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What Type of Oil Should You Cook With

I’m a big fan of olive oil, it’s full of healthy monounsaturated fats, which have been shown to increase tightness in the skin – if that’s not a reason to increase olive oil intake, I don’t know what is. Plus it’s great to drizzle on top of salads and all the vegetables. But when it comes to high heat olive oil is not the best choice as it forms free radicals and it’s just not an option for baking. So, if you were like me you’re probably wondering what exactly are the best oils to cook with. 


When choosing the right oil for a specific cooking method you’ll want to consider the flavour profile, the smoke point of the oil, the extraction method and the nutritional quality.



Up to a certain degree of heat, oils can stand their ground. However, they reach a smoke point which is simply the temperature at which the oil starts to smoke and loses its effectiveness. Extraction method is how the oil is made, the methods that are preferable from a health standpoint are pressed or cold-pressed instead of conventional methods like high heat extraction. Keep reading to find out which oils are best for each cooking method based on their flavour, smoke point and nutritional quality.

Recommended Oils to Cook With:

  Extra virgin olive oil

  Avocado oil

– Coconut oil


When sauteing you want to ensure you are using a flavourful oil with a low smoke point, I recommend either extra virgin olive oil or sesame oil. Olive oil has a smoke point of 325-375ºF. The reason you don’t want to cook with extra virgin olive oil at a higher temperature than 375ºF is because it’s molecular structure changes, it forms free radicals (which cause damage to your cells) and the nutritional benefits get depleted.


At this point I’ve substituted all salad dressings with extra virgin olive oil. I find olive oil flavourful on its own (especially the high-quality stuff) but there are also countless options of infused olive oil to choose from. To spice it up a notch all you need to add to it is balsamic vinegar, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper, or whatever else floats your boat! The reason I love extra virgin olive oil is because it is packed with monounsaturated fats which provides many benefits. The MUFs in extra virgin olive oil have been shown to increase tightness of the skin. It’s also rich in phytochemicals which can combat cancer and many studies have shown that consuming more EVOO reduces the risk of heart disease. The antioxidants found in EVOO can also reduce inflammation and combat free radicals to maintain healthy cells.


Always choose cold-pressed extra virgin when it comes to olive oil because it is the least processed and contains more nutrients than refined or virgin olive oil.


When frying you don’t need an oil that’s as flavourful, but you do need an oil with a high smoke point. The healthiest oil to fry with is avocado oil, partially because out of all the plant oils it has the highest smoke point at either 480ºF (unrefined) or 520ºF (refined).

The other reason it’s so great for frying is because avocado oil is full of healthy monounsaturated fats and it is not as chemically processed as vegetable or canola oil.


Pure or ‘light’ olive oil could be another option for frying since pure olive oil has a smoke point of 465ºF, however it is chemically processed and contains less monounsaturated fats as extra virgin olive oil.


When baking you want an oil that’s on the bland side, that’s why I recommend coconut oil for baking. Coconut oil gets a bad rap because it’s high in saturated fat. However, saturated fats are not all that bad. Previously it was thought that reducing saturated fat would improve cardiovascular health, although researchers conducted a meta-analysis and stated “that there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease.”


Regardless, coconut oil is a healthier option than butter so if you’re looking for a dairy-free or vegan substitute, coconut oil will give you the rich creamy texture you’re looking for. The smoke point of virgin (refined) coconut oil is 350ºF, and refined is 450 ºF. If you want more of the coconut flavour, go for virgin coconut oil.

Oils to Avoid

The reason I recommend extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil and coconut oil is due to their nutritional quality. The concern with other options, which include most vegetables oils, is that they are highly processed. During production they are exposed to high heat and chemicals. While you’d think the oil of sunflower seeds, or peanuts would be healthy based on their natural nutrition profile, the high heat and chemical extraction method depletes their original nutritional content. Canola oil, among other vegetable oils including sunflower, soy, corn and palm oils are chemically refined, they are bleached and deodorized. This refining process significantly decreases the nutritional value of the oils, and when compared to unrefined oils such as extra virgin olive oil, these oils just don’t measure up.


Oils not in my pantry:

  Canola oil

  Peanut oil

  Grapeseed oil

  Cottonseed oil

  Sunflower oil

  Soybean oil

  Corn oil

  Safflower oil

  Vegetable oil


It can be confusing because canola oil does have a good nutrient profile since is contains omega-3 fatty acids. However, it has more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3s with a ratio of 2:1. While omega-6 fatty acids provide health benefits, the problem is that consuming a diet with a high omega-6 to omega-3 ratio increases the risk of many chronic diseases including Alzheimer’s and obesity.


You may be thinking, 2:1 doesn’t sound that bad, however keep in mind that vegetable oils including canola oil are added into many processed foods. As a result, modern diets are much higher in omega-6s, which has serious negative health implications. In the past 30 years there has been a significant increase in omega-6 to omega-3 ratio which has resulted in a typical Western diet ratio of 20:1. And it’s not just canola oil, grapeseed oil contains an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 696:1 – yikes.


The bottom line is to reduce your intake of these oils in addition to processed foods that are packed with these oils. Make a conscious effort to increase your omega-3 intake in order to achieve a balanced ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 which will reduce your risk of developing chronic disease, Alzheimer’s and obesity.