6 Types of Oil You Need to Know About

6 Types of Oil You Need to Know About
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Gone are the days when generic cooking oil and fancy olive oil were your only options. These days, it seems like oil can be made from anything! It can get confusing, though. How do you know which type to use and when? Here's the full scoop on six of the most popular types of oil out there.

The Nutritional 411

No matter the type, all oil contains around 120 calories and 14 grams of fat per tablespoon.

And luckily, most oil contains monounsaturated fats, a.k.a. the good-for-you kind. But since it is pretty calorie dense, portion control is key! So break out those measuring spoons, and use them; never pour oil straight from the bottle. Eating too much of a good thing is a common mistake that can turn healthy food into a diet disaster.

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

This is the king of olive oil! Extra-virgin olive oil is unrefined and high in quality. It’s got a light neutral taste, slightly like actual olives but without any saltiness. Since the flavor is so yummy, save it for salad dressings, dips, and drizzles. Avoid using it for high-temp cooking and baking.

EVOO has been linked to a slew of nutritional benefits: It protects against inflammation, decreases total cholesterol and blood pressure and, according to research over the past few years, contains a compound with the ability to kill cancer cells!

Extra-virgin olive oil is a staple of the Mediterranean diet, which many consider one of the healthiest diets in the world. To really reap the benefits, pair it with tons of fruits and veggies.

Pop-Up Recipe: For a creamy balsamic dressing, combine 2 tbsp. fat-free plain Greek yogurt, 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar, 1 1/2 tsp.

extra-virgin olive oil, and half of a natural no-calorie sweetener packet. Only about 90 calories and 6.5g fat, and the serving size is huge.

Olive Oil

Plain/pure olive oil is often refined, which means it's treated and processed to make it more sellable. This includes a heating process that removes many of the antioxidants and vitamins. (That’s why the extra-virgin kind is king!) Traditional olive oil is lighter in flavor, however, and has a higher smoke point, so it's better for general stir-frying and sautéing. Off the stove, you can use olive oil to enhance the flavor of dips and salads, like this pesto potato salad!

FYI: Smoke point is the temperature at which the structure of the oil breaks down, nutrients are lost, flavor is changed, and the compounds can be altered in a way that’s dangerous to your health. If the oil is visibly smoking in the pan, it's a good sign that the heat is too high for that oil.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is having a moment, and for good reason. It’s so tasty and really nutritious! It’s great for baking, low-heat roasting, and sautéing. It does have a slight coconut-y taste, which is something to be aware of if you’re not a fan of coconut. Use it as a butter swap; it’s a one-to-one ratio, so no need for complex conversions!

Bonus: It’s versatile. You can even rub some right onto your skin as moisturizer! Coconut oil is unique because its fatty acids are medium chained instead of long chained. Say what? These medium-sized chains are metabolized differently and less likely to be stored as fat. This helps with appetite suppression, so it’s definitely a friend of anyone looking to lose weight! Get the complete 411.

Sesame Oil

Open sesame... oil! This oil is best for sautéing, dressings, and marinades. It’s often used in Asian food, so keep that in mind the next time you pull out your wok. Cauliflower fried rice, anyone?

Sesame oil has a higher smoke point than olive and coconut oil, so it can handle the heat. This oil has an impressive amount of zinc, which is one of the most important minerals for skin and bone health. If you like a bit more flavor, consider toasted sesame oil, which has a nuttier, smokier taste than the regular kind.

Grapeseed Oil

As the name implies, this oil is made from the seeds of grapes. It's one of my favorites because of its light taste, versatility, and high smoke point. Grapeseed oil is a good source of vitamin E, which greatly benefits the immune system. While grapeseed oil has some of those good-for-your monounsaturated fats, it does contain mostly polyunsaturated fats, like omega-6s, which aren't healthy in large amounts. But if you stick with small portion sizes, I’d say grapeseed oil is A-OK!

Pop-Up Recipe: I love this sweet 'n tangy tomato dip. Just mix 3 tbsp. canned crushed tomatoes, 11/2 tsp. grapeseed oil, 1 tsp. seasoned rice vinegar, 1 tsp. finely chopped basil, and 1/8 tsp. garlic powder. Just about 90 calories and around 6.5g fat. Awesome with baby carrots or jicama sticks!

Canola Oil

This is the most common oil around, mainly because it’s the cheapest. Canola oil is genetically engineered and lacks any real flavor. This does make it useful for baking. Like the other oils, it contains healthy omega-3s. But overall, it's not the best for your health. During the refining process, many of those omega-3s are converted into trans-fats (the not-so-good-for-you kind). I’d recommend limiting your use of this one when cooking at home.

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