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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

The information in this article is not from the latest research. Canola oil comes from rapeseed oil which was developed for industrial use and is not for human consumption. It has been refined to remove the erucic acid, but refinement methods can be faulty. Best to stay away from it.

Also there is no mention of virgin coconut oil which is one of the best for health. I even take 2 tablespoons a day as a supplement for its many health benefits.

Anonymous

10/12/2014 - 10:52am

Canola is one of the top three GMO foods, so it's no good unless it's organic. Coconut oil and EV olive oil are excellent.

Anonymous

10/04/2014 - 12:24am

Coconut oil is very good

Anonymous

09/23/2014 - 12:15am

This is a bit disappointing, and is usually a go to site for me when I have a nutrition question. Understand everyone has to make a buck, but the ads are annoying, could you filter them just a bit? And please analyze other oils, should be a complete article. We all know EVOO is super good for us, and as someone else said, not everyone can afford that. Now they are saying good quality corn oil is actually pretty good for you. How about grapeseed, and just plain old vegetable oil, these seem to be making a comeback. Liked your site, but getting a bit skimpy...

Anonymous

09/20/2014 - 5:52pm

All the cooking shows on TV use EVO..Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Thats good enough for me. I still don't see why Vegatable Oil which is made from vegatables is at the bottom of the list.

Anonymous

09/18/2014 - 12:33pm

Can't see for adverts... Won't come back.

Anonymous

09/18/2014 - 11:48am

too many ads no good no good!!!!!!

Anonymous

09/09/2014 - 9:47pm

This is nuts. Can't read the article because of an ad I'M NOT INTEREST IN. WON'T BE BACK!!!!

Anonymous

09/03/2014 - 3:23am

Is canola oil good for health.. can i trust it to full extent, because recently in few website i heard canola oil is not recommended. can i continue the same oil for cooking.. will it create any health problems in future. let me know

Anonymous

08/22/2014 - 1:59am

Please is good to tell us exactly what is good for humans in general. Olive oil cannot be afforded by all especially people of the third world countries who naturally grow palms and coconut, what should they do, throw it away and buy olive oil from Europe and North America.

Anonymous

08/14/2014 - 2:32pm

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