Healthy Oils to Use & When to Use Them

Healthy Oils to Use & When to Use Them


Choose oils whose source has a substantial amount of fat in it.

What are the healthiest oils? Some of you have responded asking why we use such specific oils in our recipes. We aim to avoid all vegetable oils of any kind, but why? The answer is (sort of) simple. During factory processing, all vegetable oils are super-heated. During this process, previously ‘healthy’ polyunsaturated fats are damaged by heat and become harmful. The oils from vegetables have to be extracted under such high temperatures because they naturally don’t have much fat in them. How much oil is there naturally in a cob of corn? The result is a processed, highly refined product that is unrecognizable to our ancestors.

Healthy oils are ones that with some muscle and motivation, you can extract yourself. If you really put your mind to it you might be able to extract some natural oil out of peanuts. Likewise, avocados are loaded with healthy fats and thus make wholesome, nutritious oil loaded with phytochemicals. The general rule of thumb is to choose oils whose source has a substantial amount of fat in it. This way, they are easier to extract and you are able to avoid exposure to high-heat processing.

So what oils are good to use, and which ones are bad?

Common oils on the ‘happy’ list:

 Olive oil
Peanut oil
Coconut oil
Avocado oil
Macadamia nut oil
Sesame oil
Flaxseed oil
Wheat germ oil

Vegetable Oils on the ‘never, ever’ list:

 Canola oil
Corn Oil
‘Vegetable’ Oil*
Sunflower Oil
Grapeseed Oil (oh no, we said it!)**

*Vegetable Oil- What does this even mean? What vegetable? KNOW what source your food is coming from!

 **Grapeseed Oil- As the name suggests, grapeseed oil is made from the seed of grapes. This is very lucrative from a business standpoint, since grape seeds are a byproduct of wine making. This oil is marketed as healthy because of its high polyunsaturated fat levels. But as we explained above, when polyunsaturated fats are exposed to high heat they are damaged. Since the seeds of grapes are not a naturally good source of fat, they have to be super-heated.

Am I Using the Right Oil for My Cooking?

It’s also important to make sure you’re using the right oils for the right things. If you use certain oils for high-heat cooking, the fats will get damaged.

Two Rules of Thumb

Refined oils will have a higher smoke point than unrefined oils
The refinement process has to do with removing impurities that cause an oil to smoke. Why all the buzz on unrefined oils? Unrefined oils will give you the best flavor and most phytonutrients. If you’re planning on cooking something under very high heat, choose refined oils to prevent damaging the fats. Otherwise, unrefined is your better option.

The lighter the color of the oil, the higher the smoke point
Impurities are usually darker in color, so removing them during the refinement process will leave you with light-colored oil.

Cooking oils by heat:

High Heat Cooking
Peanut oil- 440 degrees
Avocado oil- 375-400 degrees
Macadamia Nut Oil- 415 degrees
Refined Coconut Oil- 400 degrees

Medium Heat Cooking

Unrefined Coconut oil- 350 degrees
Extra Virgin Olive Oil- 325-375 degrees (the lighter the color, the higher the smoke point)
Butter- 350 degrees (not an oil, but we thought you’d like to know
Sesame Oil- 350 degrees

Room Temperature

Flaxseed oil- 225 degrees
Wheat germ oil- very low smoke point; reserve for salad dressings


Oil sources without fat –> super heated –>damaged fats

Choose oils whose source has a substantial amount of fat in it.

Refined oils will have a higher smoke point than unrefined oils.

The lighter the color of the oil, the higher the smoke point.



Shanahan, C. (2010). Food Rules: A Doctor’s Guide to Healthy Eating. Bedford, NH: Big Box Books.
Cooking Oil Smoke Points (2010).

And sahtein–or deux healths!


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