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The Difference Between 8 Popular Cooking Oils

Posted by Terra's Kitchen on Fri, Jan 13, '17

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There once was a time when lard, the rendered fat of pigs, was king in the kitchen. It was used for everything from frying chicken to creating flaky pie crusts. Over time, we’ve adapted to healthier, lower fat options. Make no mistake, not all cooking oils are the same. With so many on our grocery store shelves, how do we know which oils to use for what? Is one better than the other? Will they affect the taste of our foods? We’re here to demystify these popular cooking oils and learn their uses in everyday cooking.

Olive Oil. Tried and true olive oil has been a staple in American kitchens for decades. Over the years, there have been many different views of this healthy oil. Researchers and food scientists now know that it is filled with monounsaturated fats and oleic acids, which are good for your heart and healthy fats which have been linked to brain health. At 120 calories a tablespoon, use olive oil in pretty much anything from marinades to dressings or as a substitute for butter and margarine. 

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Canola Oil. Canola oil is one of the healthiest and most versatile oil choices available. With a neutral taste and a medium-to-high smoke point, canola oil is especially suitable for both baking and sautéing. Canola oil is considered ‘healthy’ because it is an excellent source of heart healthy monounsaturated and omega-3 fats, and is low in saturated fats. Numerous research studies have linked canola oil to reductions in cholesterol levels, LDL (or bad) cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Despite its long-standing safety, about 90% of canola oils are genetically modified. They are further processed and deodorized. Some brands have not undergone this processing and are not genetically-modified. We recommend, when possible, to purchase cold-pressed and organic canola oils like Spectrum, LifeOil and Ellyndale Organics.

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Sesame Oil. This oil is an especially flavorful oil that is often used in many Asian inspired dishes. Be careful with how much you use because a little goes a long way! Dating back to ancient times, sesame oil has been used not only to add flavor, but for its health benefits. Nutritionists recommend using this oil because it features heart-healthy fats and fights inflammation. When used in cooking, sesame oil even helps to manage diabetes and lower blood pressure and maintain healthy cholesterol levels. There are two types of sesame oil, light and dark. Light sesame oil is suitable for deep frying because it has a high smoke point. Dark sesame oil has a low smoke point, so it is better used for things like stir fry that do not get as hot.

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Grapeseed Oil. Used best for low-temperature cooking and sautéing, grapeseed oil is derived from pressing the seeds of grapes and plays an active role in winemaking. For a time, grapeseed oil was overlooked and viewed as an undesirable ingredient. It wasn’t until the health benefits of this oil were discovered - it’s a good source of Vitamin E and oleic acid - that it became as popular as it is today. With it’s neutral taste and 120 calories per tablespoon, use it next time you’re making a salad dressing or baking.

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Coconut Oil. In certain health and fitness circles it certainly seems like everyone is obsessed with coconut oil. Coconut oil has been touted as a magical solution for everything from dry skin, to bug bites, to seasoning your cast iron pan. When choosing a coconut oil to purchase, you will notice that there are several different types including refined (or virgin), unrefined, and organic. Unrefined, organic coconut oil is typically considered the best kind because it has the most MCTs, nutrients and antioxidants. This type is best to help with healing your gut and with skin issues. The organic certification helps to ensure that your coconut oil is free of toxins that you don't want to be putting in your body.

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Avocado Oil. Over recent years, avocados have seen a surge in popularity from guacamole to toast. It looks like it’s oily counterpart is also making a name for itself. Great for grilling due to its high smoke point, avocado oil is pressed from the fleshy pulp that surrounds the pit. Just like the fruit, avocado oil is extremely healthy. The monounsaturated fats can lead to lower blood pressure and it has been linked to potentially lowering the symptoms of arthritis. One tablespoon is 124 calories. Use it next time you’re grilling, pan roasting, or simply drizzle it over a soup or salad. 

Hazelnut Oil. Just like the nut, hazelnut oil gives off a toasty flavor in every recipe it goes into. As the name implies, oil is extracted from the hazel through a press. 80% of the fats within hazelnut oil is monounsaturated which makes it extremely heart healthy. One tablespoon is 120 calories and pairs perfectly with pasta, rice, and even oatmeals as it makes starchy and comforting foods even richer. For an unexpected twist, you can even top ice cream and coffee with it. 

Sunflower Oil. A great substitute for often heavily processed vegetable oil, sunflower oil is extremely versatile and can be used for cooking in low to high temperatures. It’s healthier than traditional vegetable oils as it contains less bad fats and more good fats. Next time a recipe calls for vegetable oil, reach for the sunflower oil instead. At 120 calories per tablespoon, it’s a better alternative for you and your loved ones. 



You only need a few ingredients like olive oil, salt and pepper to cook Terra's Kitchen meal delivery kits. We only use the healthiest ingredients to ensure all of your meals are balanced, plant-strong, nutrient dense, and feature heart healthy fats.

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Topics: Food