Top Healthiest Cooking Oils

Discover the Best Oils for Your Health and Taste Buds

19 Min Read

What to Avoid

Generally, it is best to avoid any cooking oils containing a high amount of saturated fat, such as palm oil and coconut oil. These oils contain large amounts of unhealthy saturated fat, which can increase your risk for cardiovascular disease. Additionally, it is essential to avoid any cooking oils that contain trans fats, as these can also increase your risk for heart disease.

Cooking oils are a must-have for any kitchen. They’re essential for making dressings and sauces, cooking vegetables, frying proteins, baking healthier desserts, and more. But not all oils are the same—with so many choices, it can be hard to know which one to pick.

We asked nutrition experts to help us understand what makes cooking oil healthy, the best types to use for different cooking methods, and which ones it’s best to limit or avoid.

What to look for in a healthy oil:

Its predominant fatty acid

All cooking oils have different amounts of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs, with omega-3 and omega-6 fats), and saturated fatty acids (SFAs). The kind of fat in oil affects how stable it is when heated and how healthy it is. So, what should you choose?

MUFAs, or monounsaturated fatty acids, are widely seen as some of the safest fats to cook with. Research has demonstrated that they may have beneficial effects on inflammation, cholesterol levels, and overall heart health. Studies suggest that replacing saturated fats (SFAs) with MUFAs in the diet can be incredibly helpful in improving health. In particular, MUFAs are known for their anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. MUFAs have also been linked to improved cholesterol levels, which can help reduce heart disease risk. All in all, MUFAs are an excellent dietary addition that can support your health in multiple ways.

They’re also more heat-stable than PUFAs, which makes them an excellent choice for cooking and frying, according to Desiree Nielsen, R.D., a registered dietitian specializing in gut health and inflammation and author of Good for Your Gut. This is because when you heat them, they’re less likely to degrade into undesirable lipid oxidation byproducts, unlike PUFAs. The predominant MUFA in cooking oils is oleic acid, or omega-9, which is an essential fatty acid that can provide numerous health benefits. Studies have shown that omega-9 can help reduce inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity, and even reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. It’s no wonder why omega-9 is an excellent choice for cooking and frying!

PUFAs, or polyunsaturated fatty acids, found in oils can be both beneficial and harmful. Omega-3 and omega-6 PUFAs are essential components of a healthy diet; however, they are also very unsaturated, making them highly susceptible to light, heat, and oxygen damage. This damage can lead to lipid oxidation, which results in the production of free radicals and can cause inflammation and other adverse health effects. Therefore, it is essential to ensure these oils are stored correctly to preserve their nutritional value and reduce the risk of inflammation.

According to Nielsen, most of us already eat enough omega-6 PUFAs since they are present in processed and whole foods. Therefore, it is wise to focus on other fats (like omega-3 PUFAs and MUFAs) for a more balanced nutritional profile.

When cooking with omega-3-rich oils, such as flaxseed oil, it is important not to heat them, as this can damage their beneficial fatty acids and make them less nutritious. On the other hand, SFA-rich oils are known to be heat-stable. However, it is best not to use too much of them, especially if you want to avoid heart disease, as they can increase your LDL cholesterol levels.

While some oils high in saturated fat, including coconut oil, may have unique benefits not seen in other types of fats, “many studies have shown that swapping animal fats and saturated fats for unsaturated fats is good for health,” according to Nielsen. Research suggests that when it comes to saturated fat, it is best to consume it in moderation, as too much may cause inflammation and even digestive issues. On the other hand, monounsaturated fats and omega-3 polyunsaturated fats do not have the same potential for harm.

That being said, if your diet is mainly comprised of whole foods and plants, you may be able to include more saturated fat oils in your diet without the same risk of negative health effects.

However, it is best to consult a healthcare professional before making any significant changes to your diet, as including too much-saturated fat could still lead to health issues in the long run.

