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The Healthiest Oil for Frying for a Healthy Diet

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Kasparas Aleknavičius, MD December 15, 2022

Oil can be used as a salad dressing as well as to fry sweet potatoes. However, in both circumstances, you may want to use a different sort of oil.

Deep-fried foods can be bad for your cardiovascular health. Some even say that when on a balanced diet or an intermittent fasting routine, you should avoid fried food altogether.

However, you can mitigate the impact by choosing the right oil. Hence, we’ll go over healthy cooking oils and figure out which one is the best oil for frying, for a healthy diet.

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Oil Smoke Point: Why It’s Important

Deep frying is a cooking method in which your food is entirely immersed in hot oil and cooked at a high temperature. Deep-fried dishes are sometimes prepared in a pot, deep fryer, or pan. The meals are quick and simple to prepare.

The cooking temperature should be between 350 °F and 375 °F for it to be considered deep-frying.

The oil’s smoke point is important for a few reasons. It’s basically the temperature at which the oil stops shimmering and begins to burn and produce smoke. This harms the flavor of fried foods.

Moreover, as the oil burns, it removes phytochemicals and essential nutrients, generates inflammation, and produces free radicals, which can be harmful to your health if ingested.

Repeatedly heated cooking oils and their fumes can cause a high rate of genotoxic, mutagenic, tumorogenic, and numerous cancers.

Avoiding ingesting harmful compounds is one of the reasons oil’s smoke point is important. The conditions under which the oil can be considered healthy for cooking is a high smoke point, and therefore, not combined with oxygen (oxidative stability) when heated.

One factor that affects smoke point is the type of fat the oils are high in. Here are the examples:

  • Polyunsaturated fats – have lower smoke points (sunflower, flaxseed safflower oil).
  • Monounsaturated fats – have medium smoke points (avocado, canola, olive oil).
  • Saturated fats – have higher smoke points (coconut, palm oil).

Smoke points of cooking oil

Here are the smoke points of the most popular cooking oils:

  • Avocado oil – 520 °F
  • Coconut oil – 350-400°F
  • Olive oil – 390-470°F
  • Peanut oil – 441-445 °F
  • Sesame oil – 350-450°F
  • Sunflower oil – 486–489 °F
  • Vegetable oils – 428 °F
  • Safflower oil – 468 °F
  • Canola oil – 350-450 °F
  • Palm oil – 455 °F

7 Healthiest Oils for Frying

Here are some of the healthiest oils you can choose for frying.

1. Coconut oil

Coconut oil contains short-chain fatty acids that are approximately 92% saturated and only 2% polyunsaturated. This means that this oil is resistant to high heat. The smoke point coconut oil is 350-400°F. In addition, saturated fats, different from other types of fats, might not increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

According to one study, after 8 hours of deep frying at 365°F, the quality of virgin coconut oil remained good quality and no harmful compounds were released. Therefore, coconut oil shows to keep its quality when deep frying.

Coconut oil raises both good and bad cholesterol levels. Hence, make sure to use the oil in moderate amounts.

In addition, this cooking oil is great when intermittent fasting. Adding coconut oil to your diet can help restore your energy levels, and reduce appetite when trying to stay with an empty stomach for the duration of the fasting window of the type of fast you choose.

The DoFasting app offers educational material that will help you understand everything there is to know about fasting and nutrition. It also has a fasting timer and calorie tracker to help you see your progress if you’re attempting to lose weight.

2. Lard

Animal fats such as lard oil are mostly saturated and monounsaturated fats. Therefore, lard oil is resistant to high heat. This also means that it doesn’t create harmful free radicals.

Grain-fed animals, on the other hand, may contain more polyunsaturated fats in their fat stores than pasture-raised or grass-fed animals.

Lard oil is produced by rendering pig fatty tissue. This oil contains 902 kcal per 100g. Furthermore, lard’s main nutrient is fat. In contrast, butter has three times more cholesterol than lard oil.

The smoke point of lard oil is 374 °F.

Including this oil in your diet can have potential health benefits since it can help boost your immune system and includes Vitamins D and E.

3. Ghee

Ghee is another animal fat oil. The oil has a high smoke point and doesn’t have any water in it. Therefore, it doesn’t burn, smoke, or release toxic chemicals in the process.

The smoke point of ghee oil is 482 °F. Therefore, it can be considered an ideal medium for deep frying.

Despite the fact that ghee is made from butter, the milk solids and impurities have been removed, making it a good option for people who are lactose intolerant. Ghee is also high in vitamins A, E, and D.

If sourced from grass-fed cows, ghee oil can have anti-cancer properties.

4. Olive oil

Olive oil is extracted from olives, and has been considered to be a very healthy oil. There are three main grades of olive oil:

  • Refined olive oil
  • Virgin olive oil
  • Extra virgin olive oil

The oil is high in monounsaturated fatty acids which makes it resistant to heat even after frying it for 24 hours. The smoke point of olive oil is 390-470°F.

