Q: I’ve been doing a lot of cooking at home recently, and I can’t seem to get my cooking oils straight! Which is the best oil to cook with, and what is the nutritional difference between oils?
A: This is a great question, especially because there are so many oils to choose from. Just remember that all oils are fats. Some may be so-called good fats, but even the best cooking oils should be used in moderation. My recommendation is to use extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) and canola oil.
Extra-virgin olive oil contains healthy, monounsaturated fats, which help raise your “good” (HDL) cholesterol and lower your “bad” (LDL) cholesterol. EVOO is also a great choice because it’s versatile — its flavor is compatible with virtually anything. It can be used to cook chicken, fish, vegetables, and eggs, and even to make salad dressings and sauces. This oil is produced by pressing olives, which are packed with nutrients. This is why EVOO is such a heart-healthy choice. If EVOO isn’t working for you, go with canola oil.
Canola oil contains both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. In addition, it contains omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation and decrease the risk of heart disease. Both EVOO and canola oil are very low in saturated fat (approximately 1 gram per tablespoon), making them even better choices.
I also use a couple of other oils. One you might try is sesame oil, used typically in Asian cuisine; it has a strong flavor that complements a variety of foods. While sesame oil does contain monounsaturated fats, the downside is that it also has a large amount of saturated fat (which we want to limit). A serving of sesame oil (typically 1 tablespoon) contains a whopping 14 grams of saturated fat! So go easy on this oil if you choose to use it — one tablespoon will go a LONG way toward adding flavor — but also calories.
TIP OF THE DAY
A lot of people enjoy the rich flavor of extra-virgin olive oil, but if you’re still struggling to adjust to the taste — or you just want to kick up the flavor — why not try infusing? It may sound complicated, but it’s not. Just drop a clove or two of garlic into the oil bottle for a different (and traditionally Mediterranean) flavor. Not a garlic person? Infuse your EVOO with basil, rosemary, peppers, and even ginger or lemon! Check out this awesome site for more ideas and tips on infusing — and taste the difference in your dishes.
From Jillian *