Tuesday, May 5, 2015

11 Healthiest Cooking Oils

Olive oil isn't your only option. From coconut to sesame, learn how to take advantage of the flavor, nutrition, and cooking profiles of the many healthy oils available at your natural foods store.

Confused by all the processing methods and terms? Here's your cheat sheet:
  • Expeller-pressed: Oil is mechanically extracted by squeezing nuts, seeds, fruits, legumes, or grains under very high pressure, without using solvents.
  • Cold-pressed: Oil is expeller-pressed, but friction is reduced so the temperature is kept below 120 degrees during processing.
  • Refined: Tiny particles may remain in extracted oils; to make refined oils, particles are filtered out. Refined oils may also be bleached and deodorized to create a neutral flavor and color.
  • Unrefined: Tiny particles remain in the oil, enhancing flavor, aroma, and nutritional value. Because particulate matter lowers an oil’s smoke point, unrefined oils should only be used unheated or for very low-heat applications.
  • Heat extraction: Pressed oils may also be heated during the extraction process to break down the material and allow greater quantities of oil to be extracted.
  • Chemical extraction: Solvents like hexane are used to break down plant walls and allow oils to be more easily extracted.

Almond Oil

Made by expeller pressing the oil in ground almonds; available refined and unrefined.

Benefits: Increases healthy HDL cholesterol while lowering harmful LDL, supports immune function and liver health, alleviates irritable bowel syndrome, and may reduce colon cancer risk.

Smoke point: 420 degrees

Flavor: Light, clean, and mildly sweet; unrefined has a nutty, toasty flavor with buttery undertones.

Uses: Refined‘s high smoke point makes it best for stir-frying, roasting, grilling, and other high-heat applications. Use unrefined for salad dressings, in dips, and to drizzle on cooked dishes.

Price: $8 to $10 for 16 ounces

Fats breakdown: 70% mono, 17% poly, 8% sat


Avocado Oil

Made by grinding and then expeller pressing avocado flesh; available refined and unrefined.

Benefits: Decreases inflammation and improves cholesterol balance; may increase absorption of antioxidant carotenoids.

Smoke point: 520 degrees

Flavor: Rich, clean taste and lush mouthfeel. Unrefined is emerald green, with a buttery flavor and grassy undertones. Refined has a mild, neutral flavor with the slightest hint of avocado taste.

Uses: Refined is best for high-heat grilling, frying, or roasting. Use unrefined for salad dressing, in pesto, or as a dip for bread. Refrigerate.

Price: $10 to $12 for 8 ounces

Fats breakdown: 71% mono, 14% poly, 12% sat


Canola Oil

Made from rapeseed, a mustard-family plant; usually chemically extracted using solvents, but also expeller-pressed. To avoid GMOs, buy organic; 80 percent of canola is genetically modified.

Benefits: Lowers total and LDL cholesterol and triglycerides; improves insulin sensitivity.

Smoke point: 400 degrees

Flavor: Extremely neutral but provides a dense mouthfeel; pale color.

Uses: Good for high-heat roasting, broiling, baking, and stir-frying, or as a blank canvas for creating mayonnaise or salad dressings.

Price: $8 to $10 for 1 liter

Fats breakdown: 63% mono, 28% poly, 7% sat


Coconut Oil

White and solid at room temperature; clear and liquid when warmed. Virgin coconut oil is expeller-pressed; also available refined.

Benefits: Antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral; may reduce total and LDL cholesterol while raising HDL cholesterol.

Smoke point: 350 degrees (unrefined); 400 degrees (refined)

Flavor: Unrefined has a creamy, oily texture, caramel-buttery flavor, and rich scent and taste. Refined is more neutral.

Uses: Refined works great for sautéing, stir-frying, roasting, and grilling. Use unrefined in baked goods, Asian-inspired dishes, or as a spread.

Price: $7 to $14 for 16 ounces

Fats breakdown: 6% mono, 2% poly, 87% sat


Flaxseed Oil

Made by pressing crushed brown flaxseeds, a process that removes healthy lignans. Some brands add lignans back to make "high-lignan" flaxseed oil.

Benefits: High in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA); may reduce risk of diabetes, cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis, and autoimmune and neurological disorders.

Smoke point: Do not heat

Flavor: Warm and nutty with bitter undertones and an aggressive, but not unpleasant, aroma.

