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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

Who ever says crops that are geneticlly modified are causes of all this illness is full of shit. Understand science first before you say anything about them. Most of our illnesses are self induced by inactivity and bad habits. Quit reading your freak blogs and read up on science dumbass.

Anonymous

05/07/2013 - 8:24pm

I wouldn't even know where to find rice bran oil. I can find grape seed oil all over the place. No rice bran oil.

Anonymous

04/12/2013 - 3:33pm

Do not use canola oil, soybean oil or corn oil. They are filled with Genetically Modified Organisms and insecticides such as Agent Orange. There is nothing healthy about them. GMO's have caused food allergies that never existed 30 years ago, and have increased cancers and failed organs. Start reading about GMO's in our food sources and pressure Canada and the USA to start Labeling GMO's so we can make the decision to not buy them.

Anonymous

04/07/2013 - 6:55pm

Having been educated by Nuns, I never forgot what was drilled into us --- OVER INDULGENCE IN ANYTHING, IS NOT GOOD FOR YOU.

Case closed.

Anonymous

03/22/2013 - 4:28pm

Hemp oil the best

Anonymous

02/22/2013 - 4:05pm

How about better citations on these articles, especially a date. Dietary info is rapidly evolving and without a date on the article, it is hard to know the context.

Anonymous

02/19/2013 - 10:39pm

Hemp seed oil is really good for us but it should never be heated just like extra virgin olive oil.
Rapeseed oil & Canola oil are highly processed oils.
Best 'oils' for cooking are high quality coconut oil, palm oil, ghee & even animal fat.

Anonymous

02/12/2013 - 6:17pm

I recently read about rice bran oil...can anyone weigh in on that?

Anonymous

02/12/2013 - 2:10pm

Canola and rapeseed oil are one and the same....originally derived for human consumption in Manitoba, Canada. The Canadian farmers renamed it canola (stands for...Canadian oil low acid)because they thought the name rape seed would have a negative effect on consumers.

Anonymous

12/22/2012 - 12:47pm

Everybody has different bodies. Our bodies respond differently to different things. Not all bodies will get results from the same exact thing. There are no best cooking oils but there are a lot of healthy options. Personally I use soy free omega three butter (found it at publix). That's a good choice.

Anonymous

12/17/2012 - 11:08pm

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