Most people use edible oils on a regular basis because they can be used in all kinds of dishes, including meat, eggs, vegetables, sauces, and certain cereal dishes.
People often focus on how to choose a healthy oil. However, the health of an oil when it hits the grocery shelf is only part of the story.
It is also important to check that the oil is still healthy after heating it during cooking.
This is because edible oils have a number of smoke points or temperatures at which they are no longer stable. You shouldn’t use edible oils to cook at temperatures above their smoke point.
This article describes 5 healthier edible oils that can be cooked over high heat, as well as some oils to avoid altogether when cooking.
When cooking oils are heated, especially over high heat, they eventually reach their smoke point. This is the temperature at which the oil is no longer stable and begins to decompose.
When oil breaks down, it starts to oxidize and release free radicals. These compounds can have negative health consequences and potentially cause cell damage that can lead to the development of disease (1, 2).
Additionally, oils that reach their smoke point release a substance called acrolein, which can create an unpleasant burnt taste. In addition, airborne acrolein can be dangerous to your lungs (3).
It’s also important to consider how much processing an edible oil has gone through as it can affect its quality.
Highly refined oils have a uniform appearance and tend to be less expensive, whereas oils that have been minimally processed may contain sediment particles, have a cloudy appearance, and retain more of their natural taste and color.
Unrefined oils may contain more nutrients, but are also more sensitive to heat and can go rancid faster than highly processed edible oils. Refined oils tend to have higher smoke points than unrefined oils (4).
Some refined oils are extracted with chemical solvents, while other oils are extracted by pressing plants or seeds. Many health conscious consumers avoid chemically extracted oils and prefer those made by pressing, such as: B. extra virgin olive oil.
Note that oils from different sources can vary significantly in their nutritional composition, including the proportion and type of fatty acids they contain. This can significantly affect their health effects.
Using refined and unrefined oils, as well as oils with different smoke points, has advantages and disadvantages.
Read more about how some vegetable and seed oils can be good for health while others can do the opposite.
Below are five healthier oils that are great for high heat cooking.
Edible oils have their advantages and disadvantages. It is helpful to select edible oils based on their smoke point and degree of processing.
The smoke point of olive oil is around 176 ° C (350 ° F). This is a common cooking temperature for many recipes, especially baked goods.
Olive oil has long been the gold standard for cooking oils in kitchens around the world. This is mainly because it is versatile. It has a subtle peppery or grassy taste and can be used for baking, frying, or cold dressings.
Olive oil is rich in vitamin E, which acts as an antioxidant. The primary fatty acid in olive oil is a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid, which studies have shown may have cancer-fighting and anti-inflammatory properties (5, 6, 7, 8).
In addition, olive oil contains antioxidants known as oleocanthal and oleuropein. These can have anti-inflammatory effects, including preventing LDL (bad) cholesterol from oxidizing (9, 10).
Research has found that olive oil contains heart-healthy compounds and can help prevent conditions such as obesity, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes (11).
Olive oil has a medium smoke point and is good for baking and cooking. It’s high in antioxidants and may have cancer, anti-inflammatory, and heart health benefits.
Avocado oil has a smoke point of around 271 ° C, which makes it ideal for high heat cooking such as deep-frying.
It has a neutral, avocado-like taste and can be used in a similar way to olive oil. It also has a similar nutritional composition to olive oil, high in heart-healthy fatty acids (12, 13).
Some animal studies have shown that compounds in avocado oil can help lower blood pressure, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and triglycerides, which high levels can increase your risk of heart disease (14, 15, 16).
Avocado oil can even be useful for reducing painful joint inflammation, improving the absorption of other nutrients, and protecting cells from free radical damage (17, 18).
One review found that nutritional quality is maintained at low and high temperatures (19).
The quality and nutritional composition of avocado oil depends on several factors, including where the avocados were grown and the extraction method used.
