Healthiest Cooking Oils for High Cholesterol

Not all cooking oils have the same health benefits

man deciding between cooking oils in grocery store aisle
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If you're looking for a cooking oil that will be suitable for a low-cholesterol diet, be aware that not all cooking oils are created equal. Some oils can increase your LDL (bad cholesterol) while others may help lower it. The selection of oils out there is vast, well beyond just canola and vegetable.

Beneficial Oils: Olive, Flaxseed, Peanut, and More

Diets high in omega-3 fats and monounsaturated "good fats" can help lower your cholesterol.

You will find these beneficial fats in avocado oil, canola oil, flaxseed oil, olive oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil, and walnut oil.

Omega-3 and monounsaturated fats provide the antioxidants vitamin E and selenium. In addition to helping to lower cholesterol, good fats appear to aid in the promotion of healthy blood pressure, improve normal blood clotting, and reduce inflammation.

In fact, omega-3s are an essential nutrient, meaning that you must obtain them from food or a supplement pill. Your body cannot make the nutrient from other fats, carbohydrates, or proteins. Omega-3s are not very common in the foods we eat and are mostly found in fish and seafood.

Olive oil, made from pressed olives, has no cholesterol and has beneficial polyunsaturated fat. It's widely considered the healthiest oil, especially extra-virgin varieties, which are not over-processed. Avoid using olive oil if you're grilling or frying food at high temperatures.

As an oil reaches its smoke point, it turns rancid and becomes potentially unhealthy. 

Corn oil also is cholesterol-free and may work to lower LDL cholesterol slightly faster than olive oil, according to one study. Corn oil has a higher concentration of phytosterols, which help reduce cholesterol absorption, than olive oil.

 

Avocado oil, another cholesterol-free option, has a higher smoke point than olive or corn oil. It is a flavorful oil, so not suitable for every dish. 

For a more flavor-neutral oil, try canola oil, also cholesterol free and with a medium smoke point. 

Oils to Avoid on a Low-Cholesterol Diet

Hydrogenated oils are oils that are processed by manufacturers to prolong their shelf life. Unfortunately, the hydrogenation process can create harmful trans fats. These are definitely to be avoided in any diet aimed at lowering cholesterol or promoting heart health. 

When cooking at home, avoid palm and saturated/hydrogenated coconut oil, which are high in saturated fat. Although coconut oil has grown in popularity for its versatility and its very high smoke point, it actually raises LDL in the bloodstream. If you decide you must use coconut oil or palm oil, use them sparingly.

Nutrition Labels and Cooking Oils

Food manufacturers in the U.S. are legally required to list the amount of trans fat on nutrition labels for all packaged foods. Some places have voluntarily banned hydrogenated oils and trans fats in restaurant foods.

The best way to avoid trans fats when eating out is to limit the amount of fried foods (French fries, fried chicken) and baked goods (doughnuts, cakes, cookies, and pastries).

It's good practice for plenty of other health-related reasons, too.

Lowering Cholesterol and a Heart-Healthy Diet 

Remember that you do not need to cut out fat entirely to control your cholesterol level. The American Heart Association recommends that 30 percent of your daily recommended calories should come from fat

If you keep your overall calories in check, make sure that the majority of your fat calories come from healthy monounsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids and limit foods high in saturated fats, cholesterol, and trans fats. You'll be on the right track.

Sources:

Lin, L. et al "Evidence of Health Benefits of Canola Oil." Nutrition Review, June 2013

Guasch-Ferre, M. et al "Olive Oil Intake and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease" BioMed Central Medicine 2014

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