, boost metabolism and benefit skin (source). For a great resource on repairing metabolism naturally check out one of my favorite books on the subject The Nourished Metabolism.

Raw virgin coconut oil is best used in low temperature cooking or baking. Refined coconut oil has a higher smoke point and less of a coconut flavor, but has less health benefits than raw coconut oil. Refined coconut oil is still a good option for occasional high heat cooking like frying. When looking for coconut oil make sure that it is not hydrogenated or treated with hexane.

Smoke point: Virgin, raw or unrefined 280°-365°, Refined 400°-450°

Where to buy: Find quality coconut oil here

3. Olive oil

Olive oil and olive branch on the wooden table

Olive oil is a heart healthy fat that that contains beneficial antioxidants and has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. It is best used for cold food (like salad dressing or drizzling over foods), but can be used in some low-heat cooking.

Unfortunatley, it has been discovered that some unsavory cheap olive oil dealers have combined olive oil with cheap vegetable oils while still labeling the bottle as 100% olive oil, so make sure the olive oil you buy is pure, otherwise you may unwittingly be consuming unhealthy oils. Read this article for more info on how make sure your olive oil is real.

Smoke point: 320°-350°

Where to buy: Find quality olive oil here

4. Avocado Oil (sparingly)

bottle of avocado essential oil

Avocado is my favorite frying oil because it has such a high smoke point (475°-520°). However, it does contains a fair amount of polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) which, in excess, have been known to cause inflammation. Because of this, I don’t use avocado oil as my everyday cooking oil, but it is a good choice for occasional use. You can also look for brands that offer avocado oil with low PUFA content. To learn more about PUFAs read this article.

Smoke point: 475°-520°

Where to buy: Find avocado oil here

5. Palm oil (sustainably sourced)

Oil palm fruit and cooking oil

Palm oil is a great healthy option for high heat cooking. It is made from the palm fruit which is native to africa. There has been a lot of controversy surrounding palm oil because many palm oil plantations have contributed to the decimation of the rainforest. However, you can source responsible and sustainably harvested palm oil (see below for where to buy). See this article for more info about sustainably harvested palm oil.

Smoke point: 430°-455°

Where to buy: Find sustainable palm oil here.

6. Butter

butter

Contrary to popular belief high-quality grassfed butter can be good for you. Although the mainstream media is slow to catch up, the link between saturated fats, cholesterol and poor heart health has been disproven (see the intro paragraph above for details).

Our bodies need dietary cholesterol to function properly. So, long story short, don’t worry about eggs or butter because your body (and brain especially) need cholesterol. Read more about the health of butter here.

Make sure you source good quality grass fed butter. Organic raw grassfed butter is the best option. Organic Valley pasture butter is a great option too. Kerrygold butter is also a good choice and very affordable. Butter should be used in low temperature cooking since the smoke point is 325°-375°.

Smoke point: 325°-375°

Where to buy: Butter is available at most grocery stores. The best option is raw grassfed organic butter, next best is grassfed organic butter and a good affordable option is grassfed butter.

Want to know which oils to avoid?

unhealthy cooking oils

Click here to see my post 5 Cooking Oils You Think Are Healthy…But Aren’t.

 

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Comments

  1. Vanessa Bradshaw-Jones says

    Great article, although avocado oil is quite expensive :/ I also used to love ghee, but i did switch those past 2 years for coconut oil. I seriously thinking about switching back to my beloved homemade ghee! It’s delicious, cheap and has the highest smoking point. Thanks for reminding me :)

    Vanessa, french dietician

  2. says

    Great article, thanks! I was wondering, what about vegetable oils like rapeseed or flaxseed oil? Aren’t they meant to be even better than olive oil?

    • amcken3 says

      Domi,
      Rapseeed oil is a deadly creation of M o n s a n t o it wreaks havoc on the human body and flax oil should never be heated.

  3. Heather says

    Love the article! There are so many options for choosing a healthy cooking oil! You can find some great recipes for cooking with palm on the palmoilhealth.org site!

