25 Types of Cooking Fats and Oils: Nutrition Facts, Benefits, Drawbacks

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There are many different choices of cooking fat, and most of us use them to cook our food.

Choosing the right option and using it in sensible amounts is very important, as we can compromise the benefits of healthy foods if we use excessive amounts of added fat.

This article provides a list of 25 common cooking fats and oils alongside their full nutrition profiles, sourced from the USDA’s Food Composite Database.

Additionally, we take a balanced look at their potential benefits and drawbacks as well as research findings.

1) Avocado Oil

Avocado Cooking Oil In a Glass Jug.

Avocado is a relatively new oil on the mainstream scene, and like olive oil, it is high in the monounsaturated fat oleic acid.

Here is the full nutrition profile for avocado oil per tablespoon (1):

Calories124 kcal
Fat11.4 g
Saturated Fat1.6 g
Monounsaturated Fat9.9 g
Polyunsaturated Fat1.9 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids134 mg
Omega-6 Fatty Acids1754 mg

Ratios

  • Saturated Fat: 11.9%
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 73.9%
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 14.2%
  • Omega-6 to 3: 13.1 : 1

Benefits

  • Since avocado oil consists of more than 80% saturated and monounsaturated fats, the oil is reasonably heat-stable. Studies show that it performs similarly to olive oil at high heat, but its antioxidants last for a slightly shorter time (2).
  • Avocado oil has a relatively mild and bland flavor, so it will not impart its flavor on food like strong coconut and extra virgin olive oils can.

Drawbacks

  • Although the price has fallen over the past few years, avocado oil is often more expensive than other healthy cooking oils.
Key Point: Avocado oil is a good choice for high-heat cooking, but it can be a little expensive.

2) Butter

Firstly, butter is arguably the tastiest cooking fat money.

However, is it a good choice?

The nutritional values for one tablespoon of butter are as follows (3);

Calories100 g
Fat11.4 g
Saturated Fat7.2 g
Monounsaturated Fat2.9 g
Polyunsaturated Fat0.4 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids44.1 mg
Omega-6 Fatty Acids382 mg

Ratios

  • Saturated Fat: 68.6%
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 27.6%
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 3.8%
  • Omega-6 to 3: 8.7 : 1

Benefits

  • Butter is mainly saturated fat, which makes it relatively heat-stable for cooking. Saturated fatty acids are the most resistant to oxidation, and they are less likely to generate oxidation products with exposure to heat (4, 56)
  • The taste – butter is delicious.

Drawbacks

  • Butter contains lactose and casein (milk sugars and proteins,) which can burn with exposure to high heat.
  • Since butter contains (minimal amounts of) lactose, it could potentially cause issues for people with severe lactose intolerance (7).
  • Butter is high in saturated fat; studies have demonstrated that moderate butter intake can increase levels of LDL cholesterol, which is associated with cardiovascular risk (8, 9, 10).
Key Point: Butter is a delicious cooking fat, but it can burn when exposed to prolonged high temperatures.

3) Canola (Rapeseed Oil)

Canola (Rapeseed) Oil In a Glass Jug.

Canola, otherwise known as rapeseed oil, often receives praise as a “heart-healthy” oil due to its omega-3 content.

But should we be cooking with Canola?

Firstly, here is what one tablespoon of Canola oil offers (11);

Calories124 kcal
Fat11.4 g
Saturated Fat1.0 g
Monounsaturated Fat8.9 g
Polyunsaturated Fat3.9 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids1279 mg
Omega-6 Fatty Acids2610 mg

Ratios

  • Saturated Fat: 7.2%
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 64.5%
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 28.3%
  • Omega-6 to 3: 2 : 1

Benefits

  • Canola oil has a relatively high smoke point of between 220°C (428°F) and 238°C (460°F) (12, 13).
  • Cheap price.

Drawbacks

  • Several trials have found that Canola oil generates higher amounts of polar compounds than other cooking oils when heated. Additionally, more trans fats form in Canola oil with exposure to temperatures above 240°C (14, 15).

See here for a deeper look at Canola oil.

Key Point: Canola provides a balance of omega-6 to omega-3, but it is not heat stable and generates polar compounds when heated.

4) Cocoa Butter

Not everybody realizes this, but you can buy pure cocoa fat and use it in your cooking.

Cocoa butter is one of the best-tasting edible fats, and it is mainly a source of saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids.

Per tablespoon, here are the nutritional values it offers (16);

Calories119 kcal
Fat13.5 g
Saturated Fat8.1 g
Monounsaturated Fat4.4 g
Polyunsaturated Fat0.4 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids13.5 mg
Omega-6 Fatty Acids378 mg

Ratios

  • Saturated Fat: 62.8%
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 34.1%
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 3.1%
  • Omega-6 to 3: 28 : 1

Benefits

  • Cocoa butter is delicious. It is not sweet, and nor does it taste like chocolate, but cooking with it makes everything taste great.
  • Cocoa butter contains little more than 3% polyunsaturated fat, which makes it very heat stable.
  • Additionally, cocoa butter contains several polyphenols, which may help to protect the fat from heat-induced damage (17).

