Cooking Oils: Which ones are best for regular use?
For high temperature cooking such as pan-frying, stir-fries and
(use these in small amounts)
For moderate temperature cooking like baking and sautés
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
For salad dressings, dips, spreads (unheated):
- Olive oil
- Flaxseed oil
- Walnut oil
- Avocado oil
Oils and fats are one of the most controversial areas of nutrition. If you would like to learn more about the background to the above recommendations have a look at some other articles on this site:
Why omega-6 and omega-3 balance in our diet is so important.
Why most bulk vegetable oils are dangerous for our health.
Both of these oils are a valuable source of essential Omega-3 fatty acids. However they each have different
properties and health benefits.
Letter from Spain: an interesting question about cooking oils
In 2005 I received a message from my friend Just Garcia, in Spain. I met Just about two years ago when we worked together on an organic farm here in Nelson, NZ. He asked some questions about vegetable oils.
"Hi Roger, I've read your article about Cooking Oils and I want to ask you a question:
Is it right to use Sunflower oil for cooking and Olive oil for eating in salads and with bread? Laura and I use Sunflower oil to cook with and add Olive oil to the food once it is prepared. What kind of vegetable oils do you recommend to eat? Is it possible to mix them in our diet? Is there any incompatibility between different kinds of vegetable oils?
Thank you! Just"
I would like to eat a meal prepared by Just and Laura! They really enjoy making and eating their food and I'm know they have plenty of fresh produce available in their region. We can learn a lot from traditional ways of preparing food. However I have to say I feel cautious about the sunflower oil.
Using olive oil in salads and as a dip is a good idea. Olive oil is perhaps the best oil to use regularly. It stores well and is stable enough to use for moderate temperature cooking. Us Extra Virgin Olive Oil where possible - it has had the least processing and filtering.
Sunflower oil is less stable than olive oil and I don't recommend it for cooking. Sunflower oil is about two-thirds polyunsaturated fat and is therefore much more prone to damage from heat and light than olive oil, which is about 75% monounsaturated.
If you can obtain high quality cold-pressed sunflower oil then use it in salad dressings - it has a delicious flavour. But most supermarket sunflower oil, in particular that sold in large clear plastic containers, is already quite degraded. It will have been heated in the extraction process and then stored for a long time with further attack from light.
The other problem with regularly eating sunflower oil is that it contains a high proportion of omega-6 fatty acids. If you would like to read why this is a problem have a look at my article about Rice Bran Oil . This article contains a lot of useful information about the whole issue of cooking oils.
To answer the final question from Just, there is no nutritional problem with mixing oils together. Use combinations that taste good to you. I often add a few drops of sesame oil to rice bran oil when cooking Asian dishes, for an exotic aroma and flavour.