Heart-Healthy Cooking: Oils 101

There are 7 important points you should know about cooking oils. Inforgraphic on HealthHub from Cleveland Clinic

Confused about which oils are heart-healthy and which aren’t? Health Hub asked for advice from James D. Perko, CEC, AAC, Executive Chef, for Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute and Center for Lifestyle Medicine, and dietitians Katherine Patton, MEd, RD, CSSD, LD, and Julia Zumpano, RD, from the Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute’s Preventive Cardiology Program.

There are 7 important points you should know about cooking oils

Remember that oil is a fat, and fat calories are still fat calories, no matter which type of oil you use. So, you should use the least amount of fat possible to prepare your foods while still getting the greatest amount of taste and health benefits.

Use this guide to oils as you fix your favorite recipes. You might find it helpful to hang it inside a cupboard door as a quick and easy reference.

Variety might not be best

Although having lots of different oils in the kitchen might seem like a good idea, James Perko says that idea can backfire. As the bottles sit on the shelf, heat, light and air start to ruin them. You might be best off to choose one or two types and use them while they’re still fresh.

Know the smoke point

The smoking point is the temperature that causes oil to start smoking, which produces toxic fumes and harmful free radicals (the stuff we’re trying to avoid!). Different oils have different smoking points, due to their chemical make-up. This means some oils are better suited for cooking at higher temperatures than others. A good rule of thumb is that the more refined the oil, the higher the smoke point.

The smoke point only relates to fresh oil. If oil is used for cooking, then strained and re-used, it loses integrity.

Oils with a high smoke point

These oils are best for searing, browning and deep frying. Note: We do not recommend deep frying

Oil % Mono % Poly % Sat Nutrition Notes
Almond 65 28 7 Distinctive nutty flavor
Avocado 65 18 17 Sweet aroma
Hazelnut 82 11 7 Bold, strong flavor
Palm 38 10 52 High in saturated fat. Not recommended
Sunflower 79 7 14 Seek out high-oleic versions, which are higher in monounsaturated fat
“Light” olive/refined olive 78 8 14 The more refined the olive oil, the better its all-purpose cooking use. “Light” refers to color

 

Medium-high smoke point

Best suited for baking, oven cooking or stir frying.

Oil % Mono % Poly % Sat Nutrition Notes
Canola 62 31 7 Contains low levels of omega-3
Grapeseed 17 73 10 High in omega-6
Macadamia nut 84 3 13 Bold flavor
Extra virgin olive 78 8 14 Best-pick oil
Peanut 48 34 18 Great for stir frying

 

Medium smoke point

These oils are best for light sautéing, sauces and low-heat baking.

Oil % Mono % Poly % Sat Nutrition Notes
Corn 25 62 13 High in omega-6. High-oleic (monounsaturated fat) versions coming soon
Hemp 15 75 10 Good source of omega-3. Keep refrigerated
Pumpkinseed 32 53 15 Contains omega-3
Sesame 41 44 15 Rich, nutty flavor. Keep refrigerated
Soybean 25 60 15 High in omega-6
Walnut 24 67 9 Good source of omega-3
Coconut 6 2 92 High in saturated fat. Use in moderation

 

No-heat oils*

These oils are best for making dressings, dips or marinades.

Oil % Mono % Poly % Sat Nutrition Notes
Flaxseed 65 28 7 Excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid,
a form of omega-3
Wheat Germ 65 18 17 Rich in omega-6. Keep refrigerated

*Toasted sesame, extra virgin olive and walnut oils also work well.

Use oils wisely

It is important to choose the right oil for the job. It is also important to use the right amount of oil. Cooking is one of those things that people learn from their parents and grandparents. And while Grandma’s recipe may call for throwing the battered fish into a pot of oil, you will actually get a healthier, more flavorful meal by using less oil and pan-searing.

Unsaturated fats are best. They help round out a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Limit animal fats/saturated fats and completely avoid trans-fats whenever possible.

Perko says the final message is, “Love the foods that love you back!”