The cooking oils section in your local grocery store seemingly grows by the day. No longer do you have one or two options to choose from to whip up a weeknight meal. While the expansive cooking oil selection is nice to have, it can also create some confusion. Knowing which oils are healthy or the best to cook with is the first step, and we’re here to help you understand it all.
Types of cooking oils
Cooking oils contain three types of fat: saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.
There’s a reason butter or the fat from your pot roast remains in a semi-solid state at room temperature. Fats contain carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, and in the case of saturated fats, they contain many hydrogen atoms bonded together with carbon chains.
Cooking oils high in saturated fat remain in a semi-solid state at room temperature, which explains why coconut oil (which contains 92 percent saturated fat) comes in a jar and needs heat to turn into a liquid.
Examples of cooking oils high in saturated fats include:
- Coconut oil
- Palm oil
- Palm kernel oil
Unlike saturated fats, monounsaturated fats have fewer hydrogen atoms and have a single carbon bond, also called a double bond. The bond’s presence keeps these fats liquid at room temperature and solid when chilled.
Examples of cooking oils high in monounsaturated fats include:
- Avocado oil
- Canola oil
- Olive oil
- Peanut oil
- Safflower oil
- Sunflower oil
Whereas monounsaturated fats have one double bond, polyunsaturated fats contain two or more double bonds. Polyunsaturated fats remain a liquid even when chilled.
There are two types of polyunsaturated fats: omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are mostly associated with fatty fish, such as salmon, and flaxseeds. Soybeans, walnuts, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds all contain omega-6 fatty acids.
Examples of cooking oils high in polyunsaturated fats include:
- Corn oil
- Flaxseed oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Soybean oil
Best oils to cook with
The American Heart Association considers the following types of cooking oils healthy, meaning they are low in saturated fat and high in either monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats.
Whether it’s avocado toast or avocados in your smoothie, this buzz worthy fruit is gaining popularity in just about every area. Avocado oil is now a trendy choice among home cooks for many reasons. It has the highest smoke point of all plant-based oils, provides a rich, buttery flavor and is high in monounsaturated fat (65 percent).