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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

does coconut oil have a coconut taste?

Anonymous

02/23/2012 - 12:13pm

OH OH, WHAT TO DO WHAT TO DO ????

Anonymous

02/15/2012 - 9:24pm

coconut oil is the only oil that can be heated at high temperatures without changing the chemical component. All other oils when heated ruin the molecular structure of the oil which produces the free radicals in your body. Check out Dee Mcaffery info.

Anonymous

02/07/2012 - 12:44am

Eating extra virgin olive oil is great for you, IF you eat it on foods that are already prepared, such as salad. For oils to cook or bake with, I have found that Safflower oil is the best, it has a very light taste and can withstand high heat so it will not produce free radicals which can be cancerous. Hope this helps! Also, Coconut oil is also one that can be heated, however, if you have a heart condition you should stay away from all coconut products due the saturated fat. That also includes coconut milk and coconut water.

Anonymous

02/06/2012 - 1:29am

coconut oil is saturated fat!!

Anonymous

01/26/2012 - 10:27pm

Canola oil is the most dangerous of all oils to use. The effects on your body don't appear till 10 years later.Some pretty scary info out there about canola. Use coconut oil. It's the best and healthiest for you.

Anonymous

01/22/2012 - 5:01pm

As a previous post said, virgin olive oil is great for salad dressings etc but I have read that it more readily turns to trans-fat when heated, especially high temperatures like roasting,

Personally I use normal olive oil for roasting/baking and then use virgin olive oil for dressings. Hemp oil is another very healthy oil but that also has a low smoking point.

My advice is to stay away from canola/vegetable oils if possible, especially ones in plastic bottles. Glass bottles FTW

Anonymous

01/12/2012 - 11:41am

Coconut oil! please people, use coconut oil!

Anonymous

01/07/2012 - 8:43am

Would like to see some research on the healthiest oil to bake with. That is, the most neutral taste wise. Sure, if you're baking nut bread a nut oil would be fine, but what about another recipe where the nuttiness is not desired? I've been having pretty good results with virgin coconut oil. One recipe that calls for 1 1/2 cups of butter, I knocked off the half cup and substitute 1/4 cup of coconut oil in it's place. Excellent!

Anonymous

01/04/2012 - 11:03pm

I am now 55 years old and was using coconut oil through life, in all types of food. It has a great taste and as the old people say "It is good for heart, hair, lungs and skin". The only health problem that I experience is backache.

Anonymous

01/02/2012 - 11:26am

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