  4. DeAnna says

    I love all of these except Ive never used the Palm because of the deforest thing. I have a question about the Kerry Gold. I love it but recently I saw a blog that it isn’t what it advertises. I forgot now why….not completely grass fed I think not 100% sure but I was disappointed and have not found a replacement yet. I live in North Dallas and we haven’t seemed to have gotten on the healthier band wagon yet so finding products is harder. All Ive got is Sprouts and all they carry is Kerry Gold and then vegan blends. Does any one know forsure or can confirm this? TIA

    • says

      Good question DeAnna. I did see this article that you were talking about concerning Kerry gold not being 100% grassfed, I think it’s around 98%. During the winter, when grass is not available the company has to feed the cows a very small amount of GMO feed, but this is during the season that they are not milking the cows. Although it is unfortunate that the company can’t access non-GMO feed, I continue to buy it because it is the best quality that I can get with my budget and I believe is still a good product, even though it’s not perfect. If you want to learn more about this issue, this is a good article in response to the original article that you’re talking about–> http://livesimply.me/index.php/2013/07/24/kerrygold-butter-to-buy-or-not/

      Of course, there are other alternatives to kerry gold if you can afford it. If you are in california, I believe sprouts carries organic pastures raw grass fed butter, that’s just about the best you can get. There is also organic valley pasture butter.

      • JJ says

        Hi

        Kerrygold is an Irish product and is not produced by one dairy but by many in Ireland and sold under the one brand. They don’t claim to be 100% grass fed but rather its made from grass fed cows. Anyone who knows the climate in Ireland will know that its impossible to keep cows fed on grass all year round and no there is no off season for mike production. That said there is minimal use of non grass based feeds such as silage and hay – these are grass by another means, one is dried grass and the other fermented and compressed grass. The EU has the strictest regulations around the use of GMO foods in the world and the likelihood is while they may not use grass neither are they using GMO feed. Dairy and cattle farming in Ireland is almost 100% grass based so you will see the same claims made for Irish beef.

    • margaret says

      I usually get Organic Valley pasture fed butter. It’s about $8 a pound, but sometimes Mambo Sprouts has a $1 off coupon in it. So, that’s nice.
      I just did a quick search, and Dallas has a Whole Foods. I’m sure you could find some good butter there. :)
      It also couldn’t hurt to do a search for “natural food store” or something like that. That’s how I found a smaller natural foods store in our area.

  5. says

    Hi,
    I read your comment upon Rapeseed oil. Do you know if your answer also applies to Europe.
    3 arguments in favour of Rapeseed oil:
    – native oil (we don’t have Monsanto problems yet :) here it is a valueble crop to sow in the autumn. It helps restore the soil.
    – high in Omega 3 when used in cold preparations
    – high in magnesium and fibre
    Love to hear from you,
    Birgit

  6. Sarah says

    Any thoughts on peanut oil (other than the potential for allergies)? Not necessarily just for deep frying but for normal use? I’ve been using it for about a year now & love the results but not positive about the health aspects?

  7. disappointed says

    nice title but the article failed to deliver. ghee and butter are not oils. i was actually looking for information about cooking oils. so, in case anyone else wanted to read about the same, i’ll offer another option, bringing the total up to 5. macadamia oil. it’s only 4% pufa, has a really good omega 6:3 ratio, and smoke point is 413 degrees.

    re: avocado oil, it’s higher in pufas than macadamia oil, has a less favorable 6:3 ratio, and, according to this chart: http://theconsciouslife.com/omega-3-6-9-ratio-cooking-oils.htm (a really good chart btw!), has a lower smoke point.

    honestly, i wouldn’t fry in any oil that is not solid at room temp. ghee is great for frying, palm oil is probably the best. but solid palm oil.

  8. says

    Thanks for this post. I will have to try Palm and Ghee, as I haven’t used those very much! I believe I read somewhere that oils actually become rancid before they reach the smoke point, so the smoke point is actually not a safe way to know how hot you can get an oil before it becomes harmful. Do you know if the rancidity temp is the same as the smoke point?

