Sometimes the most basic things in life beget the most daunting conundrums. And figuring out which bottle of oil to get for all your cooking needs when there's an absurd number of options to choose from at the grocery store is definitely one of those times. Who knew the simplest step in cooking could be so overwhelming?
In an effort to keep simple things simple, we asked nutrition health coach Holly Harding for her expertise on the matter. Below, she walks us through the best cooking oils for various diets, from vegan to Paleo and more, which one she keeps in stock for a healthier diet, how to get the most band for your buck, and even when we should just be using butter. To find out the best cooking oils to keep in stock once and for all for easier grocery shopping, healthier cooking, and tastier meals.
For Multi-Purpose Cooking, Use Coconut Oil
If you're only going to keep one kind of cooking oil in stock at home, Harding recommends opting for coconut oil. "It's multipurpose and can be used in raw recipes as well as high-temperature cooking," she explains, so you really can use it for all kinds of recipes. It's also "free of GMOs and has antibacterial and antifungal properties," which offer a variety of health benefits, like protecting your liver, keeping your kidney healthy, and boosting your immune system.
For Low-Temperature Cooking, Use Olive Oil
"If used in low-temperature cooking, I'd recommend olive oil for everyone," Harding says, but avoid using it at high heat so you don't lose out on the nutritional benefits. It's a source of good fat, it's free of GMOs, it's high in antioxidants, and it's anti-inflammatory. Pro tip: "Add olive oil to dishes at the end of the cooking process to retain the good health benefits and prevent omega fatty acid loss from high-temperature cooking," she shares. And when it comes to which type of olive oil to choose, you don't need to break the bank. "Kirkland organic olive from Costco seems to do the job at a reasonable price."
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When Cooking With Fish, Use Butter
Cooking with oil is almost always a healthier option than using butter, and it usually tastes just as good or better. But there are a few exceptions when cooking with butter makes a positive difference. "I always use grass-fed organic butter to pan-fry fish. I love the brown glaze it creates, plus it doesn't burn as fast. I use it to pan-fry other seafood like scallops and shrimp, too, but that's really about it," Harding tells us.
And Finally, What Not to Use
Of course, there are also plenty of cooking oils aside from olive oil and coconut oil. But for the most part, these are best for healthy, sustainable cooking. "I personally stay away from canola and soybean oil because nearly all of it's genetically modified," Harding explains. And when it comes to palm oil, there are some environmental reasons not to choose it. As Harding explains, "Palm oil has to be carefully watched because so much of it is not produced sustainably, and actually destroys rainforest habitats for orangutans and other animals."
And now that you know where to find the best cooking oils, put them to the test with these healthy and delicious asparagus recipes.
Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges. Cooking Oils 101: The Naturopathic Kitchen.
Serreli G, Deiana M. Extra Virgin Olive Oil Polyphenols: Modulation of Cellular Pathways Related to Oxidant Species and Inflammation in Aging. Cells. 2020;9(2). doi:10.3390/cells9020478
World Wildlife Fund. Orangutans and Palm Oil: Protecting Forests to Help Great Apes. Summer 2015.