• By Elizabeth Coots, Extension Agent

Family and Consumer Sciences: Types of cooking oil: when and what to use

In an effort to improve heart health, many people are beginning to use cooking oils that are primarily unsaturated fats in place of saturated fats like butter, lard and shortening in their baking and cooking. It is important to keep in mind that both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are the primary components of these oils and the healthier oils have more monounsaturated than polyunsaturated fats. As a result, many people are beginning to question, “What oil do I use and for what purpose?”

Some of the most readily available and commonly purchased oils include olive, canola, vegetable and peanut oils. Each have different properties, tastes and have different uses in the kitchen.

• As the name suggests, extra virgin olive oil undergoes minimal processing and has the strongest flavor because no heat is used in its production. It is best used in scenarios where the flavor of the oil can come through, such as salad dressings, drizzlings, dipping and marinades. This type of oil may be the most expensive on the shelf.

• Typically not great for frying or deep-frying, refined olive oil is excellent for sautéing and roasting. Olive oil may also be a more cost-efficient option than its sister, extra virgin olive oil. Both extra virgin and refined olive oil are heart-healthy options and a great choice for increasing monounsaturated fats in the diet.

• With its mild flavor, canola oil is great for all cooking needs, such as baking, frying, sautéing and salad dressings. This type of oil doesn’t have as many monounsaturated fats as olive oil, yet is an excellent choice if trying to reduce the amount of saturated fat in the diet. It is very affordable and may be purchased in large amounts.

• Vegetable oil is simply a combination of several plant-derived oils. Vegetable oil is very similar to canola oil in that it is a multi-purpose oil and is very affordable because it is typically produced from subsidized crops. The amount of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats differ in vegetable oils because the combination of plant-derived oils may be different in one brand from the next.

• Peanut oil requires very high temperatures before it begins to break down, so it is a great choice for stir-frying, deep-frying or pan-frying.

It is not commonly used in baking or other types of cooking because it may add an unwanted flavor. If trying to increase monounsaturated fats in the diet, this may not be the best option, with less monounsaturated fats than vegetable, canola and olive oils.

Although oils are a healthier option, they are still fats that have calories and a recommended amount each day. According to the USDA’s guide to daily food intake, MyPlate, adults should consume five to seven teaspoons of oil a day. For more information about oil and serving sizes, visitchoosemyplate.gov.

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