Uses: Drizzle on oatmeal or cooked vegetables, use in salad dressings, and toss with quinoa or other grains. Refrigerate.

Price: $8 to $9 for 16 ounces

Fats breakdown: 19% mono, 68% poly, 9% sat


Grape Seed Oil

Extracted from grape seeds (generally from wine grapes), typically via chemical solvents; to avoid solvents, choose expeller-pressed.

Benefits: High in vitamin E; however, contains high levels of omega-6s and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), a result of the extraction process.

Smoke point: Do not heat.

Flavor: Neutral in flavor and aroma, with a rich, heavy texture.

Uses: Good for moisture-rich baking, dressings, and mayonnaise, where a neutral flavor is needed.

Price: $8 to $12 for 16 ounces

Fats breakdown: 17% mono, 71% poly, 12% sat


Hemp Oil

Made by cold-pressing Cannabis sativa seeds (part of the marijuana family but with no THC, the psychoactive component).

Benefits: Contains chlorophyll and toco-pherols, antioxidants that support immune function and protect the heart.

Smoke point: Do not heat.

Flavor: Earthy, grassy flavor with mushroom undertones; deep green color.

Uses: Use in dips, dressings, and pesto, or drizzle on steamed kale or sweet potatoes. Refrigerate.

Price: $12 to $16 for 16 ounces

Fats breakdown: 14% mono, 77% poly, 6% sat


Olive Oil

Extra-virgin is cold-pressed from the first olive pressing; "virgin" or "pure" is heat-extracted. Organic or California Olive Oil Council (COOC) labels signal no adulteration with cheap oils.

Benefits: Increases heart-protective HDL cholesterol; polyphenol antioxidants promote bone growth and reduce cancer risk; rich in vitamin K.

Smoke point: 420 degrees

Flavor: Extra-virgin, from the first pressing, has leafy, herbal, peppery under-tones. All varieties offer robust flavor, rich texture, and a green-gold hue.

Uses: Grilling, baking, and sautéing. Drizzle extra-virgin on tomatoes and steamed greens. Use any kind in salad dressings.

Price: $9 to $15 for 1 liter (pure); $12 to $20 for 1 liter (extra-virgin)

Fats breakdown: 73% mono, 11% poly, 14% sat


Rice Bran Oil

Extracted from the germ and inner husk of rice grains; most kinds are chemically extracted. Look for cold-pressed varieties, which are not heated during extraction.

Benefits: Contains vitamin E tocotrienols that lower LDL cholesterol, stem inflammation, and reduce cancer risk; rich in vitamin K.

Smoke point: 490 degrees

Flavor: Light and clean, with a fresh, neutral flavor and delicate aroma.

Uses: High-heat stir-frying, grilling, roasting or sautéing, or in dressings or mayonnaise when a neutral flavor is desired.

Price: $7 to $9 for 16 ounces

Fats breakdown: 39% mono, 35% poly, 20% sat


Sesame Oil

Made by expeller-pressing or chemically extracting oil from sesame seeds; available refined or unrefined. Seeds roasted before pressing yield fragrant, toasted sesame oil.

Benefits: Rich in anti-oxidants and abundant in lignans and phenols, which may ease diabetes symptoms.

Smoke point: 410 degrees

Flavor: Light and nutty; toasted sesame oil is dark brown, with a distinctive roasted scent.

Uses: Ideal for broiling and high-temperature stir-frying. Unrefined works well for light sautées, tossed with grains, or in salad dressings. Lightly drizzle toasted oil over finished dishes.

Price: $8 to $10 for 16 ounces

Fats breakdown: 40% mono, 42% poly, 14% sat

Walnut Oil

Made from dried and expeller-pressed walnuts; available refined and unrefined.

Benefits: Contains omega-3 fats that protect against prostate cancer and diabetes, reduce inflammation, promote heart health, and stave off bone loss.

Smoke point: 400 degrees

Flavor: Bold and pleasantly heavy, with a decadent nut flavor and earthy notes.

Uses: Refined is good for moderate-heat sautéeing and baking. Use unrefined as a finishing oil: Toss with cooked beets, add to salad dressings, and drizzle over cream soups. Refrigerate.

Price: $10 to $14 for 8 ounces

Fats breakdown: 23% mono, 63% poly, 9% sat

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