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Q. What is the healthiest oil to cook with?

A. Relative to other oils, canola (made from the seeds of a yellow-flowered plant) and olive oils are rich in monounsaturated fats—the kind that help reduce “unhealthy” LDL cholesterol and boost “healthy” HDL cholesterol. But new research suggests that virgin (and extra-virgin) olive oils—those produced purely by mechanically pressing the oil from olives, with no chemical processing—have an edge: antioxidants called polyphenols. Naturally found in olives (in red wine and green tea too), polyphenols mop up free radicals before they can oxidize LDL (oxidation makes LDL even more damaging to arteries).

In a three-week study of 200 men published recently in Annals of Internal Medicine, those who consumed just under two tablespoons a day of high-polyphenol virgin olive oil in place of other dietary fats registered larger increases in “good” HDL cholesterol and fewer markers of oxidative stress than men who consumed the same amount of “ordinary” olive oil, which had a very low polyphenol content. Chemical refining processes remove some polyphenols from “ordinary” olive oils (often labeled as “pure” in the U.S.) and other cooking oils, says Maria-Isabel Covas, Ph.D., lead author of the study and a researcher at the Municipal Institute for Medical Research in Barcelona, Spain.

Bottom line: Virgin olive oil doesn’t just taste better than plain old “olive oil,” it’s better for you too. (Great justification for splurging on a pricier product, no?) That said, any olive or canola oil is a heart-healthy choice—assuming you use it as a substitute for (not a complement to) saturated fats in your diet. If cost is a concern, go ahead and use refined olive oil or canola in cooking and save the virgin oil for cases that call for a high-impact fruity flavor (dipping bread, dressing salads, accenting soups).
—D. Milton Stokes, M.P.H., R.D.

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COMMENTS POSTEDsort icon

So what's the best oil to cook with ?

Anonymous

08/19/2016 - 12:20pm

I've read that heating olive oil makes it like a trans fat. What is the healthiest oil to cook (heat) with?

Anonymous

07/28/2016 - 1:59pm

Canola does not stand for Canada Oil, it stands for Canada Oil Low Acid. And does not come from rapeseed, it comes from canola seed and does not have the acide that makes rapeseed inedible. I don't know what part of Canada don't eat canola oil or what kind of cows don't eat it either. Cows will eat it any chance they get.

Anonymous

06/21/2016 - 9:46pm

My father has diabetes issues..so i asked a doctor what to use. He told me cooking with Fortune Vivo oil has many benefits for patients like him. I made everybody in the family switch to that oil since. Hope it is good for the entire family too.Is anyone else using it?

Anonymous

05/11/2016 - 6:21am

My father has cholesterol issues..so i asked a doctor what to use. He told me cooking with sesame oil is really healthy and has many benefits for patients like him. I made everybody in the family switch to sesame oil since. I know so many other people who are switching to it for daily cooking. Its quite popular these days.

Anonymous

05/04/2016 - 7:55am

I believe that virgin olive oil is better 2 I use it in all my vegan cooking

Anonymous

03/26/2016 - 8:23pm

why there is no corn oil in your list of cooking oil for healthy consumption?

Anonymous

03/12/2016 - 7:05am

Thank you all for the guidance. I did not see sesame seed oil mentioned for frying. Is sesame seed oil better for frying than avocado oil? Thank you all. Roberto.

Anonymous

03/05/2016 - 8:04pm

Canola oil stands for Canada Oil and is made from Rape Seed. In Canada people don't bother with this oil! Care to know the reason? If the cows out in the field won't touch it much less eat Rape Seed, why oh why would I? Rape Seed although it is a beautiful weed, and keep in mind cows who feed on all sorts of weeds and grass won't touch it again, why would I? Give me vegetable oil or coconut oil or olive oil but NEVER canola oil.

Anonymous

01/30/2016 - 8:10am

I started putting coconut oil in my oatmeal every other day plus was eating coconut yogurt. For the first time ever my latest triglycerides level was above the high normal. This is the only diet change I can blame this on. Have stopped so hope the next trig will be back in normal range.

Anonymous

12/21/2015 - 12:49pm

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