Coconut, grapeseed, canola and olive oil!

18 Oct

Is coconut oil different from other oils? What about grapeseed oil? Which oil is the healthiest? Which one is the best for cooking?  These are the most common questions during my nutrition classes. To answer these questions I use information from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and from the FACS extension.

Coconut oil is 92 percent saturated.  Foods high in saturated fats raise blood coconut_oil_thumbcholesterol more than foods high in dietary cholesterol. “Saturated” is a word that refers to the chemical structure of some fats. Saturated fats are usually firm or hold their shapes at room temperature. For example, at room temperature butter is solid because it has more saturated fat.

The main sources of saturated fat in the typical American diet are beef, beef fat, veal, lamb, pork, lard, poultry fat, butter, cream, milk, cheeses, and other dairy products made from whole milk.

These foods also contain saturated fat: coconut oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil (often called tropical oils), and cocoa butter.

Coconut oil has a sweet, nutty taste, and is often used as a substitute for shortening or butter in a vegan diet. It also imparts a tropical flavor to vegetables, curry dishes and fish. Because it is a saturated fat, use coconut oil in moderation, and buy the kind labeled “virgin.”

Grapeseed oil is extracted from grape seeds, which are a byproduct of wine-making. Grapeseed oil is polyunsaturated, which have been shown to lower total cholesterol and bad cholesterol. Grapeseed oil has a moderately high smoke point, which makes it great for sautés and frying. It can also be used in dressings and dips for vegetables.

Canola is a healthy oil that’s low in saturated fat and a good source of mono- and polyunsaturated fats, including omega-3s. (Note: Canola oil is not the same thing as rapeseed oil, which contains erucic acid that can be harmful to humans in large quantities.)

Canola oil has a light flavor, which makes it versatile in cooking. Replace solid fats like butter or margarine with canola oil when cooking or baking. Canola oil works well for sautéing and stir-frying. It also is good for coating pots, pans and your grill.

Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), which may help reduce one’s risk of heart disease. MUFAs lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and raise HDL (“good”) blood cholesterol. Olive oil is often sold as “virgin” or “extra virgin.” Extra-virgin olive oil has less acid and a fruitier flavor and stronger aroma than pure or virgin olive oil, so a little goes a long way. Olive oil labeled as “light” is often lighter in hue or flavor, but it’s not lighter in calories.

Use olive oil in place of saturated fat, such as butter. Dip bread [in it], use it in cakes, sauté, even fry vegetables and meat. But beware the smoking point is not very high so frying at high temperatures will cause your food to brown quickly.

Always rely in research based information to learn more about foods and nutrition. For more information visit

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