How To Pick The Perfect Cooking Oil (As Told By A Nutritionist!)

From coconut to avocado to almond, cooking oils are everywhere! There are so many to choose from which makes it hard to determine which one to purchase. Naturally, we tend to gravitate towards oil we saw our parents use due to familiarity. I enjoy cooking with oil just as much as the next top chef, but not all oils are created equal.

In fact, if you can do without liquid oil in your diet, I would say do it! Make sure you stick to whole food such as avocados, nuts, seeds and olives if you do go that route. Whole foods will be your best option! Remember, we still need fat in our diet to aid in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.

For those of us who love what oil can bring to the plate, please read on! When shopping, the first rule is to pick oil that is minimally processed. You will want to purchase oils with the following descriptions: cold-pressed, expeller pressed, unrefined or extra-virgin. These adjectives simply tell you it’s prepared through physical or a mechanical process without use of solvents or mixing with other oils when bottled.    

Next, you will want to consider two important factors. What type of cooking method you will be doing and at what temperature. With temperature, you are looking to use oil that will not exceed its smoking point during the cooking process. The smoking point is the temperature of oil in which it starts to breakdown. You will notice if you put olive oil on high heat, you will begin to see smoke rise.

On that note, I have found three types of oil that always make their way back to my pantry due to their omega 3:6 ratio. Some health issues we are seeing today are due to the imbalance of the omega ratios due to increased consumption through processed foods. Please note both omega 3 and 6 are very important to our health, but can also be taken out of context (i.e. drenching everything in oil. I feel strongly that they should be used in moderation and be labeled  ‘please use lightly’ with a little wink ;), but  I digress.

The first oil I have on hand is extra-virgin olive oil. EVOO’s smoking point is around 325 degrees Fahrenheit. With such a low smoking point, this oil is best used for salad dressings, sauces, and sautéing on medium heat. Coconut oil makes its way into my pantry for coating (I love it on top of popcorn), baking, confectionary, or used as shortening.  Its smoking point is around 350 degrees Fahrenheit. For when I want to be really bad and fry something, I reach for the avocado oil. I always say if you are going to do something wrong, do it right. Avocado oil has a smoking point of a whopping 520 degree Fahrenheit–making it best used for stir-frying, frying, and searing.

The reason I choose these three is because they cover the wide spectrum of cooking methods and temperature and have an overall balanced ratio. Since not all oils are created equal (meaning the omega-3, 6, and 9 ratios are drastically uneven), I thought I would share a list of oils that are not nutritionist recommended:

~Grapeseed oil
~Vegetable shortening
~Margarine
~Cottonseed oil
~Peanut oil

Hope you find this article informative when you find yourself stuck in aisle 8.  Remember, please use lighty 🙂

Related: How To Change Your Health With 5 Simple Steps
4 Steps To Help You Quit Processed Foods
How To Support PMS Symptoms Through Diet

Photo: Thrive Market

Katherine Losoya
Written by Katherine Losoya
Katherine lives the everyday influences women face. From deciding what to eat, what products to purchase or what supplements to buy, Katherine writes to help women make nutritional, preventative changes for themselves. Katherine earned her Master of Science degree in Nutrition from NCNM. Her studies focused on women’s health specifically hormone regulation through a holistic, plant-based lifestyle.