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Our Top 3 Picks
If you have room in your pantry and a wallet for only 3 oils, this trio offers health and versatility.
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
This flavorful, heart-healthy oil is unrefined thus high in antioxidants and polyphenols that are a tonic to cardiovascular health. Less expensive, but so-called "pure" olive oil (not extra-virgin) is refined and more tolerant to heat but also less nutrient-dense. Don't bother with "light" olive oil; it has virtually no character and even fewer polyphenols. Use extra-virgin in low-heat cooking, baking and dressings.
High in omega-3s, this practical bland oil with a relatively high smoke point can be used for sautéing and baking. Most canola oil is highly refined to extract as much oil as possible from the seed. The resulting inexpensive version has a long shelf life. Some consumers choose to pay more for less refined organic canola oil. The organic designation guarantees that the seed was not from genetically modified plants.
This specialty oil sports a higher price tag, but along with its rich, nutty flavor comes omega-3s and vitamin E. Close runners-up in this category include toasted sesame, pumpkinseed and almond oils. We chose walnut as a top pick for its relatively long shelf life: 3 months when refrigerated. Use it to dress salads, especially those containing flavorful cheese and nuts.