Avocado oil is nutritionally similar to olive oil. It can have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and heart health benefits. It also has a higher smoke point, which is good for high heat cooking methods like deep frying.
Coconut oil is a more controversial option in the health community.
While it contains mostly saturated fats, which may be linked to a higher risk of heart disease, some studies show that it contains health-promoting compounds that fight inflammation and oxidative damage (20).
Additionally, coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides and lauric acid, which can provide heart health and weight loss benefits (21).
Overall, until the research on its health effects is clearer, coconut oil is probably best to use in moderate amounts. It works well for baking and high heat cooking.
Coconut oil has a mean smoke point of approx. 176 ° C.
Coconut oil has a medium smoke point and is good for baking and frying. It contains potentially useful compounds, but also high in saturated fat. Hence, it is best to use it in moderation.
Sesame oil has a medium-high smoke point of around 210 ° C.
It contains many heart-healthy antioxidants like sesamol and sesaminol, which can have various benefits, including potential neuroprotective effects against certain diseases like Parkinson’s (22, 23, 24).
A small study of 46 people with type 2 diabetes also found that using sesame oil for 90 days significantly improved fasting blood sugar and long-term biomarkers for blood sugar management (25).
Sesame oil is good for frying, all-purpose cooking and even as a salad dressing. It offers a mild nutty flavor that works well in a number of cooking dishes.
Note that regular sesame oil is different from toasted sesame oil. The latter has an enhanced nutty flavor, which makes it more suitable for finishing a dish than for cooking a dish.
Sesame oil offers numerous benefits, including a medium-high smoke point and a versatile, nutty taste. Keep in mind that toasted sesame oil is not the same and is better for completing a dish.
The smoke point for safflower oil is higher, around 265 ° C.
Safflower oil is made from the seeds of the safflower plant. It is low in saturated fat and contains a higher percentage of unsaturated fat.
One study found that daily use of safflower oil can improve inflammation, blood sugar management, and cholesterol in postmenopausal women with obesity and type 2 diabetes (26).
This oil has a neutral taste that is good for marinades, sauces and dips, as well as for grilling and roasting on the stove.
Safflower oil has a high smoke point and a neutral taste. It can have anti-inflammatory properties and promote heart health and blood sugar management.
Not all oils are stable enough or designed for use in cooking, especially in high heat preparations. Others are better for cold preparations or are used as dietary supplements, for example.
The following oils should be avoided when cooking over high heat:
- Fish or algae oil. These are omega-3 rich supplements that should be taken cold and in small doses. Do not use these products in cooking.
- Linseed oil. Although this oil is high in the heart-healthy unsaturated fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), it has a low smoke point at 107 ° C and should be reserved for cold uses like salad dressings (27). .
- Palm oil. From a health perspective, palm oil is high in calories and quite similar to some other oils like coconut oil. The main problem here is of an ethical nature, as the production of palm oil is strongly linked to the destruction of the rainforest and the loss of biodiversity (28, 29).
- Walnut oil. This oil is high in ALA and offers some anti-inflammatory and potential cancer benefits. However, it’s also best to reserve for cold preparations like salad dressing. It has a lower smoke point and is around 160 ° C (30, 31).
Some oils are not recommended for high heat cooking. Flax and walnut oils have lower smoke points and are best for cold preparations. Fish and algae oils are intended as dietary supplements, and palm oil is ethical.
There is no shortage of options when it comes to cooking oils. For high heat cooking, it is important to choose oils that will retain their stability. Oils heated above their smoking point will break down and can produce unhealthy compounds.
Some of the healthier cooking oils that can withstand higher cooking temperatures are olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, sesame oil, and safflower oil.
They also contain various unsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants, and other compounds that can provide health benefits.
On the other hand, some oils are better to use in cold preparations or as a dietary supplement, or are otherwise not recommended for high heat cooking. Some examples include fish oil, flax oil, palm oil, and walnut oil.