Extraction and refinement process

According to Uma Naidoo, M.D., a Harvard-trained nutritional psychiatrist and author of This Is Your Brain on Food; it is generally better to use less refined oils, such as extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, or avocado oil, as these are less processed and are generally higher in nutrients and beneficial compounds.

On the other hand, refined oils are often stripped of their natural vitamins and minerals and may contain other additives that can potentially harm your health. Additionally, unrefined oils often have a stronger flavor, making them more suitable for cooking and adding flavor to dishes. As such, opting for less refined oils is highly recommended when possible.

When choosing oil for cooking or baking, you have two choices: “unrefined” or “naturally refined” varieties. Unrefined oils are extracted from olives, avocados, seeds, or nuts through cold or expeller pressing. These oils are then filtered to remove any solids, leaving behind the oil rich in nutrients and helpful phytochemicals.

Alternatively, “naturally refined” oils go through a more thorough process of filtering and may also be heated, although they are not exposed to high heat or chemicals. If you choose one of these varieties, look for an oil that is higher in MUFAs (or SFAs if that is what you prefer) as these types of oils have a longer shelf life than PUFAs.

Production of oils that are very pure requires the use of chemical solvents, as well as high heat and pressure, to get rid of impurities that give off a bad taste or make the oil have a lower smoke point. The downside of this method is that it damages fat molecules and creates byproducts from lipid oxidation, which can be very difficult to remove from the oil.

Furthermore, this process can reduce the number of phytochemicals and nutrients that are naturally present in the oil, making it less beneficial for consumption and use. Thus, this oil production method must be carefully considered to ensure that the oil produced is of the highest quality and contains all of the necessary components for optimal health benefits.

Smoke point

Finally, it is crucial to consider oil’s smoke point when deciding which one to use for cooking. Dana Ellis Hunnes, Ph.D., MPH, R.D., adjunct assistant professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and author of Recipe for Survival, explains: “Oils with a low smoke point should be avoided when cooking since they tend to burn more quickly and easily than those with higher smoke points.

Additionally, it is essential to note that the smoke point of an oil can depend on several factors, such as the quality of the oil, the type of oil, and how it has been processed. Therefore, it is essential to be aware of oil’s smoke point before cooking to ensure that it doesn’t burn during the cooking process.”

Heating oil beyond its smoke point can create free radicals, and a compound called acrolein, leading to chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. But having a high smoke point doesn’t necessarily make an oil healthy. It’s essential to look at other factors, such as the type of fatty acids present, the amount of saturated fat, and the production practices used to make the oil. For example, if you’re looking for an oil to use in various cooking methods, you don’t necessarily need an oil with a high smoke point.

Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and avocado oil, which have moderate smoke points, can be used for sautéing, baking, and moderate-heat roasting. Additionally, these oils are generally less processed than other oils, and they contain healthy unsaturated fats. Therefore, it’s essential to consider various factors when choosing an oil for cooking.

When cooking, the oils are protected by the food and don’t get too hot, according to Nielsen. Regular supermarket extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) can be used for medium-high heat or for baking temperatures up to 400°F to 425°F. But avoid heating fancy, unfiltered, artisanal oils that look cloudy because they can’t handle high heat.

