Time for a quick Oil 101 lesson. If you ever peek down the cooking oil aisle and you’ll find oil varieties of many nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. But not all oils are created equal—each has a distinct flavor and ideal culinary application, whether you’re going to bake, sauté, fry or drizzle. How do you know which one to choose? Check out these descriptions to help make the right selection.
- Olive oil- One of the oldest known and widely used oils, olive oil contains mostly heart-friendly monounsaturated fatty acids. Unrefined extra-virgin olive oil has a strong olive flavor and a golden-green color. It is produced by cold pressing olives once, which allows it to keep its vitamins and minerals. When olives are cold pressed a second time, virgin olive oil is produced. This oil has a lighter flavor and color than extra virgin. Olive oil has a low smoke point, so is best used in dips, cold dishes, and dressings.
- Avocado oil-Pressed from avocadoes (more on those green beauties on the front), avocado oil also contains high amounts of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and vitamin E, which can decrease risk of heart disease and reduce inflammation in the body. Unlike olive oil, avocado oil has a high smoking point making it ideal for sautéing and frying fish or chicken. It has a beautiful green hue and buttery flavor, so also makes a great addition to salad dressing and sauces.
- Walnut oil- Made from dried, cold-pressed (you guessed it!) walnuts, walnut oil is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and its antioxidant-rich. To maintain its nutty flavor, walnut oil is best used cold in salad dressings or to finish off fish, steaks and pasta dishes. Walnut oil can also be used to add unique flavor to baked goods and desserts.
- Coconut oil– Extracted from the fruit of mature coconuts, coconut oil is high in lauric acid, a medium-chain saturated fatty acid. While saturated fats are typically considered less healthy, this plant-based source has been linked to improving good cholesterol levels and helping with weight control. Coconut oil has a high smoke point and is often used as a substitute for butter or shortening in baking. It also lends a unique tropical flavor to veggies and side dishes.
- Flaxseed oil- While flaxseed oil has a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids, it has a very low smoke point, so shouldn’t be heated or used in direct cooking. Instead, drizzle in smoothies, salad dressings or add it to already prepared veggies. Just one to two tablespoons a day can yield big health benefits, including reduced inflammation, lower total cholesterol levels and more. Flaxseed oil has been found to be beneficial to those with Irritable Bowel Disease, including Crohn’s Disease and Colitis.
- Grapeseed oil– Extracted from grape seeds (a by-product of wine-making) grapeseed oil is rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids and may help to reduce cholesterol levels. It has a moderately high smoke point, making it a good choice for sautéing and frying. When choosing grapeseed oil, look for a cold or expeller-pressed version.