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Olive Oil continued...

The skinny on olive oil: Choosing an olive oil can be confusing. Here, Heverling explains how to pick the best bottle.

Always choose extra-virgin. It's made from the first pressing of olives, so it has the most antioxidants and flavor. Look for an oil that's cold-pressed, meaning no heat was used during the processing. Think that's too pricey? Opt for an inexpensive extra-virgin olive oil for cooking, then splurge on a high-quality, unfiltered one for drizzling and dipping. "This adds amazing flavor and health to your food — it's worth every penny," says Heverling.

Go imported. Spain, Italy, and Greece are the biggest olive oil producers, and their strict quality standards mean you'll get a better product. Look for the words product of (as in "product of Italy") to guarantee that the oil comes from that country.

Buy dark-colored bottles. And keep them in a dark, cool place, since light and heat can turn oil rancid. Olive oil is best used within six months but can last for two years if stored properly.

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.

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