There are plenty of different opinions about which fats (oils and butter) are suitable for cooking, and which ones should be avoided. This is due to the fact that some cooking fats can have a greater beneficial impact on your health than others.
In this article, you will find two criteria that will help you evaluate different cooking oil options and choose the best one for your cooking masterpieces.
This way, you could get the most health benefits out of every meal you cook and enjoy a diverse diet with balanced macronutrients!
Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
Does smoke point matter?
When you choose cooking oils, it’s key to take into consideration the temperature that you use (either in the pan or the oven). But why?
When heated to a certain temperature, fats can change their chemical composition and nutritional value. This way, by “overheating” your cooking oil, you may stimulate the release of harmful chemical compounds that may impact the quality of the food you cook. 
The particular temperature that the different oils can “bear” before chemically changing is called “smoke point.” The smoke point of every oil varies and depends on its origin, degree of refinement, and other characteristics (such as free fatty acid content). In fact, you can easily see when your cooking oil reaches its smoke point – it starts emitting fumes and changes its odor. See some examples below:
- No-heat oils include flaxseed and walnut oil. Those are best for making salad dressings, dips, or to drizzle over cooked food.
- Olive oil, butter, coconut, and corn oil have medium smoke points. These can be used for light sautéing and baking.
- Oils with medium-high smoke point include avocado, refined sesame oil, ghee (clarified butter), and canola oil. These can be used for stir-frying, sautéing and roasting.
- Very high smoke point oils include refined and hydrogenated oils, as well as safflower and peanut oil.  These are suitable for high heat frying such as stir-frying and grilling.At the end of this article, you can see the exact smoke points of popular cooking oils.
Which oils are healthy for cooking?
Besides the smoke point, another thing to keep in mind when choosing a cooking oil is its nutritional value.Evidence suggests that fat is important for overall health and a balanced diet can contain both saturated and unsaturated fats. However, it’s generally recommended that all saturated fats be limited. 
You can recognize saturated oils easily, as they are solid at room temperature but liquidize when heated. They include: butter, coconut oil, palm oil, and others.
It’s important to take into account that frequent overconsumption of saturated fats can be associated with increased risk of high total cholesterol and LDL (“bad” cholesterol) levels. 
This means, using cooking oil rich in saturated fats (as a primary fat source) may increase the risk of heart disease, hypertension, and kidney disease. In that sense, the American Heart Association recommends limited consumption of saturated fats (up to 6% of total daily calories) and suggests avoiding the use of saturated oils as primary cooking oils. 
You can recognize saturated fat oils easily as they are solid at room temperature but liquidize when heated. They include butter, ghee, coconut oil, palm oil, beef and pork fat, and others.
Unsaturated fats are considered to be healthy fats and can supply us with omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. Their consumption can be associated with lower LDL (“bad” cholesterol) and triglycerides (a type of fat in your blood), reduced artery buildup, and lower risk of heart disease. 
Cooking oils rich in unsaturated fats are recommended by experts because of their potential health-promoting properties. In fact, the American Heart Association suggests that oils rich in unsaturated fats can effectively substitute saturated oils and be used as the main source of fats in home cooking.
Unsaturated fat oils can be recognized to be liquid at both room temperature and when chilled. Examples are olive oil, sesame seed oil, flaxseed oil, soybean oil, avocado oil, corn oil, virgin sunflower oil, and others.
Examples of cooking oils
So which are the best oils for cooking? We have combined the two criteria to come up with a table with some examples of what cooking oils you could use:
|Type of oil||Smoke point||Temperature||Nutritional value|
|Extra virgin olive oil ||Medium||Around 195 C/ 383 F||Unsaturated oil|
|Ghee butter (clarified butter) ||Medium||204-260 C/ 400-500 F||Saturated oil (should be consumed moderately)|
|Sesame oil ||Medium||170 C/ 338 F||Unsaturated oil|
|Coconut oil ||Medium||175 C/ 347 F||Saturated oil (should be consumed moderately)|