The 10 healthiest cooking oils — and which oils you should avoid cooking with

The 10 healthiest cooking oils — and which oils you should avoid cooking with
Even the healthiest cooking oils are high in calories, so don't overuse them.PeopleImages/Getty Images
  • The healthiest cooking oils are higher in unsaturated fat and lower in saturated fat.
  • It's important to heat oils below their smoke points, or they can release harmful free radicals.

Oil is a home cooking essential. And at the grocery store, you'll find a huge variety of options: olive, avocado, walnut, sesame, coconut, peanut, and the list goes on.

Olive oil may be a fan favorite, but it's not the only healthy option on the shelves. Plus, trying a different cooking oil, like replacing olive oil for sesame in stir fries, can be an easy way to add a whole new flavor — as well as specific nutritional benefits — to your meals.

Here's a breakdown of what to look for when selecting a healthy cooking oil and our picks for the top 10 healthiest options out there.

What you should know about cooking oil

The healthiest cooking oils typically have more unsaturated fats than saturated fats.

Unsaturated fats — like the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids found in plant-based oils — are particularly beneficial for heart health.


Meanwhile, the saturated fats found in butter, lard, and full-fat dairy may increase your risk for heart disease.

Note: Oils are fats in liquid form at room temperature. While they exist naturally in a variety of foods — such as nuts, fish, seeds, avocados, and olives — cooking oils are one of the most common ways people consume them.

Unsaturated fats — like the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids found in plant-based oils — are particularly beneficial for heart health.

Meanwhile, the saturated fats found in butter, lard, and full-fat dairy may increase your risk for heart disease.

"Plant-based oils are a great alternative to reduce the consumption of butter and other animal fat products," says Amanda Nicole, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist with a private practice.


In addition to the fat content of cooking oil, it's important to understand each oil's smoke point.

"When an oil is heated past its smoke point the oil burns, destroying beneficial nutrients and releasing free radicals — increasing risk of chronic diseases," Nicole says.

A 2022 review found that heating some oils — primarily those with high amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids — to high temperatures releases potentially cancer-causing aldehydes, which can also contribute to chronic disease when inhaled or ingested.

Important: Avoid repeatedly reheating cooking oil. Research has found that reheating vegetable oils, as one might do when deep-frying, is associated with an increased risk of some cancers, including lung and breast cancer. It may also slightly increase the amount of trans fat in some oils.

Here's a breakdown of the fat content and smoke points for the 10 healthiest cooking oils, as well as how to cook with them for a healthy meal.


Refined vs. unrefined cooking oils

You can buy just about any type of oil in its refined or unrefined version, which indicates how the oil is processed before reaching the grocery shelves:

  • Refined oils are typically processed with heat and chemicals and typically have a higher smoke point, meaning they can tolerate higher cooking temperatures.
  • Unrefined oils are sometimes filtered, but are otherwise unprocessed, which leaves them darker in color. Usually if you see "virgin" on the bottle it means the oil is unrefined.

Unrefined oils are considered healthier because they are less processed than refined oils and therefore contain higher amounts of powerful antioxidants like polyphenols.

Unrefined oils also tend to be more flavorful than refined oils, which are deliberately deodorized on the production line, giving them a neutral flavor. However, unrefined oils have a lower smoke point than their refined counterparts, making them ideal for dressings or dips.

If you want to try unrefined oils, look for oils that say they are "virgin," "cold-pressed," or "unrefined."

1. Olive oil

Olive oil contains monounsaturated fatty acids that decrease inflammation, lower "bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and prevent chronic disease, says Nicole.


"There are many different types of olive oil on the market. Make sure to get cold-pressed, 100% extra virgin olive oil to receive the most benefits," Nicole says. This is because extra-virgin olive oil is pressed from ripe olives and produced without high heat or chemicals.

Despite its lower smoke point, olive oil also has a lower oxidation rate than other oils, which means it releases fewer free radicals. In fact, a 2018 study found that olive oil remains stable up to and even slightly above its smoke point.

What to use it for: Olive oil's smoke point is 410 °F, which means it's not good for grilling or frying. Use it at lower temperatures to prevent burning foods, such as incorporating it into your salad dressings, dips, and on top of warm dishes.

2. Canola oil

Canola oil (aka rapeseed oil) is extracted from the seeds of the canola plant, which is in the same family as broccoli and cauliflower.

"This is a good source of healthy fats. Just one tablespoon of canola oil has 8 grams of monounsaturated fats," says Mary Gollan, MS, RD, a registered dietitian at Preg Appetit.


It also is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which combats inflammation, reduces liver fat, and decreases risk of stroke and heart disease.

Along with olive oil, canola oil is one of the oils recommended by the American Heart Association for a heart-healthy diet.

What to use it for: Refined canola oil is neutral in flavor and has a high smoke point of 435 °F. It's one of the best oils for deep-frying or roasting vegetables and meat.

3. Avocado oil

Avocados are one of the highest sources of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid that reduces blood pressure, promotes brain function, and decreases cancer risk.

Therefore, it's no surprise that avocado oil, made from cold-pressed avocado pulp, also carries these benefits to optimize health.


"Consuming avocado oil along with vegetables increases the absorption of soluble vitamins — like vitamins A, D, E, and K — that need fat to be absorbed," Nicole says.

What to use it for: Avocado oil has a high smoke point of 520 °F, which makes it ideal for high-heat cooking methods. Use it to smoke meat on the grill or stew your favorite whole grains.

4. Sesame oil

"Sesame oil is rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. These oils have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which may help reduce the risk for several diseases," says Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, a registered dietitian with her own private practice.

Sesame may also be beneficial for regulating blood pressure, likely due to its healthy fats and polyphenols.

