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The 6 best cooking oils and fats to support your health

Published May 20, 2024 • By Laury Sellem

The choices of cooking oils and fats are more diverse than ever, whether in relation to the flavours they impart or the health benefits they offer. From a sizzling stir-fry to a lightly drizzled salad, each oil and fat brings its own unique characteristics to the table. Due to their composition at the molecular level, each cooking oil also supports our health in a unique way, provided its culinary use is respected.   

How to make the most of your meals using cooking oils? What are their health benefits?  

Keep reading this guide for a dive into the realm of cooking oils! 

The 6 best cooking oils and fats to support your health

Extra Virgin Olive Oil 

Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is the cornerstone of Mediterranean cuisine and a staple in kitchens worldwide. It is celebrated for its numerous health benefits thanks to its high mono-unsaturated fat content and has been extensively studied by nutrition scientists. In particular, the large randomized controlled trial PREDIMED has linked the consumption of EVOO with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Further research also suggests that consuming EVOO could improve the control of blood sugar levels and cognitive function.  

In the kitchen: With its hints of fresh herbs and fruit flavours, EVOO highlights the bold taste of meat-based dishes, beans, dark leafy greens, root vegetables, and bitter or spicy greens like radicchio, arugula and watercress. EVOO has a low to medium smoke point, so it is best suited for sautéing, salad dressings, and drizzling over cooked dishes. 

Avocado Oil 

Another culinary powerhouse, avocado oil is prized for its high smoke point and rich nutritional profile. While its health benefits have not been extensively studied so far, avocado oil is loaded with monounsaturated fats, vitamins, and antioxidants – making it a great alternative to extra virgin olive oil. 

In the kitchen: Its mild flavour and high smoke point make avocado oil ideal for high-heat cooking methods such as frying, grilling, and roasting. It pairs perfectly with roasted vegetables or grilled meats. 

Coconut Oil 

Coconut oil has been at the centre of both praise and controversy in recent years, mostly because of its unique composition of saturated fats, particularly medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). While popular fad diets and media claim coconut oil can boost metabolism and weight loss, recent studies caution against its high saturated fat content as it may contribute to increased risk of heart disease. Nonetheless, coconut oil remains a popular choice for cooking as a plant-based substitute to butter.  

In the kitchen: While unrefined coconut oil brings a strong coconut flavour to the table and adds a tropical twist to dishes, refined coconut oil is more neutral and has a higher smoke point, which will be perfect for baking or frying recipes. 

Walnut Oil, Flaxseed Oil 

Walnut and flaxseed oils are prized for their delicate flavour and impressive nutritional profile. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids and particularly alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), antioxidants, and vitamin E, they have been linked to improved heart health and reduced inflammation.  

In the kitchen: Their low smoke point makes them unsuitable for high-heat cooking but perfect for drizzling over salads, pastas, and grilled vegetables. 

Sesame Oil, Peanut Oil 

Sesame oil and peanut oil both boasts distinct nutty flavours when made from roasted sesame seeds and peanuts. They also benefit from an excellent nutrient profile: rich in antioxidants and unsaturated fats, they may help lower blood pressure, improve the control of blood glucose levels, and reduce inflammation.  

In the kitchen: With their high smoke point, they are ideal for stir-frying and complement Asian or Southern recipes perfectly. In addition, cold-pressed sesame oil adds depth of flavour to dressings, marinades, and sauces. 

Canola Oil, Sunflower Oil 

With their low saturated fat content and high levels of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, rapeseed and sunflower oils are considered one of the best cooking oils available. As opposed to butter, coconut or palm oil, their high content in unsaturated fat may help reduce inflammation and the risk of heart disease by lowering low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) blood levels.  

In the kitchen: Both rapeseed and sunflower oils are appreciated for their mild flavour and high smoke point, making them a popular choice for frying, baking, roasting and sautéing. 

Last words 

The world of cooking oils and fats is vast and varied, offering a wealth of flavours, textures, and health benefits to explore. From health-boosting vitamins to heart-friendly unsaturated fats, choosing the right cooking oil for your meal can both support your health and please your tastebuds! By understanding each cooking oil unique characteristics and culinary uses, you can elevate your cooking to new heights of flavour and nutrition, one drizzle at a time. 


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avatar Laury Sellem

Author: Laury Sellem, Doctor of Nutrition

Laury holds a PhD in Nutrition Sciences (University of Reading, UK) and a master's in Nutrition and Human Health (AgroParisTech, France). She has conducted clinical and epidemiological research projects in Nutrition... >> Learn more

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