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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

hemp oil is the secret of long lived asians

Anonymous

10/07/2013 - 9:01pm

The article's title references "cooking" but the characteristics of the oils mentioned are all only relevant to unheated oil. Depending on an oils polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) content, and its burn temperature, it is better or worse for cooking. Oils like canola (even though touted as being high in monounsaturated fat) is also relatively high in PUFA and is probably not a good cooking, especially frying/sauteeing, oil.

Anonymous

10/12/2013 - 10:47am

I do not understand why some individuals become sarcastic & nasty when commenting.
It's disgusting and makes the person who does it look ridiculous.

Anonymous

11/09/2013 - 7:52pm

The best oils to safely use for cooking are:

• Coconut oil
• Palm kernel oil
• Palm oil
• Cacao oil
• Shea nut oil
• Ghee
• Butter

These oils are the most heat tolerant.

Anonymous

11/14/2013 - 7:57pm

Canola oil is inherently GMO. It's genetically modified from rapeseed.

Anonymous

11/16/2013 - 6:49pm

I agree about peanut oil. I have used it occasionally to fry foods and it has a very high burn level. It or sesame oil is excellent for using when making stir fry. We rely to much on spray oils. Despite what the label says I think you are getting a lot more chemicals than it says. Are plastic oil bottles BPA free?

Anonymous

11/28/2013 - 1:00am

So was if Canola oil is GMO. Who cares? Bottom line: IT DOES NOT CONTAIN COLESTEROL, VERY LOW IN SATURATED FATS AND NO TRANS FAT. That is what is important.

Anonymous

12/01/2013 - 7:57pm

olive oil is NOT healthy to cook with. Although is healthy to eat it, when heated, it releases unwanted chemicals. So I wouldn't suggest to COOK on olive oil at all.

Anonymous

12/03/2013 - 5:57pm

Seriously, who wrote this article??? Shouldn't there be some fact checking and editorial review before posting something like this online? The title of article is for cooking, and then you go and say virgin and extra virgin olive oil Are you an article factory, and worst of all is that because of all these comments on the page, google thinks this is high quality, but lots of people are mentioning that the article isn't correct. So please rewrite this article with the correct factual information, and don't tell people to cook with extra virgin olive oil which is not healthy!!!! Cooking is usually regarded as heating, people don't heat your extra virgin olive oil!!!!

Anonymous

12/10/2013 - 12:12pm

Between this article and the comments, I have learned nothing here !

Anonymous

12/29/2013 - 10:11pm

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