With health food stores on every other corner and your everyday grocery store carrying trendy food items, it’s easier than ever to choose healthful meal options. While eating fresh produce and lean poultry is a great way to get your essential nutrients, the oils you use in your dishes can affect your meals in a big way. Move your vegetable and canola oils over, because it’s time to take a look at the five healthy oils you should really be using in your kitchen.
1. Olive oil
This oil is touted as being one of the best in terms of flavor — it’s not uncommon to use extra-virgin olive oil atop your salad as a dressing all of its own — and its benefits are potentially huge. Extra-virgin olive oil isn’t the only olive oil worth buying, however; light olive oil is also a smart choice. It has a higher smoke point, says Bodybuilding.com. When the oil is heated and starts to smoke, carcinogenic substances can potentially come from the oil breaking down over the heat. Light olive oil can be heated up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit higher than extra-virgin olive oil without smoking, so it’s a must for cooking.
If you’re not cooking and want the most nutritional value, then reach for an extra-virgin variety. It’s high in essential fatty acids and antioxidants, says Authority Nutrition. The main antioxidants in this oil are oleuropein and oleocanthol, which have been shown to reduce inflammation. This means you may be lowering your risk for heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease, which are all driven by chronic inflammation.
2. Coconut oil
This newly popular oil is all over the place for its health benefits — and it may be worth the hype. Dr. Axe explains coconut oil has a host of healthy fats like lauric acid, capric acid, and caprylic acid that provide energy, are easy for the body to digest, and are not directly stored as fat when consumed.
As far as heart disease is concerned, the fats in coconut oil may help to increase levels of healthy cholesterol. There’s some speculation it may be beneficial for preventing Alzheimer’s disease, but there needs to be much more research in that department. The beauty of coconut oil is how many different ways it can be used — you can try using it on your skin, hair, or teeth. And, yes, it’s great for cooking.
3. Avocado oil
Avocados are well-known for containing heart-healthy fats that are great for the skin, hair, and heart, and little-known avocado oil also boasts similar benefits. Avocado oil itself is pressed from the fruit and can used for cooking or for beauty purposes. This oil is sometimes found in cosmetics because of its ability to naturally moisturize the skin without the use of harsh chemicals.
Avocado oil is rich in essential fatty acids, such as monounsaturated oleic acid. Some research suggests consuming oleic acid could help reduce the risk of heart disease and minimize inflammation. The oleic acid in avocado oil also helps to preserve the product, making it a long-lasting kitchen staple.
Just a disclaimer: Ghee is actually a dairy product, but we thought it was worth including. Also known as clarified butter, ghee may not be on your radar as one of the healthiest fats you can use in your cooking, but it should be. To make ghee, heat butter until the water has evaporated and the milk solids separate so that they can be removed. You’ll be left with a yellow fat that solidifies once cooled, and then you can reap the benefits. Ghee is excellent to cook with, explains Medical Daily, because it has a higher smoking point than most oils, meaning you won’t be consuming any potentially harmful free radicals.
Ghee is also rich in vitamins A, D, E, and K, which are great for bone and brain health. These vitamins also boost immunity, making ghee great for cold and flu season. The same story says it also may benefit your digestive tract.
5. Rice bran oil
Commonly found in Asian cultures, rice bran oil is gaining popularity in the states. Organic Facts explains rice bran oil has a very high smoke point, making it ideal for cooking– you can even safely use it for deep-frying without taking in harmful carcinogens. There’s also good news for women — rice bran oil has been used to help those who experience hot flashes and other unpleasant symptoms of menopause. And don’t be surprised if you notice your skin looking better after starting to use rice brain oil. It contains a decent amount of vitamin E, which can help slow signs of aging.