  9. Alison says

    I guess what I’m looking for is a “lesser” evil – if you were going to deep-fry something – what would be the best oil to use for that? So far it looks to me like it would be palm oil?
    I’m not looking for a bunch of well meaning reasons not to deep fry – just my best options.
    Thank you:)

  10. renee pearman says

    PLEASE reply to this: Good ol’ Dr. Oz recommended Safflower oil the other day as an aid to lose belly fat. Your thoughts???

    • says

      Read the article mentioned at the bottom of this article ‘5 cooking oils you think are healthy…but aren’t’ it will explain that vegetable and seed oils are prone to oxidation and go rancid when heated. Safflower oil is also high in PUFAs which causes inflammation. You can read more about it in the article mentioned.

  11. alan says

    ghee and vitamins. i presume that if ghee is derived from “kinda cooked butter” the vitamins have taken the back door. in raw butter they are still there..in pasteurized foods i doubt.

  12. Jeremy Goodwin says

    Please correct your article in regards to smoke points. Particularly olive oil has a highly variable smoke point, with the Texas Olive Ranch Arbequina (FCP) that I use, running between 415°F and 430°F depending on the batch.
    A lot of the inferior olive oils have their smoke points cut by their being blended with other oils like canola.
    There is no way to predict the smoke point of a cold pressed oil, all you can do is test it.
    I routinely fry with it without degradation of the oil, and it is very easy to tell if it got too hot, the color and odor change very rapidly.

    • says

      I recommend using Extra Virgin Olive Oil in my article which has a lower smoke point than just pure olive oil. Pure olive oil would have a higher smoke point. Most people buy extra virgin olive oil and it is not safe to fry with it.

  13. Marilyn says

    I’ve read both your articles on your top healthiest and not-actually-healthy oils. It leaves me curious about almond oil. Should we be as cautious of it as grapeseed oil, or does it have legitimate health benefits?

    • says

      I wouldn’t recommend almond oil as it is high in polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) which can cause inflammation. However, it’s probably ok used very sparingly…but I wouldn’t use it as your everyday go-to oil.

      I’m not very familiar with the way almond oil is extracted, but my guess is that it is processed and refined…never a good sign when it comes to oils.

  14. Maud says

    I’m curious about almond oil too, and other nut oils. Also, I’ve been using a lot of mustard oil, which is common in India, so I’m curious about that, too. Thanks.

  15. Caitlyn says

    We use a lot of those oils at home. The only thing is is people should not be afraid to eat food without an “organic” label on it. People we need to remember that butter comes from milk which comes from cows. The way that people can have their organic label is if they don’t give an animal any medicine as well. Farmers let some of their animals DIE from a completely harmless and treatable disease because otherwise they will lose their organic label. I say absolutely feel free to eat organic vegetables because they don’t hurt anything or anyone. But please think twice about organic products that have come from an animal. And I’m not trying to start any kind of argument but I am an ag major and have grown up on a farm so it pains me for people to think this way.

  16. says

    I already know about the healthy oils/fats for COOKING with, but it’s the ones for eating cold that I have trouble with–specifically, in making mayonnaise! I most recently made it with half coconut oil and half olive oil, and my husband called it “mayo-butter” because it’s so firm when refrigerated. What LIQUID oils are healthy to use for salad dressings without solidifying in the fridge? Any?

      • says

        Olive oil alone gives too strong a flavor to mayo and does solidify in the fridge, which is why I was wondering if there is ANY oil that’s liquid in the fridge that’s healthy.

  17. Nichole says

    I realize this is an older post, but I just found it. Thank you for the information. As far as being correct regarding nutrition, your facts are all there. However, please do not encourage the use of palm oil, even from sustainable sources. I currently live in Malaysia, and breathing is a daily chore. All of the doors and windows must be sealed, and we have to use air filters in the house. When it doesn’t rain for several days, there is a haze from the palm field fires that prevents me from even thinking about taking my two year old outside. I realize that there are, in fact, sustainable sources; however, as long as there is profit to be made for poor countries, the deforestation will continue. Palm oil might be good for consumption, but the process of obtaining it is detrimental to the health of those living where it is made.

  18. Prasath rao says

    Hello, this is very useful article. how about Groundnut /Peanut oil which is common in India. Also please advice on Rice Bran/Safflower oil

    Thanks

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