The Definitive Ranking

  1. Olive oil is one of the healthiest cooking oils on the market due to its high content of monounsaturated fats and antioxidants. It is also much lower in saturated fats than other cooking oils, making it an ideal choice for preparing healthier meals. In addition, olive oil has a higher smoke point than other cooking oils, so it can be used for higher-heat cooking without breaking down and releasing free radicals. Furthermore, studies have shown that regular olive oil consumption can help reduce harmful cholesterol levels and even help prevent certain types of cancer. All these benefits make olive oil an ideal choice for cooking and baking.
  2. Avocado oil is an excellent choice for cooking, not only because of its high concentration of monounsaturated fats and antioxidants but also due to its high smoke point. This makes avocado oil a preferred choice of chefs and home cooks alike, as compared to other cooking oils, as it won’t easily break down and form toxic byproducts when heated at high temperatures. Furthermore, it is also a healthier option than other cooking oils, as it is lower in saturated fats, providing an outstanding balance of beneficial fats. As a result, avocado oil can be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet and is an excellent choice for cooking and baking.
  3. Canola oil is an excellent choice for cooking due to its low saturated fat content, high monounsaturated fats, and omega-3 fatty acids. It is also a healthier alternative to other cooking oils as it contains less trans fat, making it a healthier and more nutritious option for many recipes. Additionally, it is a good source of Vitamin E, an important antioxidant that helps to protect cells from damage. Canola oil is also a mild-tasting oil, making it a good choice for baking and sautéing. It is also an excellent option for deep-frying, as it has a high smoke point and can withstand high temperatures without burning. All in all, canola oil is an excellent choice for cooking, baking, and frying, and it can help to make meals healthier and more nutritious.
  4. Safflower oil is an effective option for cooking, as it is significantly lower in saturated fat than other oils and is rich in monounsaturated fats. Moreover, its high smoke point makes it ideal for cooking at high temperatures, as it will not break down and create potentially harmful compounds. Additionally, safflower oil can create various flavorful dishes, as its mild flavor won’t overpower the ingredients. Furthermore, it is a healthy choice for those looking to improve their cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  5. Sunflower oil is an excellent choice for cooking, as it is low in saturated fat and monounsaturated fats. This type of oil is also known for its high smoke point, making it an excellent option for high-heat cooking. Sunflower oil is especially good for those looking to cut back on unhealthy fats, as it contains fewer saturated fats than other oils. The high smoke point makes it suitable for various recipes and cuisines, from sautéing vegetables to baking cakes. Sunflower oil is also rich in vitamin E, an important antioxidant that helps protect the body from free radical damage. For those looking to make healthier cooking choices, sunflower oil is a great option.
  6. Soybean oil is an excellent choice for cooking due to its low saturated fat and monounsaturated fat content. Furthermore, it has a high smoke point, making it an ideal choice for cooking at high temperatures. Soybean oil has a mild flavor and is an excellent source of essential fatty acids, making it a nutritious addition to any meal. It has a relatively neutral taste, so it won’t overpower other flavors in recipes, allowing you to experiment with a wide variety of dishes. Additionally, it is a versatile oil, as it can be used in various cooking methods, from sautéing to deep-frying.
  7. Peanut oil is an excellent option for cooking due to its low saturated fat content and high monounsaturated fat content. Its high smoke point makes it perfect for high-heat cooking and stir-frying, as it can withstand temperatures higher than other oils. Peanut oil is also a heart-healthy choice, as it contains monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. This oil is also rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, making it an excellent choice for those looking to improve their health. Moreover, peanut oil has a neutral flavor, making it versatile for various dishes. It can also be used for baking, as its high smoke point can help create a crisp crust. Peanut oil is an excellent option for those looking to cook healthier while enjoying delicious meals.
  8. Walnut oil is a popular choice for cooking due to its beneficial nutritional properties. It is low in saturated fat and rich in monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, making it an excellent option for those looking to include healthier fats in their diet. Additionally, walnut oil has a high smoke point, making it ideal for high-heat cooking, such as stir-frying and sautéing. Not only does it have a rich, nutty flavor that can enhance the flavor of your dish, but it also offers numerous health benefits, such as anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, as well as a range of vitamins and minerals. All in all, walnut oil is an excellent choice for anyone looking to add more nutrition and flavor to their meals.


When it comes to cooking, selecting the right cooking oil is essential. The healthiest cooking oils are lower in saturated fat and higher in monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, such as olive oil, avocado oil, canola oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, peanut oil, and walnut oil. These oils are packed with nutrients and can provide various health benefits, including reduced heart disease and cancer risk, improved cholesterol levels, and improved brain and eye health. In contrast, oils that contain trans fats or a high amount of saturated fat, such as palm oil and coconut oil, should be avoided as they offer fewer health benefits and can potentially be detrimental to your health. Choosing the right cooking oil can help ensure that you get the most nutritional value out of your meals.

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