Kerri-Ann Jennings

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For the longest time, the only oil I bought was extra-virgin olive oil. After all, it's high in heart-healthy antioxidants called polyphenols and monounsaturated fats, which can help lower "bad" LDL cholesterol and raise "good" HDL cholesterol levels. Then a friend, who was also a chef, told me that there are actually times when olive oil is not the best choice. So I looked into the best uses for olive oil, and when to choose another oil.

When to use olive oil: When you're making salad dressing or sautéing vegetables over medium heat, olive oil is an excellent choice. Since it has a distinct flavor, use it in dishes where you want to taste it-drizzled over steamed vegetables, soup or bread, for example. Olive oil has more monounsaturated fat than other oils, making it a great choice for heart-healthy cooking. Find out the difference between extra-virgin olive oil and other olive oil labels and learn the winners of our olive oil taste test.

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When to skip olive oil: If you're cooking over high heat, don't choose olive oil. Olive oil has a lower smoke point-the point at which an oil literally begins to smoke (olive oil's is between 365° and 420°F)-than some other oils. When you heat olive oil to its smoke point, the beneficial compounds in oil start to degrade, and potentially health-harming compounds form.

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What to use instead: Canola oil, on the other hand, has a higher smoke point and is a good choice if you'll be cooking over high heat, as when you're roasting vegetables or sautéing food over high heat. It also has a neutral flavor and is packed with heart-healthy alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid), which makes it ideal for baking. It's also cheaper than olive oil, so if you're trying to trim your grocery bill then canola oil is a good option. Most of the canola oil in the United States is made from genetically-modified canola seeds, however, so if that's a concern, choose organic canola oil. Peanut oil has a very high smoke point, and so is also good for high-heat cooking, like stir-frying. Although more expensive, avocado, macadamia nut, tea and almond oils are also good mono-rich choices for everyday use.

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