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Healthy Cooking Oils Buyer's Guide

Tips and recommendations for choosing the best cooking oils.

All food sources that we think of as “fats”—we’re talking butter, shortening, oils—are made up of fatty acids. These fatty acids have specific chemical shapes that affect both how the fat performs in cooking (or baking) and how the fat affects your health. These chemical shapes generally are classified as saturated, polyunsaturated or monounsaturated. All fats contain all three types but are classified by the type of fatty acid that makes up most of the fat. For example, since butter consists mostly of “saturated” fatty acids, it’s considered a “saturated fat.”

 

Monounsaturated Fats

Examples: olive oil, peanut oil

How to spot them: They’re liquid at room temperature but become semi-solid (or cloudy) in the refrigerator.

Health effects: When substituted for saturated fats, monounsaturated fats can help to improve blood cholesterol levels, thereby reducing risk for heart disease.

In short, you should choose polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats—olive and canola oils, for instance—over saturated fats, like butter and lard, to minimize your risk for heart disease. And a well-stocked kitchen includes a variety of different oils for a variety of reasons: what you’re using them for, their nutritional benefits and how much they cost.

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