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Cooking Oils

by Lea Ann Holzmeister, RD, CDE

Oils high in monounsaturated fat
While all cooking oils are a mixture of types of fatty acids, most can be categorized as being high in one of the three types of fatty acids: monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, or saturated fat. The following oils are high in monounsaturated fat.

Almond oil. This nut oil is best used in cold dishes to avoid destroying its delicate flavor.

Avocado oil. This is a light, nutty oil that is best used in salad dressings.

Canola oil. This oil is extracted from rapeseeds (a plant in the mustard family). It is versatile, neutral tasting, high in omega-3 fatty acids, and very low in saturated fat. It can be used in salad dressings or in cooking.

Hazelnut oil. This fragrant, nutty oil is often pressed from roasted hazelnuts and is best used in cold dishes such as salad dressings and sauces to avoid destroying its delicate flavor.

Olive oil. The oils extracted from olives range from light amber to green in color and from bland to very strong and even spicy in flavor. Olive oil can be graded or classified as virgin, refined, or pure. Virgin or extra-virgin means the oil has been produced by the use of physical means (expeller-pressed) and there has been no chemical treatment during processing, resulting in a full-flavored oil. Extra-virgin oil is the highest grade and comes from the first pressing of the olives. Refined means the oil has been chemically treated to neutralize strong tastes and acids. Pure olive oil and products simply labeled “olive oil” may be a combination of virgin and refined oil. Unfiltered means the oil contains small particles of olive flesh. Light refers to flavorless or refined olive oil; it is not lower in calories. Olive oil blends are mixtures of olive oil and other, often less expensive, oils.

Peanut oil. This bland oil is made from pressed, steam-cooked peanuts. It has a fairly high smoke point and is good for cooking methods that involve high heat, such as frying, because it does not absorb or transfer flavors.

Pumpkin seed oil. This oil is made by pressing roasted, skinless pumpkin seeds and has an intense, nutty taste.

Rice bran oil. This mild oil is extracted from the germ and inner husk of rice. Rice bran oil is popular in Asian cuisine because of its high smoke point and suitability for high-temperature cooking methods such as deep-frying and stir-frying.

Sesame oil. This pressed oil is made from either untoasted sesame seeds, resulting in a light-colored oil, or toasted sesame seeds, for a dark-colored oil. Light sesame oil has a nutty flavor and is good for frying, while dark sesame oil has a strong flavor and is generally added to dishes in small quantities for flavor just before serving. Sesame oil has a high smoke point and is the least prone among oils to turn rancid. It is a good source of both monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat.

Oils high in polyunsaturated fat

These oils are high in polyunsaturated fat, which is also considered a heart-healthy fat.

Corn oil. This tasteless oil is made from the germ of the corn kernel and is widely used in cooking because it is inexpensive and has a high smoke point. Corn oil is a common ingredient in margarine.

Cottonseed oil. This oil is extracted from the seeds of the cotton plant after the cotton lint has been removed. It is commonly used to make snack foods such as potato chips.

Flaxseed oil. This oil is made from the seeds of the flax plant and is often used as a dietary supplement rather than a cooking oil. It is high in omega-3 fatty acids and contains a group of chemicals called lignans that may play a role in cancer prevention.

Grapeseed oil. This light-tasting, medium-yellow oil is pressed from seeds of various varieties of grapes and is a by-product of wine making. It has a high smoke point and is typically used in salad dressings and marinades and for stir-frying.

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