Cooking Oils, Sunflowers and Seeds

Cooking oil is much more than the vegetable oil and that oh-so-unhealthy lard that grandmother used to cook with. Now, there are more tasty and healthful offerings to choose from. These options vary in terms of health benefit, texture, and taste, but all offer something different than that old fashioned cooking oil. Here are five of the best alternatives to the same old cooking oil:

Canola Oil

Canola oil is made from canola seeds, which are a variant of conventional rapeseeds. In spite of the sometimes conflicting media reports as to the health benefit of the oil, canola oil is a wholesome and versatile choice for the pantry. Canola oil is rich in monounsaturated fats, which take the place of saturated fats and can help reduce LDL cholesterol in the body (that’s the bad kind, by the way.) Canola is a source of valuable omega 3 fat, which is associated with mental and heart health alike.

Canola is also notable for its taste and texture, which are on the whole lighter than vegetable oil, allowing canola oil to fit quietly in a variety of cooking and baking applications, letting the flavors of the dominant ingredients come to life for delicious results.

"Pure" Olive Oil

Olive oil contains monounsaturated fats, which are good for your diet. These fats take the place of saturated fats (like those found in dairy) and trans fat. Olive oils for cooking are the denser, slightly-fruity tasting sort known as "pure." The popular "extra-virgin" olive oil is actually recommended primarily for salads and dishes with low cook times because olive oil will dissipate under heat and open air. In either case, olive oil is worth keeping around the kitchen pantry for its wide range of flavorful uses.

Interestingly enough, olive oil's benefits extend beyond the kitchen and the inside of the body; it can also be applied topically to the skin as a moisturizer. For this reason, olive oil is sometimes seen as an ingredient in various cosmetic products. As this would indicate, olive oil is wholesome inside and out.

Refined Peanut Oil

Assuming you and those you are cooking for do not have a peanut allergy, you can cook with refined peanut oil. Peanut oil is useful for those deep fried foods, and makes an undeniable perfect partner for the annual Thanksgiving turkey. Peanut oil is best saved for times when you are not watching your waistline. Peanut oil is also found in an unrefined form, which usually comes in small bottles, making it no option for the Thanksgiving turkey, but a good one for small dishes like stir fry.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is great oil for the pantry. Although somewhat new in the United States, coconut oil has long been the oil of choice in countries like the Philippines. Coconut oil is recommended for people with type 2 Diabetes, as well as a preventative for Alzheimer’s disease, according to popular thought. Coconut oil is great for metabolism, making it an aid to dietary regularity. The US Food and Drug Administration do advise against the consumption of significant amounts of coconut oil due to the presence of high levels of saturated fats and "bad" cholesterol found in the oil. The best way to enjoy coconut oil is in its unprocessed, organic form.

Last Updated: Tuesday, July 16, 2013