Olive oil can benefit heart health and reduce the risk of heart disease since it’s loaded with monounsaturated fatty acids. The research shows that this particular oil seems to be the only one associated with protection against heart disease.

Extra virgin olive oil contains vitamins E and K, both of which are essential to overall health.

Additionally, extra virgin olive oil can have anti-inflammatory properties.

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5. Avocado oil

Avocado oil might have the highest smoking point of 520 °F. Aside from that, avocado oil is high in monounsaturated fat. As a result, it is quite stable when heated.

When heated at higher temperatures, avocado oil can have a light nutty taste, which could not be preferred by some people.

Another advantage of including this oil in your diet is that it contains vitamin E which can decrease inflammation and help prevent oxidative stress. Moreover, avocado oil improves the levels of good cholesterol in the body while decreasing the levels of bad cholesterol.

6. Peanut oil

Peanut oil is a vegetable-derived oil that was made from the seeds of the peanut plant. There are a few types of peanut oil:

  • Refined peanut oil
  • Cold-pressed peanut oil
  • Gourmet peanut oil
  • Peanut oil blends

Peanut oil includes 20% saturated fat, 50% monounsaturated fat, and 30% polyunsaturated fat, which means it’s reasonably stable when heated. It has a high smoke point of 441-445 °F.

Peanut oil is beneficial for your health since it’s a good source of vitamin E, which can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and protect your body from harmful free radicals.

Vitamin E also possesses anti-cancer properties.

The only thing that people might dislike about peanut oil is that it can have a distinct taste to it.

7. Palm oil

Palm oil is an oil derived from the mesocarp of the fruit of the oil palms. Almost all palm oil fats are saturated or monounsaturated fats, therefore, it’s very suitable for deep-frying.

The smoke point of palm oil is 455 °F.

Palm oil also contains a good amount of vitamin E and other antioxidants. Therefore, it can promote heart health and brain health. Moreover, it might also help to increase the amount of vitamin A and other fat-soluble vitamins that you can absorb.

Moreover, it has a neutral flavor.

The Worst Oils for Frying

Here are the worst oils for frying:

  • Soybean oil – contains linoleic acid which is a polyunsaturated fat. This makes the oil unstable and easily oxidized.
  • Corn oil – GMO corn is used in the production of corn oil. Additionally, it includes linoleic acid.
  • Sunflower oil – cooking oil fumes are produced by fats used in frying. These fumes contain toxic aldehydes, which may increase the risk of cancer. Although deep-frying generates the most aldehydes, sunflower oil produces more aldehydes than other oils.
  • Sesame oil – is okay for frying, but high in calories and can lead to weight gain.

Unrefined and Refined Oils Compared

Another important thing to keep in mind is that there are unrefined and refined oils. Unrefined oils are simply the ones that haven’t been processed or refined. This means that the oil is only extracted from nuts or seeds. These oils can be:

  • Cold-pressed
  • Expeller-pressed

Unrefined oils don’t undergo heating or processes involved in adding chemical substances.

Unrefined oils are ideal for salad dressings and low-heat dishes. The oils have stronger tastes and scents. Moreover, the oxidative stability of unrefined oils is better than that of refined oils.

When it comes to refined oils, they are the polar opposite. Even though they are extracted from nuts or seeds, the oils are subjected to further processing. For example, fatty acids are neutralized throughout the procedure.

There is a lot of conflicting research out there concerning the influence of refined oils. During cooking, refined oils oxidize. As a result, the polyunsaturated fatty acids in the oil react with chemicals and moisture in the air, possibly leaving it unsafe to consume.

However, some studies show, that repeatedly cooking the same oil until oxidation doesn’t have any negative effects.

The main differences between unrefined and refined oils:

  • Processing – refined oils undergo more processing.
  • Flavor – unrefined oils have more flavor.
  • Smoke point – unrefined oils have a lower smoke point.

It isn’t 100% certain which oil is healthier. While unrefined oils are more natural, refined ones might be better for deep-frying. Hence, it depends on what you’ll do with the oil and the components of each one.

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Conclusion

When choosing oil for deep frying, it is important to know its smoke point.

It’s the temperature at which the oil stops shimmering and begins to burn and emit smoke. The healthiest oils for frying are coconut, lard, ghee, olive, avocado, peanut, and palm oils.

Author

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Kasparas Aleknavičius, MD
  • Head of Medical Affairs at Kilo Health
  • Medical Doctor at Vilnius University, Lithuania
  • Partnering with the EU-funded Young50 and EUPAP projects

Kasparas Aleknavicius is a medical doctor that graduated from Vilnius University, working as head of medical affairs at Kilo Health. After nearly 5 years in the industry, Kasparas focuses on digital health and is looking for innovative ways to help people lead healthy lifestyles through digital health and wellness platforms.

You can find Kasparas on LinkedIn and follow his latest research on Medium.

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