When your pantry contains as many healthy cooking oils as you have face serums in your medicine cabinet, it's a pretty clear sign that you need to Marie Kondo. From coconut oil to MCT oil — and even olive oil — many of us have fallen for whatever trendy oil people swear is better for your health. If you're overwhelmed, that's understandable. But not knowing what type of oil is best for you shouldn't keep you from cooking nutrient-rich meals.
Obviously, nutrition is not one-size-fits-all, so it's next to impossible to say which oil is the "healthiest" or the "best" for everyone's nutritional needs. In general, an oil's fatty acid profile — or the type of fat it contains — is the important nutritional attribute to pay attention to, Kris Sollid, RD, a registered dietitian and senior director in nutrition communications at the International Food Information Council Foundation told Refinery29.
Research says that swapping saturated fatty acids for omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fats can be beneficial for your heart health. The American Heart Association suggests selecting oils that contain less than four grams of saturated fat — which has been linked to higher risks of heart disease — per tablespoon, and steering clear of anything that contains partially hydrogenated oils or trans fats.
Beyond that, the "right" oil for you depends on the taste you prefer and the cooking method you're using for a dish. For example, some oils have a lower smoke point (the temperature at which an oil smokes) than others, so they're not appropriate for certain cooking techniques that require high heat, such as searing or browning. Given everything we know about oils, here are the ones that are known to benefit your heart health and are worth your precious pantry space:
A Mediterranean diet staple, olive oil is high in monounsaturated fatty acids, which are often referred to as a "good" or "healthy" fats. When choosing an olive oil, opt for "extra-virgin," which essentially means that it's less processed and refined.
Canola oil, which is oil derived from the canola plant, has a somewhat bad reputation simple because some products tend to be highly processed. But canola oil is high is monounsaturated fat, and low in saturated fat, according to the Mayo Clinic. It also has a higher smoke point than, say, olive oil or butter.
With high levels of omega-6 fatty acids, corn oil is a surprisingly nutritious alternative for cooking at high temperatures. Although you lose many of the nutrients in corn in the process of creating corn oil, it also contains antioxidants such as vitamin E.
Another great option for cooking at high temperatures, soybean oil is made up of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.