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Canola Oil

Why it's healthy: Canola oil contains the lowest levels of unhealthful saturated fats of any oil, and it's also a good source of alpha-linolenic acid, a heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acid. The FDA recently approved canola oil products to carry the health claim that it may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Substituting it for other vegetable oils, and canola oil — based spreads for margarine, can significantly reduce the amount of saturated fats in your diet, according to a recent study.

What it's best for: Mild-flavored canola oil is the cheapest option for sautéing and frying, and it also works well as a shortening or butter substitute in baked goods.

Peanut and Sesame Oils

Why they're healthy: Consuming a diet rich in peanuts, peanut butter, and peanut oil may be as effective in protecting against heart disease as an olive oil-rich diet, according to a Penn State study. Peanuts contain resveratrol, an antioxidant also found in wine that has been associated with a reduced risk of cancer and heart disease. Sesame oil is a good source of vitamin E, magnesium, copper, calcium, iron, and vitamin B. It also contains sesamin and sesamolin, substances that have been shown to lower cholesterol and protect the liver.

What they're best for: These oils have a high smoke point, so they work best for stir-fries. Peanut oil has a bland, nutty flavor, making it an ideal choice in dishes featuring nuts or when you want other flavors in a recipe to shine. Sesame oil has a strong, distinctive taste. "I finish Asian dishes with a splash of toasted sesame oil," says Krieger.

Walnut and Flaxseed Oils

Why they're healthy: Both oils are high in omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, flaxseed has the highest concentration of omega-3s of all non-fish foods, and it also contains lignans, chemicals that may play a role in preventing cancer.

What they're best for: Their delicate flavor makes them ideal for no-cook items such as salad dressings and fruit smoothies; walnut oil can also be used for baking. Both oils must be refrigerated and used within a few months.


Originally published on September 9, 2008


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