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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

best oil to cook in - bacon grease! Hands down. 45% monosaturated High Oleic Acid Fat - and it tastes great too. See also, duck fat.

Anonymous

09/09/2012 - 2:55pm

For all of you out there that says your doctor is warning you about using oils to cook with, especially oils like coconut oil, safflower, sunflower, or any other oil that's high in saturated fat. I think its time for you to stop listening to your doctor - There is no correlation between a high fat diet and heart disease. There is no correlation between high cholesterol and heart disease. There is so much more to cholesterol than we understand or could ever understand. There are some great doctors out there doing amazing things in the field of research that have a better grasp on this stuff. You're GP/PCP has absolutely no clue.

Anonymous

09/09/2012 - 3:03pm

How about in baking? Is it better to use canola oil than butter? I hope somebody responds to my question.

Anonymous

09/16/2012 - 10:05am

You are far better off using natural organic butter than canola oil.

Anonymous

09/22/2012 - 11:29pm

HI

My question;

I read one of your articles of cooking oil;

we know we should heat up oil above its smoking point ,and some oil are fragile to even just light and oxygen ,but what we don't know is ,each oil to what temp had it been heated during its refinery ?

We prefer refined oil 'as its raises dramatically its smoking point, but which already been gone above its smoking point in order to achieve its higher smoking point,

Is light and extra light olive oil or refined grape seed oil just as harm full as any refined vegetable oil?

Sincere

Star stern

Anonymous

10/09/2012 - 11:35pm

Studies have shown that Avocado Oil is the healthiest of all.....it can be used for both cooking and salad. It is low in Saturated fat, hogh in Monosaturated fat and has a very high smoke point. Go for Avocado Oil!

Anonymous

10/15/2012 - 8:31pm

I also use extra vergin olive oil in many ways and have just added extra coconut oil. Both have theirs ace in the kitchen and bathroom.

Anonymous

10/19/2012 - 12:16am

I also use extra virgin olive oil in many ways and have just added extra virgin coconut oil. Both have theirs ace in the kitchen and bathroom.

Anonymous

10/19/2012 - 12:18am

what about palm fruit oil? Anyone ever tried cooking with that? Lots of misconceptions about it, but it is a healthy alternative to oil olive. It has the healthy kind of saturated fats and also high amounts of vitamin A & E. Also good for high heat cooking

Anonymous

10/19/2012 - 2:38pm

I prefer cottonseed oil, as it gives all foods a hint of nuttiness and doesn't go rancid for a long time.

Anonymous

10/22/2012 - 10:14pm

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