Fats get a bad rap—but in fact they support our overall health and make our meals more satisfying. Here’s the scoop on why they’re good for us and how to choose the right one for whatever you’re cooking.

By Stephanie Wood
January 25, 2019
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Unsaturated fats can lower cholesterol levels, reduce the risk of heart disease, and help control blood sugar levels. These fats are liquid at room temperature and should be your cooking go-tos.

Saturated fats come primarily from animal products, and eating too much of them can increase your risk for heart disease. According to the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans, saturated fats should account for no more than 10 percent of your daily calories. No need to pull out a calculator every time you eat; just consume these fats sparingly.

Smoke point is the temperature when fats begin to break down. When fats are heated past their smoke point, beneficial nutrients are destroyed and damaging free radicals are produced. So make sure to pair the oil you’re using with your cooking method.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)

Type: Unsaturated

Flavor profile: Robust with buttery, fruity, grassy, or peppery notes

How to cook with it: Low smoke point. Use for drizzling, dressings, marinades, lower-temperature sautéing, roasting, and baking.

Pros: May reduce risk of heart disease and stroke, and helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

Cons: Expensive.

Coconut Oil

Type: Saturated

Flavor profile: Sweet, nutty

How to cook with it: Low smoke point. Use for lower- temperature sautéing, stir-frying, roasting, and baking.

Pros: A vegan alternative to butter.

Cons: Health claims have little scientific support.

Credit: Yunhee Kim

Butter/Ghee*

*Ghee is butter that has been simmered to remove water and strained to remove milk solids.

Type: Saturated

Flavor profile: Rich, nutty

How to cook with it: Medium (butter) to high (ghee) smoke point. Use for sautéing, stir-frying, grilling, baking, roasting. Ghee can also be used for frying.

Pros: Ghee is virtually lactose-free.

Cons: Should be used in moderation, as too much saturated fat can raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease.

Canola Oil

Type: Unsaturated

Flavor profile: Neutral

How to cook with it: High smoke point. Use for stir-frying, deep-frying, grilling, baking, roasting, searing.

Pros: May be highest in omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation and promote heart health.

Cons: May be highly processed. Cold-pressed, organic varieties are healthier but harder to nd and more expensive.

Peanut Oil

Type: Unsaturated

Flavor profile: Nutty, strong

How to cook with it: High smoke point. Use for stir-frying, deep-frying, grilling, baking, roasting, searing.

Pros: Promotes heart health and is a good source of vitamin E, which reduces inflammation.

Cons: Can go rancid quickly, so needs to be used within a few months. Also, peanuts are a common allergen.

Avocado Oil

Type: Unsaturated

Flavor profile: Soft, nutty, buttery

How to cook with it: Very high smoke point. Use for frying, grilling, searing, broiling. Its flavor also makes it good for drizzling, dressings, and marinades.

Pros: Has a health pro le similar to olive oil, and the lutein it contains may improve eyesight.

Cons: Expensive.

Sesame Oil

Type: Unsaturated

Flavor profile: Robust, nutty

How to cook with it: Medium smoke point. Use for marinades, sauces, sautéing.

Pros: May lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and has potent anti- inflammatory effects.

Cons: Expensive, and can go rancid quickly, so needs to be used within a few months.

Grapeseed Oil

Type: Unsaturated

Flavor profile: Tart, fruity

How to cook with it: Medium smoke point. Use for drizzling, dressings, marinades, roasting, baking, sautéing.

Pros: The vitamin E and oleic acid it contains may cut stroke risk. It’s also great for your hair.

Cons: Expensive, and can go rancid quickly, so needs to be used within a few months.

Vegetable Oil

Type: Unsaturated

Flavor profile: Neutral

How to cook with it: High smoke point. Use for stir-frying, deep-frying, grilling, baking, roasting, searing.

Pros: Inexpensive, and has a longer shelf life.

Cons: This highly processed blend (primarily made with soybean oil) has little nutritional value and may be high in inflammatory omega-6 fats.

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