How to Choose the Healthiest Cooking Oils and Which to Avoid

Today we have a guest blog from Amber Hale a holistic health coach in Denver, CO. Amber is passionate about helping people learn how to uncover food sensitivities and lower inflammation by changing the way they eat.


There is a lot of misinformation out there about healthy cooking oils and what you should be using or avoiding in your kitchen.


Most people don't realize that many cooking oils on the shelves seem healthy because of labeling but many can cause excess inflammation in our bodies that over time can contribute to a higher risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, food allergies/intolerances, bloating, inability to lose weight, eczema, leaky gut, or an autoimmune disorder.



One thing that I want to point out is that you will always have some sort of inflammation in your body. We depend on it to help keep us alive. It's our body's natural defenses mechanism that kicks in when you are injured or sick and promotes healing. So you can't completely eliminate inflammation. But what we are talking about is the bad kind of inflammation that causes the health issues that I listed above.

Some of the worst cooking oils are:

  • Soybean oil

  • Canola oil

  • Rapeseed oil (another name for canola oil)

  • Cottonseed oil

  • Corn oil

  • Palm oil

  • Oils generically labeled "vegetable oil"


You might be thinking, but I don't cook with the oils so I am in the clear but often times they are used in many of the foods you find at the grocery store.


The next time you are shopping, check out the labels on the back of major hummus brands. You can often find canola or soybean oil in store-bought hummus. When I think about delicious hummus, I think of heart-healthy Mediterranean foods like olive oil, chickpeas, tahini, and fresh lemon juice...not unhealthy inflammation-causing canola or soybean oil.


This is just one example of how these inflammatory oils are hiding in so many of our foods on the shelves and they are also in most of the meals we eat at restaurants. This is why it's important to cook most of your meals at home and try to eat as many whole foods as possible.


When it comes to cooking our own food, it's important to have the right kind of oil in our pantry to give us some balance from the times we do eat out and reduce inflammation.


You are probably wondering what makes these oils inflammatory.


We could go down a crazy rabbit hole of information here as this is such a complex subject but I'm going to try and simplify this as much as possible.


Low quality refined oils such as canola, soybean, corn, and many others are highly processed and extracted by very high heat and pressure which destroys their antioxidants and alters the chemical nature of the fat. This creates dangerous free radicals which can cause cellular damage and disease in the body.


They are then cleaned with chemicals such as hexane which is a byproduct of gasoline production. Then it is bleached to remove color and neutralized to remove the strong odor from the rancid oil.


Lastly, dangerous preservatives, BHA and BHT are often added to extend the shelf life of the oils. These two preservatives are actually found in many foods on our shelves today and have been known to cause tumors and cancer during animal testing.


On a separate note over 90% of canola and soybean oil are genetically modified.


It's basically all the ingredients needed for a perfect inflammatory cocktail - I will not be cheersing to that one!


What to look for when buying cooking oils?


There are several great options out there now that more and more people are opening their eyes to a healthier lifestyle. You can find most of these oils at local grocery stores as well as Target, Costco and even Walmart!


What you want to look for in a quality oil is that the processing is very minimal and the oil was not heated so it still has all its healthy properties intact - look for the words "cold-pressed" and "unrefined". Also, buy organic when possible to avoid GMOs.


You also want to make sure the oil has a higher smoke point for your preferred cooking method. A smoke point is a temperature that causes an oil to begin to burn or smoke. When the oil burns or smokes it breaks down the healthy properties of the oil and oxidizes the fat which causes free radicals which in turn causes what was once a very healthy oil to now become just as bad as the lower quality oils like canola and soybean oil.


So let's get to it! I like to keep things simple in my kitchen. I have listed my 3 favorite healthy cooking oils below as well as their smoke point so you can use that as a guide on how they should be used when sauteeing, baking, frying, or making a salad dressing. 


3 Cooking Oils You Should Be Using In The Kitchen


Avocado Oil (cold-pressed, extra virgin, naturally refined, organic) - I love this brand by Chosen Foods. It can be cooked or sauteed at high heat of 500 degrees F. Great for all cooking baking, sauteing, frying, and salad dressings.



Coconut Oil (cold-pressed, unrefined, virgin, organic) - My favorite brands are Kelapo and Nutiva. It can be cooked or sauteed at medium-high heat up to about 350 degrees F. Great for baking, sauteing, and as a topping in place of butter.




Olive Oil (extra virgin, cold-pressed, organic) - We use the Costco Kirkland brand of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. It should be used at low heat ranging from 310-340 degrees F. Great low heat sauteing, in dips, or in homemade salad dressing.



I hope this helped give you a little clarity as to what cooking oils you should be using in your kitchen. Feel free to leave any questions in the comments!

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