7 Healthiest Cooking Oil For Your Health & What To Avoid 2023

Ellie Busby

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Kathy Shattler, MS, RDN

healthiest cooking oil

Most people use the wrong types of oil when cooking. Using the wrong cooking oil can have a negative impact on your health, so it’s important to know the healthiest cooking oil.

Different cooking oils have different smoke points, and specific ones should be used for different types of cooking, such as frying or baking. Moreover, some oils are better for weight loss than others.

So, what’s the best oil for cooking? Here are the seven healthiest cooking oils and when to use them.

7 Healthiest Cooking Oil For Better Health

  1. Olive oil
  2. Avocado oil
  3. Sesame oil
  4. Safflower oil
  5. Flaxseed oil
  6. Coconut oil
  7. Groundnut oil

7 Best Cooking Oil To Use For Better Health

In general, you should avoid heating oil to very high temperatures for long periods. Heating cooking oils to more than 200 degrees Celsius creates unhealthy byproducts such as trans fatty acids[1], which adversely affect human health.

Having said that, some oils are better than others for cooking at various temperatures. Here are the cooking oils we recommend, from best to worst.

Olive Oil

healthiest cooking oil

The healthiest oil to cook with is olive oil. It’s rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, and – contrary to popular belief – it can even be the healthiest cooking oil for frying.

While cooking with butter or margarine is linked to a higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease, cooking with olive oil is associated with better heart health and longevity[2]. Similarly, another study found that habitually consuming olive oil was the best oil for improving health[3] in those with type 2 diabetes.

There’s a caveat, though. Only good quality olive oil is safe to use at frying temperatures. Studies show that extra-virgin olive oil from a protected designation of origin[4], or “PDO,”  contains more antioxidants than cheaper olive oil and protects the oil from oxidation at high temperatures. 

Deep frying is done at 170-190 degrees Celsius[5] and requires a very stable oil to prevent it from breaking down into polar compounds. A study comparing different types of olive oil found that extra-virgin PDO olive oil was less prone to oxidation during frying[6] than other types of olive and vegetable oil. 

The latter is surprising because vegetable oil contains higher levels of the antioxidant vitamin E, which one would expect to protect the oil from oxidation. Nevertheless, the PDO olive oil contained significantly higher levels of total antioxidant compounds and less unstable polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as omegas-3 and -6.

Finally, olive oil produced the least toxic volatile compounds in the air[7] due to frying when compared to soybean oil and palm oil.

To get the heart-health benefits, aim to consume up to 20 grams of olive oil per day[8].

Avocado Oil

healthiest cooking oil

The next healthiest cooking oil is avocado oil. It’s a nutritious oil rich in antioxidant compounds[9] that are linked to preventing cancer and cardiovascular diseases[10] in animal studies. It’s been shown to perform well at high temperatures.

Avocado oil contains mostly monounsaturated fats[11], as well as some polyunsaturated and saturated fats. It contains more polyunsaturated fats and less vitamin E than olive oil[12] but nevertheless has a similar thermal stability – likely due to the higher phytosterol levels. 

Studies show that avocado oil maintains its nutrient content after being used at high temperatures[13]. In one study, avocado oil was stable when heated to 120 degrees[11] celsius for up to 120 hours.

However, the quality and nutritional value of avocado oil depend on the source of the avocados, the ripeness of the fruit, and the extraction technique used. Always opt for cold-pressed “virgin” over “pure” avocado oil[13]. “Virgin” avocado oil is cold-extracted using mechanical methods at a low temperature without chemical solvents. On the other hand, refined “pure” avocado oil uses lower-quality avocados, is bleached and deodorized, and is usually infused with avocado flavors.

Finally, as avocado oil is a high-value commodity, it’s prone to adulteration[14]. So it’s best to buy a well-known brand of avocado oil to ensure quality.

Though expensive, avocado oil is a surprisingly sustainable choice. The oil is usually made from partially rotten avocado fruits that can no longer be sold, meaning oil production minimizes avocado waste[15].

Sesame Oil

healthiest cooking oil

Another very stable cooking oil is sesame oil, which is sometimes mixed with other, less stable[16] oils to improve their cooking properties.

Sesame oil is produced by extracting the oil from roasted sesame seeds[17] with a range of health-promoting properties[18]. It’s high in antioxidants, vitamin E, and fatty acids and is often used in Asian cuisine for stir-frying. It’s stable at high temperatures and has a high smoke point.

Studies suggest regularly consuming sesame oil might improve blood sugar balance[19] in those with type 2 diabetes. Sesame oil can significantly lower blood pressure[20] in those with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, more so than sunflower oil.

Safflower Oil

healthiest cooking oil

Another cooking oil containing high levels of essential fatty acids is made from safflower seeds. 

Safflower oil contains a high level of omega-6 fatty acids[21], similar to canola (otherwise known as rapeseed) oil. Omega-6 can become oxidized easily during heating, so safflower oil is sometimes deacidified[22] to make it more stable. 

