By Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D. , April 6, 2010 - 11:33am
We use a lot of oil in my house. That sounds gross, I know. Let me explain. It’s really just that one of our healthy-cooking rules is to not use much, if any, butter . So when we need a little grease—be it in a skillet or a muffin tin—we use oil.
Most of the time, it’s canola oil, which led us (and a lot of EatingWell readers) to wonder: is it really all that healthy to cook with? (Choose a cooking oil based on your needs and preferences with this Cooking Oil Guide .)
Here’s what I found:
• Canola oil is a good source of monounsaturated fats, the kind that, when used to replace saturated fats like butter and cheese , can help reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and lower your risk of heart disease.
• If you are cooking with heart health in mind, consider canola: canola is the richest cooking-oil source of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fat that has been linked to heart health. (Are you getting enough omega-3s? )
• Canola oil is also versatile: it has a neutral taste, light texture and a medium-high smoke point, so it works well for sautéing and baking. (An oil’s smoke point is the temperature at which it begins to smoke. When it does, disease-causing carcinogens and free radicals are released, so you never want to heat your oil to that point.)
Now, what about the canola naysayers?
For example, at EatingWell we get questions from people who’ve heard canola oil is toxic and can cause various diseases, from emphysema to Mad Cow.
The truth is there are no sound scientific studies suggesting a link between canola oil and any disease.
We also hear concerns that canola oil is genetically engineered (GE).
Canola oil comes from canola seeds. They are a genetic variation of rapeseed that was developed in the 1960s using traditional plant-breeding methods to make the rapeseed more palatable. Today, however, most canola (93 percent in the U.S.) is GE. So, if that’s a concern for you, choose certified organic. (Here are 15 foods you don’t need to buy organic .)
What oil do you cook with? Tell us what you think below.