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Rating the Cooking Fats

Choose the healthiest (and tastiest) oils, spreads, and shortenings

Rating the Fats

I took a nutritional look at 22 types of fats and oils (listed in order from the lowest amount of saturated fat to the highest): canola oil, Eden Organic safflower oil, hazelnut oil, almond oil Take Control, Benecol spread, grapeseed oil, Land O' Lakes Fresh Buttery Taste Spread, Shedds Spread Country Crock, olive oil, soybean oil, Canola Harvest Premium Margarine, peanut oil, soybean margarine (hard), Smart Balance Omega Plus** Buttery Spread, Smart Balance Buttery Spread, Crisco shortening, chicken fat, lard, butter, palm kernel oil, and coconut oil.

After tallying the calories, fat, saturated fat, monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, trans fats, omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids, and Vitamin E for all these products, here's the story the numbers told:

The top five sources of beneficial monounsaturated fats are:

1.Olive oil
2. Hazelnut oil
3. Eden Organic Safflower Oil
4. Almond oil
5. Canola oil

The top sources of beneficial plant omega-3s are, by far:

1. Canola oil
2. Soybean oil
3. Smart Balance Omega Plus Buttery Spread

The three oils with the most omega-6s (which are essential but which we tend to get too much of) are:

1. Grapeseed oil
2. Soybean oil
3. Peanut oil

The 10 oils/cooking fats lowest in saturated fat, contributing 2 grams or less per tablespoon, are:

1. Canola oil
2. Eden Organic Safflower oil
3. Hazelnut oil
4. Almond oil
5. Take Control Spread
6. Benecol Spread
7. Grapeseed oil
8. Land O' Lakes Fresh Buttery Taste Spread
9. Shedds Spread Country Crock
10. Olive oil

Putting It All Together

The bottom line is that it makes nutritional sense to focus on fats that have the least amounts of saturated fat and trans fat but higher amounts of omega-3s and monounsaturated fats.

When you do this, you end up with:

  • Canola oil for most of your cooking (because it contains the lowest amount of saturated fat, it's the fifth highest in monounsaturated fat, and it contains the most omega-3s)
  • Olive oil when it works in the recipe (because it contains the most monounsaturated fat; very little saturated fat; and, while it doesn't contain a lot of omega-3s, neither does it have a lot of omega-6s).
  • A "better" margarine (such as Smart Balance Spread, Land O' Lakes Buttery Spread, or Take Control) for certain situations when that works best. They contain less fat than butter and little to no trans fats, may contribute some monounsaturated fats ... and, oh yeah, they taste pretty good, too!
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Reviewed on February 03, 2009
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Cholesterol Glossary

  • Dietary fiber - The parts of plants that your body can't digest. If eaten regularly, fiber such as oats, pectin, and psyllium reduces serum and LDL cholesterol.
  • HDL Cholesterol - The "good" cholesterol, HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol helps your body remove "bad" cholesterol from your arteries.
  • LDL Cholesterol - The "bad" cholesterol, LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol tends to be deposited in artery walls.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids - A good-for-you polyunsaturated fat found in some fish and vegetables (salmon, flax seed, soybean, English walnuts, and canola oil).
  • Plant sterols - Found in plant foods, isolated from soybean and tall pine tree oils, they lower LDL "bad" cholesterol levels.

Which foods do you favor?