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Ask a Dietitian: The Best Oils

by Jessica Henderson MS, RD/LD

Q: There are so many different oils in the supermarket, which one should I buy?

A: It's understandable that one would be overwhelmed looking at the different options on the oil aisle. There are many different types of oils that have different purposes.

Canola oil, safflower oil and corn oils are good all-purpose choices which are neutral in flavor and have a high smoke point making it excellent for sautéing and frying. These oils are low in saturated fats and high in polyunsaturated fats which are heart healthy. Olive oil, which is known for being high in monounsaturated fats, is gaining in popularity.

Extra virgin olive oil is good in uses such as salad dressings and low temperature cooking but not for frying or high temp searing/sautéing due to it’s low smoke point. The lower the smoke point the more prone an oil is to burning which not only destroys nutrients but also destroys the flavors of your food.

More processed olive oils are better for frying purposes as processing increases the smoke point, however processing also destroys some of the natural antioxidants in olive oil.

Other oils such as grape seed, flaxseed, almond, avocado, walnut and pumpkin seed are not suitable for cooking as they have very low smoke points. These oils are also very high in flavor and are more suitable for drizzling on foods and used in homemade salad dressings. It's important to buy these oils in small quantities and store them in the refrigerator due to their high probability of going rancid quickly once opened.

With all oils it is important to remember that their structure begins to breakdown with longer term storage and exposure to light so buy only what will be used within a month or two.

For nutritional counseling, Norman Regional Health System offers the guidance of registered dietitians. Those interested can schedule an appointment for an assessment with a referral from their family physician.

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Norman Regional Health System

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