Advertisement

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.

Download a Free Mediterranean Diet Cookbook!

COMMENTS POSTEDsort icon

Avocado oil is the healthiest.
Check out ACADO brand.

Anonymous

11/18/2015 - 6:37am

Most recent research confirms that Olive oil (even extra virgin) does denature with heat and is NOT as healthy as once thought. Canola, Safflower and grape seed oils are far better choices. Coconut oil is also healthy ( a recent backtrack from nutrition experts but foods cooked in it taste sweet- not a necessarily wanted taste in many foods.

Anonymous

11/07/2015 - 7:19pm

What about sunflower oil?

Anonymous

10/07/2015 - 2:59am

Non stick pans are dangerous. Good expensive ones are no different. An iron pan or stainless steel is the bst you can do for ourself.

Anonymous

09/20/2015 - 11:30pm

If you haven't tried Coconut oil for anything - I suggest you start and find out for yourself how versatile it is! It also has health benefits par excellence!

Anonymous

08/25/2015 - 6:51am

Non-stick pans are coated with chemicals that break down and have been found to be carcinogenic. You're not doing yourself any favors using a non-stick pan to avoid oil. Coconut oil is a healthy oil to cook with and is heat stable, as is good quality organic peanut oil. Olive oil is fine raw, in salad dressing or for dipping, but is not heat stable. Eat as much organic food as you can afford. Genetically modified food is not good for you or the environment.

Anonymous

08/24/2015 - 8:36pm

Conflicting comments by quite a few readers make wonder what to believe. Anyway it is good to have such comments to use one's own discretion.

Anonymous

07/07/2015 - 2:34am

Oils labelled VEGETABLE are almost all soybean (no OTHER vegetables as that person seems to think) Check the labels. SOME soy products are ok (TOFU, ETC.) but some information suggests that we can actually get too much soy, and depending on vegetable oil too much can not be a good thing. My dr. said to avoid soy in relation to my thyroid issue and also, by the way, to throw out ALL nonstick pans! I only use one and do so very carefully(my husband paid WAY too much for it a couple of years ago), and it is NOT non-stick. My cast iron is way better. When I called the manufacturer, I was told to SEASON it like cast iron! I never heard that in my life, and the seasoning hasn't helped at all.

Anonymous

06/07/2015 - 2:31pm

You should use Canola because it's mostly GMO, which means it's the future and is engineered to be superior.

Anonymous

05/28/2015 - 12:28pm

reading the article, I've recently spoken with a nutrition expert who states that olive oil is NOT a good oil to cook with because it denatures with heat and can become a carcinogen

Anonymous

05/22/2015 - 8:43am

Get a full year of EatingWell magazine.
World Wide Web Health Award Winner Web Award Winner World Wide Web Health Award Winner Interactive Media Award Winner