Important: Sesame oil should not be confused with toasted sesame oil, which has a completely different taste. While both are processed from sesame seeds, the longer roasting time of toasted sesame oil results in a richer, nuttier flavor; regular sesame oil has almost no flavor, Cassetty says.


What to use it for: Sesame oil has a smoke point of 410 °F, which is good for roasting and pan-frying foods. Toasted sesame oil is best in dishes where its nuttiness enhances the flavor, like in a salad or marinating chicken or salmon.

5. Soybean oil

Soybean oil is derived from the seeds of the soybean plant. It is also commonly sold as vegetable oil.

"Soybean oil is high in vitamin K, which promotes healthy bone strength. It also is filled with polyunsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids that have been linked to lower cholesterol levels," Nicole says.

What to use it for: This is a great oil for high-heat cooking methods since it has a high smoke point of 450 °F. Its neutral taste is ideal for baking, frying, and sautéing your favorite ingredients.

6. Safflower oil

Safflower oil, made with seeds from the safflower plant, is low in saturated fatty acids and high in heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.


"It contains linolenic and linoleic acids which can improve blood cholesterol, support arteries, and overall reduce your risk of heart disease," Nicole says.

A 2018 review found that safflower oil is particularly effective at lowering LDL cholesterol compared to other oils and saturated fats like butter and lard.

What to use it for: Safflower oil is also neutral in flavor and has a high smoking point of 450 °F. This oil is great for your backyard barbecue or stir frying some delicious veggies.

7. Flaxseed oil

Flaxseed oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, flaxseeds are one of the seeds highest in omega-3 fatty acids, which can improve heart and brain health and combat inflammation.

What to use it for: Flaxseed oil has a very low smoke point of 225 °F, so it is best for cold recipes, like salad dressings or dips. If you're looking to bump up your omega-3 intake, you could also add it to smoothies, says Cassetty.


8. Peanut oil

Peanut oil is high in vitamin E, monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, antioxidants, and omega-6 fatty acids, Nicole says. Vitamin E is a nutrient essential for good vision, immunity, and blood flow.

"Cold pressed, unrefined, peanut oil contains the most nutritional benefits as the peanuts are processed through a mechanical process without heat or chemicals," Nicole says.

What to use it for: Refined peanut oil's smoke point is 450 °F, meaning it can withstand high temperatures without burning. It's considered a neutral oil with a mild, slightly nutty flavor profile excellent for frying and stir-frying. Oils to avoid

9. Walnut oil

Walnut oil is full of beneficial fats that support cardiovascular health and may also help lower cholesterol.

In a small 2017 study, participants with type 2 diabetes who added 15 ml (about a tablespoon) of walnut oil to their diets daily saw a reduction in their cholesterol levels, including LDL or "bad" cholesterol.


Walnut oil also contains vitamin K and antioxidants.

What to use it for: Unrefined walnut oil has a low smoke point of 320 °F, so it is best used for drizzling over finished meals. Try adding its nutty flavor to roasted vegetables, grains, grilled fish, or salads.

10. Almond oil

Almond oil contains vitamin E and vitamin K, as well as beneficial monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.

According to a 2021 review, almond oil may help improve cardiovascular health and reduce oxidative stress, thanks to its high vitamin E content.

What to use it for: Almond oil can be used for cooking methods like roasting and sauteing up to its 430 °F smoke point.


Oils to avoid

While there are a lot of options for healthy oils, there are unhealthy ones to steer clear from. You should avoid oils that are high in saturated fats and trans fats, which can raise your LDL "bad" cholesterol, says Gollan.

Unhealthy oils are found in a lot of processed foods, as they have a long shelf life at room temperature. These oils tend to be solid at room temperature.

Here are some common unhealthy oils to avoid:

  • Partially hydrogenated oils
  • Vegetable shortening
  • Palm oil
  • Cottonseed oil
  • Coconut oil

Tips for healthy oil consumption

According to the USDA, the recommended daily intake averages from 3 to 7 teaspoons (about 1 to 2 tablespoons).

This chart breaks down healthy daily oil consumption by age and gender:

Age & GenderPortion Size
Children: 2-3 years old 3 teaspoons
Children: 4-8 years old4 teaspoons
Girls: 9-13 years old5 teaspoons
Girls: 14-18 years old5 teaspoons
Boys: 9-13 years old 5 teaspoons
Boys: 14-18 years old6 teaspoons
Women: 19-30 years old6 teaspoons
Women: 31-50 years old5 teaspoons
Women: 51+ years old5 teaspoons
Men: 19-30 years old7 teaspoons
Men: 31-50 years old6 teaspoons
Men: 51+ years old6 teaspoons

Even though healthy oils are packed with unsaturated fats and nutrients, they are high in calories. Most oils contain 120 calories per tablespoon (3 tsp), so they should be consumed in moderation, Gollan says.

If you are trying to lose weight or manage weight gain, it's important to use small amounts of healthy oils when you're cooking. Try measuring out oil portions with a teaspoon to make sure you don't overpour.

Insider's takeaway

Most oils are loaded with healthy fats, vitamins, and antioxidants — which offer tons of health benefits.

Some oils — like canola, avocado, and safflower —have high smoking points, which can be used in high-heat cooking methods. Others — like olive and flaxseed — have low smoking points that can be used for low or no-heat cooking methods. You can reap the most benefits by using different types of oils in their healthiest cooking applications.

Pay attention to the ingredients while choosing your oils and steer clear from saturated and trans fats, which can appear in partially hydrogenated oils.


Healthy cooking oils can be a great way to get certain nutrients your body needs on a daily basis, says Nicole.