When it comes to olive oil and narrowing down the best options for cooking the options can be overwhelming. There’s a variety of types of olive oil, then there’s vegetable, safflower, corn, even pecan oil and avocado oil. So today we’re Getting the Skinny with Molly on how to determine which oil is best suited to your needs.
Three main factors to be mindful of: nutritional profile, smoke point and flavor.
Nutrition Stats: All oils have ~120 calories and 14 grams fat per tablespoon. But the type of fats can vary.
Temperature & smoke point: When oil is heated past its smoke point, it starts to break down and creates harmful compounds linked to negative health issues like cancer and cardiovascular disease. Oils that are more refined tend to have higher smoke points + neutral flavor; less processed oils typically have lower smoke points + stronger flavor.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Rich in monounsaturated fats: Help reduce ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol; linked to lower risk of heart disease.
- Antioxidants: Help protect body’s cells from oxidative stress.
- Low smoke point => best for drizzling, dipping, salad dressings; bold, rich flavor. NOT for high heat (smoke point 320-350 degrees). High heat starts to destroy extra virgin olive oil’s beneficial nutrients.
- Rich in monounsaturated fats: 70% monounsaturated; nutritional profile similar to extra virgin olive oil.
- Very high smoke point => good fit for stir-frying, grilling, and sautéing (smoke point approx. 520 degrees). Green color and mild fruity flavor make it a good fit for drizzling, dipping, and salad d
- Pricey: As high as $0.95 per ounce at local stores, but also available at Costco for about half that price.
- MCTs: Contains over 50% medium chain fats, also referred to as medium chain triglyerides (MCTs), which may be less likely to be stored as fat, and more readily burned as energy.
- Better cholesterol? Observational studies have linked coconut oil to healthier cholesterol levels, especially when used in place of animal-based saturated fats.
- Moderate smoke point => moderate heat is fine: scramble an egg, roast vegetables, add to stir-fry (smoke point 350; refined coconut oil is 400 degrees); adds sweet, nutty flavor. Solid at room temperature, is 1:1 substitute for butter.
Extra Light Olive Oil
- Rich in monounsaturated fats: similar fatty acid profile as extra virgin olive oil
- Very light color AND flavor
- High smoke point => can serve as an all-purpose cooking oil, taking the place of oils like corn or safflower oil for baking, sautéing and frying (smoke point 470 degrees). NOT good for drizzling, dipping, or anything that you want to add strong flavor to.
- Monounsaturated fat: Approximately 52 percent monounsaturated fat
- Local: Produced locally by Inglewood Farm, Kinloch Plantation, and Point Coupee Pecan Company.
- High smoke point => suitable for high-heat cooking, including sautéing, grilling, and stir-frying (smoke point 470 degrees). Mild flavor; not a rich, robust oil for dipping or drizzling.
- Pricier than other oils ($1.21 to $1.68 per ounce); can be cost-prohibitive for larger-volume cooking.
Safflower, corn oil, and many “vegetable” oil blends
- Heavy on omega 6 fats, with a high radio of omega 6: omega 3 fats, typically 46:1 or more.
- Too much omega 6’s can increase inflammation, raising risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer and autoimmune diseases.
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