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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

thanks for your knowledge on oils!! very helpful.

Anonymous

04/01/2012 - 3:49pm

"... 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." This is exactly what I heard from my doctor just this morning. I'm on the Paleo diet which relies heavily on the coconut, but due to my high cholesterol levels he stated that I should not eat coconut in any form :( he referred to it as a "poison for the arteries".

Anonymous

04/05/2012 - 3:15pm

Cannola oil is best

Anonymous

04/23/2012 - 6:24am

Rice bran oil also has high smoke point. It is also neutral in terms of aroma and taste. So, you can use it for all kinds of cooking. It's healthy, too, because of high natural antioxidants i.e. vitamin E tocopherol and tocotrienol as well as gamma-oryzanol. I'd rather stay away from coconut oil and palm oil because of saturated fatty acid that increase LDL cholesterol.

Anonymous

04/23/2012 - 12:20pm

Coconut oils are one of the best to cook with it has a anti-fungal property which is good for you. Palm oil is the one that is really bad not coconut oil. No coconut oil doesn't have much taste it's great.

Anonymous

04/25/2012 - 1:30pm

Coconut water has no fat whatsoever. The highest RDA of anything you get in it is actually potassium, which is pretty key for high blood pressure. Even carbs are down at 5%. Coconut water is not the same thing at all as coconut milk. If your doctor warns you about fat in coconut water, then you should find one that actually knows something about food.

Anonymous

05/14/2012 - 11:42pm

All of you saying that Canola oil is the best, or even good, please take a time out.

Anonymous

05/24/2012 - 3:11pm

Well now I am confused :( I just want a great cooking oil that will be good for my little girl who is now a Celiac and for the rest of my family too! I know Olive Oil Rocks when uncooked but I need something to make popcorn in and bake with ect...

Anonymous

05/28/2012 - 1:11pm

Canola oil is genetically modified/genetically engineered in Canada in 1975-so stay away from that oil,even if label say organic; Use coconut oil for cooking, or ghee butter also known as clarified butter in moderation-good for popcorn or deep frying; extra virgin olive oil is the best cold pressed for salads,dipping and more. i would also say that sunflower oil, unrefined is okay if organic ,and last maybe organic butter in moderation for baking. Stay away from anything that GMO or exposed to high heat during the process, or refined. Generally speaking use oils that organic, cold pressed, unrefined, and sounds familiar. store them in fridge, except coconut oil, ghee butter, or oil that are in dark glass bottles-to protect from directs sun light. I never heard of canola oil, safflower oil, cotton seed oil/Crisco, soy and corn oil-?, most likely GMO- genetically modified. Use what our ancestors used before, just in moderation and you will be fine! :)

Anonymous

05/30/2012 - 5:33am

Canola oil is a very good lubricating oil, made from the rapeseed plant (poisonous) so has to be genetically modified to make it less poisonous. About 1990, England mixed it with hog feed and gave it to them. They went blind and developed very aggressive behavior. After 5 years they stopped giving it to them and everything returned to normal. It should not be used as a cooking oil.... No good.

Anonymous

06/07/2012 - 1:33am

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