Safflower oil is also high in antioxidant tocopherols, such as vitamin E, which protect the oil from oxidation at high temperatures. 

Although canola oil is more commonly used for cooking, safflower oil is healthier because of its higher smoke point. The smoke point of safflower oil is 265 degrees Celsius, while canola oil has a smoke point of 238 degrees Celsius.

The smoke point determines how many unhealthy fine particles are produced from the oil during cooking. One study found that safflower oil emitted fewer fine particles[23] than corn, coconut, or olive oil when heated to 197 degrees Celsius. Fine particulate matter is linked to adverse health effects in restaurant chefs[24], making safflower oil a good choice for clean air quality whilst cooking.

Finally, studies show that consuming eight grams of safflower oil daily can improve blood sugar balance[25] and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 

Flaxseed Oil

healthiest cooking oil

Oil made from flaxseeds is healthy due to its high omega-3 content, but – for that very reason – it isn’t good for cooking, even at lower temperatures.

The problem with omega-3s is that they are very unstable and are prone to oxidation[26], making the flaxseed oil go “bad” quickly – even when kept at room temperature for 30 days[27].

Nevertheless, one study found that flaxseed oil remained stable for almost two hours[28] when heated to 110 degrees Celsius, so it could be used for low-temperature cooking. (Note: this was less than safflower, which was stable for almost four hours.)

Moreover, flaxseed oil with a higher content of antioxidant phenolic acids[26], especially caffeic acid, is much less prone to oxidation. Flaxseed plants are being genetically engineered to produce more phenolic acids to make a more stable oil.

But the best way to use flaxseed oil in cooking is to drizzle it over your food once it’s already been cooked or add it to raw foods such as salad dressings. Also, it’s best to keep flaxseed oil in the refrigerator to avoid it going rancid.

Coconut Oil

healthiest cooking oil

Often, coconut oil is recommended for cooking because it’s high in saturated fat, which is the most stable type of fat and not prone to degradation at high temperatures.

Although saturated fat is considered unhealthy and isn’t an essential nutrient, studies suggest that coconut oil isn’t bad for your health. In fact, coconut oil is a rich source of medium-chain triglycerides[29], otherwise known as MCT oil, which has various health-promoting properties. 

Studies show that coconut oil is linked to higher high-density lipoprotein levels, or HDL, otherwise known as the “good” cholesterol. Also, consuming coconut oil isn’t associated with weight gain, body fat percentage, or changes in low-density lipoprotein levels, otherwise known as LDL or “bad” cholesterol.

Although coconut oil can be used for some types of cooking, it has a low smoke point of 175 degrees Celsius, meaning that frying with coconut oil isn’t such a good idea. Cooking beyond oil’s smoke point causes toxic compounds to be produced and released into the air. Nevertheless, baking with coconut oil should be fine.

However, we’re lacking long-term studies on the health effects of regularly consuming coconut oil. Plus, many people don’t like coconut oil due to its distinct coconut aroma[30].

Groundnut Oil

healthiest cooking oil

Groundnut (or peanut) oil is used around the world due to being cheap and easily accessible. 

Peanuts are high in polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially omega-6s, but peanut oil is still relatively stable compared to other frying oils. Also, you can improve the oxidative stability of peanut oil[31] by combining peanut oil with more stable, antioxidant-rich oils such as sesame oil and unrefined coconut oil.

While some oils are used repeatedly for deep frying, it’s best to avoid reheating the same oil more than once. Studies suggest that peanut oil degrades faster[32] the more it’s cooled and reheated compared to being heated continuously for the same amount of time.

Oils To Limit & Avoid

Many oils are unstable and produce toxic compounds when used for cooking, even at low temperatures. Some oils also contain unhealthy levels of inflammatory omega-6s, saturated fats, or other compounds.

Here are the least healthy cooking oils to avoid:

  • Canola (rapeseed) oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Vegetable oil
  • Butter
  • Margarine

Summary

If you’re asking “what is the healthiest cooking oil?” you ought to choose olive oil. But every cooking oil has different characteristics, so it’s best to choose the healthiest cooking oil for the type of cooking, from deep-fat frying to baking to stir-frying.

In fact, the healthiest way to consume oils is to use a combination of different oils in cooking[33] or to blend them yourself. This ensures you get the best combination of nutrients, and – if you mix the oils yourself – you can make more stable blends to cook with.

In general, keep liquid oils to a minimum in the diet and focus on whole food sources of fats, such as nuts, seeds, olives, and avocados.


+ 33 sources

Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

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Ellie Busby

Written by:

Ellie Busby, MS, RDN

Medically reviewed by:

Kathy Shattler

Ellie Busby is a Registered Nutritionist (MSc, mBANT) and nutrition writer. She holds a bachelor's in Chemistry and a Masters in Nutrition. Ellie specializes in plant-based nutrition for health and fitness. She is also the Founder of Vojo Health, a personalized nutrition service based on genetic testing.

Medically reviewed by:

Kathy Shattler

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