The Good Fats
Monounsaturated fats have been found to lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) and increase the HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol).
Polyunsaturated fats also have been found to lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. These fats also contain Omega 3 fatty acids, which lower triglycerides, increase HDL cholesterol and act as a anticoagulant to prevent blood from clotting.
The Bad Fats
Saturated fats raise your total blood cholesterol levels as well as LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff).
Trans fats raise LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol (the good stuff). In recent years trans fats became widely understood to be unhealthy, and as a result are not found in very many foods.
The smoke point of an oil is simply the temperature at which the oil will begin to burn. Oils vary in their smoke point, making some ideal for cooking with high heats, while others are best used at room temperature or even cold. Use these general guidelines to help decide which oil is best for the cooking you plan to do.
Tolerates searing, deep-frying, and most other high-heat cooking techniques
Good for baking, roasting, broiling, crisp sauté, stir-frying
Use for light sauté, low-heat baking and simmered sauces
Burns easily and most often destroys flavor when exposed to higher heats, try at room temperature or chilled.
Here are some of the oils that are found in chefs' pantries around the world
This oil is not from the seeds, but the ripe fruit flesh of the avocado (riper the darker and more bold flavored oil). Avocado oil is full bodied with a slightly bitter and nuttier flavor than that of olive oil. Although this oil can be used for cooking, we find it flavor more complimentary to cold dishes - drizzled on salads, rubbed on breads or mixed into dipping sauces.
Canola oil is made from the rapeseed plant and is one of the most widely used oils in the world. Although low in saturated fat and high in omega-3s, this oil is slightly bland in flavor - but it maintains a relatively high smoke point, making it popular for sautéing and baking. Canola oil is typically highly refined, making it inexpensive but you can get less refined canola oils - we recommend organic.
Coconut oil is commonly misconceived as being an unhealthy oil due to high saturated fat content, but extra-virgin, unrefined, non-hydrogenated coconut oils are rich in lauric acid, which is believed to be the best component to saturated fat - a fat that your body still needs, just not a lot of. Coconut oil is a sweet tasting oil that is solid at room temperature, but quickly melts when touched by hand - try it for sautéing or whipping into a dessert topping.
This nut oil is great for salads and also is a choice oil for baking with chocolate (what a pairing). It's nutty flavor is relatively strong, so it makes for a good oil to mix with canola if you want to increase it's smoke point. Remember, a little goes a long way with this slightly higher priced oil.
Olive Oil (Extra Virgin)
We recommend extra-virgin for the highest quality and best flavor - use it low-heat cooking, baking and dressings. This flavorful, heart-healthy oil is unrefined, making it high in antioxidants and polyphenols - promoting a healthy cardiovascular system. "Pure" olive oil (not extra-virgin) is refined and less nutritious, but has a higher smoke point. "Light" olive oil has less flavor character and virtually no polyphenols. Use extra-virgin in low-heat cooking, baking and dressings.
Palm oil, different from palm-kern oil, which is extracted from the seeds rather than the fruit of the African palm tree, is bright orange and a staple in Brazilian cuisine. This oil has a very high saturated fat content, but its low price and high smoke point have made it very popular. If you choose this oil, we recommend red palm oil - which contains beta-carotenes.
This is the oil of choice for most American deep fry, such as french fries and chicken, because of it's high smoke point of more than 450 degrees Fahrenheit. The deep fry version is filtered to remove the peanut flavor from the oil, which is good for people with allergies, but it also removes most of the oils protein. The peanut flavored version is common in Asian cuisine and goes great on salads and in sauces.
CommentsContains vitamin E and heart-healthy phytosterols.
The safflower is a relative of the annual sunflower plant, and the cooking oil made from its seeds comes in two forms: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. The monounsaturated version has a higher smoke point and makes for a healthier frying/sautéing alternative to peanut oil (although not particularly beneficial to your health). Polyunsaturated oil, on the contrary, is highly nutritious but not good for cooking with heat, making it a popular oil for salads and other cold food applications.
Smoke pointhigh (monounsaturated) low-med (polyunsaturated)
Sesame oil carries a strong flavor and scent of nothing other than its source: sesame seeds. This oil is rich and powerful sold in light and dark varieties (the darker the oil the more intense the flavor). It's usually sold in small quantities because it packs a punch - so remember, a little goes a long way. It's great for stir fry and hot Asian foods, although, it's best to mix it with canola oil to increase its smoke point (which is relatively low).
Soybean oil is usually the main oil "vegetable oil" and is a common ingredient in margarine, mayonnaise, and salad dressings. This oil fairly high in omega-3 fatty acids, although not as much as canola and walnut oils. Soybean oil is similar to canola oil in that is has a bland flavor that works great as a cooking oil without interfering with the flavors.
Walnut oil has a rich, nutty flavor and contains significant levels omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E. We recommend refrigerating the oil to prolong its shelf life - as it is a more expensive oil that you wouldn't want to let spoil. Try it with a little garlic and vinegar to dress salads, especially those sprinkled with cheese and nuts.