You may want to consider substituting another type of oil for vegetable oil blends containing soybean and corn, either for health reasons or for how they taste. Also, Dunn says that soybean and corn crops used to make vegetable oils can potentially be produced with genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
“That doesn’t necessarily mean a bad thing, but we have enough data to say for sure and those are the products that are more often sprayed with pesticides,” said Dunn.
Here are a few common alternatives to vegetable oil that’s 100% soybean oil–or vegetable oil blends containing soybean oil or corn oil.
Olive oil contains a high percentage of monounsaturated fat, which is known to lower “bad” LDL and raise “good” HDL cholesterol, according to the AHA. The organization also notes that consuming more than half a tablespoon of olive oil daily may lower heart disease risk.
Extra-virgin olive oil is processed without high heat or chemical solvents, which protects the phenolic compounds present in the oil. Phenolic compounds are strong antioxidants and are associated with many health benefits, including lowered risk of some cancers and coronary heart disease.
Extra-virgin olive oil may also add a slight flavor to food, which, depending on what you’re cooking, may or may not be to your liking, explains Schachter.
Refined coconut oil is excellent for cooking at higher heat, explains Dunn. If you’re looking for coconutty flavor, unrefined/virgin coconut oil is the better bet. However, coconut oil contains more saturated fat (80% to 90%) than other plant oils. Not all saturated fat is created equal, but it can be associated with raised LDL cholesterol, which is why the AHA recommends limiting it to no more than 6% of daily calories.
Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which may provide some health benefits due to the fact that MCTs are quickly absorbed and used for energy.
Refined avocado oil has a neutral flavor and is high in monounsaturated fat and vitamin E, explains Dunn, noting that it’s her go-to choice. Vitamin E contains antioxidants that can help protect cells from the damaging effects of free radicals.
Similar to olive oil, avocado oil is rich in oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid that has many beneficial health-promoting properties. Some research notes that oleic acid may help fight cancer, aid in preventing Alzheimer’s disease and help lower cholesterol.
Refined avocado oil has the highest smoke point (520 degrees Fahrenheit) relative to other plant oils, so it’s great for cooking at high temperatures. Extra-vIrgin avocado oil has a lower smoke point and would be an ideal pick for lower heat cooking or at the table.
Walnut oil comes from pressing walnut kernels and contains a significant amount of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid found in plants. When ALA is consumed, it can be converted into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and then to docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the type of omega-3s in fish oil that are beneficial for a host of issues, from heart health to blood pressure. However, a lot of ALA needs to be consumed for a sufficient amount of EPA and DHA to be converted.
The main drawback to walnut oil is that it has a low smoke point, so it’s not good to use for many types of cooking, says Dunn. It also has a sweet, nutty flavor you may or may not enjoy. If you love walnuts, it’s delicious drizzled over vegetables or used in salad dressings.
Sesame oil, which is derived from sesame seeds, is rich in mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids (including oleic and linoleic acid), and antioxidants. Studies show that a diet rich in bioactive compounds found in sesame seeds can reduce hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
Sesame oil is often used in Asian and Mediterranean cooking for its flavor (when unrefined) and high smoke point (when refined). The refined variety is great for making stir fry or frying foods, notes Dunn.
When it comes to your health, it pays to be an informed consumer. No matter which vegetable oil you choose, pay attention to the nutrition label and look for brands that offer only the oil or oils you want, says Dunn. Manufacturers sometimes combine less expensive oils with more expensive ones, like avocado and olive oils, to make the product more affordable.
You may also want to keep a few types of vegetable oil on the shelf. For multipurpose use, Schachter and Dunn both say refined avocado oil is their primary choice, but occasionally substitute olive oil depending on what they’re cooking. The good news is there are plenty of vegetable oil alternatives that offer numerous health benefits and great flavor.
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