Food Fight: Oiled Up!

I would venture a guess that cooking oil is a staple in pretty much every kitchen across the country. Oil is used to sauté, grease, roast, fry and bake. It’s used in breads, salad dressings, sauces and more.

Not only do oils have an array of uses, there are also a wide variety of types from which to choose. Some of the more commonly used oils, like olive and canola, have been popular for decades, but there are others like coconut that have gained popularity in the past few years.

Comparing every type of oil would be a huge undertaking so we chose a few of the most popular and took a closer look.

Olive oil has been shown to reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. It’s also rich in vitamins E, A and K, plus iron, calcium and magnesium, which benefit your immune system, eyes, skin and bones. It has a mild flavor that makes it suitable for baking, and it’s also commonly used for sautéing. It’s composed of mostly monounsaturated fat, which is considered a good fat.

Canola oil is a great source of omega-3 fats, as well as vitamins E and K. It has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease when used in place of saturated fat. Since canola oil has a high smoke-point and a neutral flavor, it’s great for everything from sautéing to baking to frying. It can also be used in dressings and marinades. It is composed mainly of monounsaturated and some polyunsaturated fats, both good fats.

Vegetable oil is a general term used to describe soybean oil or a combination of soybean and other oil. It’s rich in linoleic acid, which can help lower the risk of heart disease and is best used in baking and sautéing. The breakdown of the types of fats in the oil depends on the specific blend of oils.

Coconut oil is high in saturated fat, but has been shown to elevate HDL (good cholesterol) levels and reduce heart disease. It also contains lauric acid, which can help fight infections. Coconut can be a good choice for frying and roasting because of its high smoke-point. It’s generally solid at room temperature but will liquefy at temperatures above 76 degrees. Coconut oil is composed of almost all saturated fat, however, the type of saturated fat in coconut oil is a medium-chain fatty acid. Unlike the saturated fat in things like butter, medium-chain fatty acids have been shown to increase good cholesterol

So which oil should you choose? As you can see, each type is best suited for certain purposes in the food world. There isn’t one choice that’s “right” while others are “wrong.” There are mixed opinions about the benefits of coconut oil, and while research is still being completed, most believe it is fine to use in moderation. Remember that all oils are very calorie-dense, and although they may be a source of healthy fats in your diet, going overboard on oil, whichever you choose, can add unwanted or excessive calories to your diet.