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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

Cannola oil is best

Anonymous

04/23/2012 - 6:24am

"... 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

thanks for your knowledge on oils!! very helpful.

Anonymous

04/01/2012 - 3:49pm

Olive oil (organic) is good for eating raw in salads, but will go bad when heated. Coconut oil is best for cooking as well as avocado oil, which withstand high temperatures well without changing into a bad fat. Safflower oil, grape seed oil and any nut oil is high in omega 6 when heated, which causes inflammation in the body. Canola oil - don't use for anything.

Anonymous

03/23/2012 - 11:39am

I'm so confused!!!

So what about grape oil is it good or bad for cooking?

Anonymous

03/14/2012 - 2:26am

wow. maybe don't use any. The more we know the more confusing it gets. Buttom line is coconut oil bak or not? How about safflower oil? Thats been on the news lately

Anonymous

03/07/2012 - 3:02pm

What about Rice Bran Oil?

Anonymous

03/04/2012 - 9:42am

are you serious, you didn't even answer the question! You simply stated which oil is best to eat raw, when an oil is cooked it oxidizes and the quality is degraded, sometimes resulting in unwanted chemical attributes with associated health risks. Don't mislead people if you don't know the answer - you're doing mroe harm than good.

Anonymous

02/29/2012 - 4:22pm

does coconut oil have a coconut taste?

Anonymous

02/23/2012 - 1:13pm

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

Anonymous

02/15/2012 - 10:24pm

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