Which Cooking Oils Are the Most Nutritious?

Not all cooking oils are alike. From avocado to walnut oil, there are a number of vegetable oils used in cooking. Whether you are sautéing chicken or dressing a salad, the type of oil you use not only changes the flavor, it changes the nutritional value of your meal.

Most cooking oils are made from vegetables. Specifically, the vegetable oil comes from crushing or using a chemical process to extract the vegetable seed’s oil. Some of the more popular vegetable cooking oils used in homes and restaurants across the world are corn, soybean, canola and olive oils. The oil you can buy at the grocery store labeled “vegetable oil” is likely made from soybeans or is a mix of other vegetable oils.

Fat Content

While the oils come from vegetables, that doesn’t mean they’re completely good for you.

Oil is still a form of fat so it’s important to consider which ones you choose and how often you use them. There are three main types of fats found in cooking oils and each has a different effect on your body:

  • Monounsaturated fats are considered the healthiest kind of fat found in cooking oils. Monounsaturated fats can help lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and raise good cholesterol (HDL).

Cooking Oils: Olive, canola, peanut and sesame.

  • Polyunsaturated fats can also be beneficial to your health. They can help lower bad cholesterol and be rich in omega-3, a nutrient that can help reduce the risk of heart attacks.

Cooking Oils: Soybean, sunflower, walnut and “vegetable.”

  • Saturated fats are typically solid and come from animals (or animal byproducts). Examples include butter and lard, though some vegetable oils are full of saturated fat as well. Too much saturated fat is usually unhealthy and only increases the risk of heart disease.

Cooking Oils: Coconut and palm.

Portion Sizes

Despite certain health benefits of some cooking oils, fat should be consumed in moderation. Experts recommend limiting the daily amount of cooking oil you consume to:

  • 5 – 7 teaspoons for adults;
  • 5 – 6 teaspoons for teens and young adults; and
  • 3 – 4 teaspoons for children under eight.

Aside from the fat content, most vegetable oils, no matter what the type, have around 120 calories per tablespoon (or three teaspoons).

Want More Healthy Eating Tips?

Visit Eat Right for more information about National Nutrition Month and healthy eating.

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