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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

I grew up on chips cooked in a pan of lard. It didn't do me any harm; I'm okay and 89 in a few weeks. My mother lived to over a hundred, and used only lard for cooking, drank full cream milk, and spread butter a quarter inch thick on biscuits. She was never ill, was articulate and active to the end, but all her siblings and friends had departed this mortal coil, so she just got fed up with life eventually, and left. Her father lived to 94, and if he felt poorly, he ate fatty mutton (not lamb). He died from the strain of cutting a 50 yard high hedge with hand shears one day, and that would have tested a 34 year-old. So what's all this nonsense about what fat NOT to eat?
Anonymous

Anonymous

09/23/2013 - 9:10am

There's only one country that could have a discussion like this. Even the author did not account for the difference in the smoke point of olive oil versus canola oil. Whatever you eat, you are eating too much of it, on average. It's not only what you eat but your eating, drinking, and exercise habits that make the real difference in your health. If you are really learning something completely new from this article then you don't understand food. For example, gluten: we never heard anything about this for thousands of years. People in Japan have been living long lives for centuries and don't know what you're talking about with fads like this.

Anonymous

09/15/2013 - 11:30am

GMO=genetically modified organisms

Anonymous

09/07/2013 - 11:55am

Groundnut (Peanut) oil is an ideal all rounder.

Anonymous

09/04/2013 - 6:06am

I have looked at every cooking oil, and there is always at least one article about how each of them are actually terrible for you. I am utterly lost and confused on what oil to buy. All I want is to stay away from GMOs.

And to the person who thought it would be funny to say you buy as many GMOs as you can to throw off us "hippes." You're an idiot.

Anonymous

09/02/2013 - 5:16pm

I buy as many GMOs as I can to offset you hippies

Anonymous

08/28/2013 - 11:14pm

What is GMO?????

Anonymous

08/16/2013 - 2:57pm

I like grapeseed oil for frying. Stands up to heat better than olive.

Anonymous

08/16/2013 - 6:07am

READ "Good Calories Bad Calories" by Gary Taube. The only fat that's bad for you is margarine and shortening; the fake fats. NO fats cause heart disease. The public has been Majorly Fooled into believing lies about nutrition. People need fat in their diet. Cholesterol will not kill you. But, not eating enough fat will lead to all kinds of health problems. If you want to eat healthy--stop eating sugar and white flour, and only a very little any grains. It makes my husband and I feel great. The folks that say eating a lot of meat will give you side effects are lying. That only happens if you try to only eat low-fat.

Anonymous

08/15/2013 - 3:47pm

I'm with everybody else. How in the world can you promote canola oil, knowing that's a GMO? What about grape seed oil that is readily available has a wonderful smoking point.
Anonymous

Anonymous

08/15/2013 - 2:00pm

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