Drawbacks

  • Cocoa butter is very expensive, and it does not offer good value for the majority of consumers.
  • Finding cocoa butter in local stores can be difficult.
  • While it does not increase LDL levels significantly, cocoa butter contains palmitic acid and raises LDL more than liquid vegetable oils do (18).
Key Point: Rich in saturated and monounsaturated fat, cocoa butter is a delicious and heat-stable fat. However, it is prohibitively expensive.

5) Coconut Oil

A Jar of Coconut Oil Next To Half a Coconut.

With a long history as a traditional fat in the tropical regions, coconut oil has surged in popularity over the past decade.

Although it can sometimes leave things tasting slightly coconutty, this popular oil has some positive points.

Here are coconut oil’s nutritional values per tablespoon (19):

Calories116 kcal
Fat13.5 g
Saturated Fat11.7 g
Monounsaturated Fat0.8 g
Polyunsaturated Fat0.2 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-6 Fatty Acids243 mg

Ratios

  • Saturated Fat: 92.1%
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 6.3%
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 1.6%
  • Omega-6 to 3: N/A

Benefits

  • Coconut oil is more than 92% saturated fat, and this gives the oil excellent oxidative stability. On this note, studies consistently show that coconut oil displays excellent resistance to oxidation when exposed to heat (14, 20).

Drawbacks

  • Coconut oil can sometimes influence the flavor of a dish, leaving a mild coconutty taste.
  • Due to its high saturated fatty acid content, coconut oil tends to increase LDL cholesterol levels (21, 22).
Key Point: Coconut is a popular cooking oil, but some people may dislike the slight aftertaste it leaves.

6) Corn Oil

Also known as maize oil, corn oil comes from the maize germ, and it is a type of seed oil.

Similar to other seed oils, corn is predominantly a source of omega-6 polyunsaturated fat.

Per tablespoon, here is what corn oil offers nutritionally (23):

Calories119 kcal
Fat13.5 g
Saturated Fat1.7 g
Monounsaturated Fat3.7 g
Polyunsaturated Fat7.4 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids157 mg
Omega-6 Fatty Acids7224 mg

Ratios

  • Saturated Fat: 13.3%
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 28.9%
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 57.8%
  • Omega-6 to 3: 46 : 1

Benefits

  • Corn oil is one of the cheapest available cooking oils.
  • It has a relatively high smoke point of 232°C (450°F) (24).
  • Compared to coconut oil, corn oil lowers LDL levels in adults with elevated cholesterol (25).

Drawbacks

  • Possibly due to its high polyunsaturated fat content, several studies show that corn oil degradation and lipid oxidation occur with relatively short-term frying (26, 27).
Key Point: Corn oil is an economical cooking oil, but it may oxidate more quickly compared to other cooking oils at high-heat temperatures.

7) Cottonseed Oil

A Jar of Cottonseed Oil Next To Cottonseed Plants and Seeds,

Cottonseed oil has a long history, and it was the primary ingredient in partially hydrogenated (trans fat) shortening products like Crisco and Cottolene.

There is a robust scientific consensus on the harmful effects of trans fat, but how does cottonseed oil perform in its lesser processed liquid state?

Below you will find the nutrition profile per tablespoon (28):

Calories119 kcal
Fat13.5 g
Saturated Fat3.5 g
Monounsaturated Fat2.4 g
Polyunsaturated Fat7.0 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids27 mg
Omega-6 Fatty Acids6953 mg

Ratios

  • Saturated Fat: 27.1%
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 18.6%
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 54.3%
  • Omega-6 to 3: 258 : 1

Benefits

  • The price is very low.
  • Small studies show that cottonseed oil may decrease total cholesterol without affecting HDL levels (29).

Drawbacks

  • Cottonseed oil is very high in omega-6, which makes it less stable than oils with higher saturated or monounsaturated fat levels. In one study, cottonseed oil deteriorated much faster than palm oil (30).
Key Point: Corn oil is an economical cooking oil, but it is excessively high in polyunsaturated fats and easily oxidizes at heat.

8) Extra Virgin Olive Oil

We can often hear that extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is the healthiest oil in the world.

However, it is easy to see a commonly stated claim that olive oil is excellent for salads but not suitable for cooking. Is that true?

First, here are the nutrition facts per tablespoon (31):

Calories119 kcal
Fat13.5 g
Saturated Fat1.9 g
Monounsaturated Fat9.8 g
Polyunsaturated Fat1.4 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids103 mg
Omega-6 Fatty Acids1318 mg

Ratios

  • Saturated Fat: 14.5%
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 74.8%
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 10.7%
  • Omega-6 to 3: 12.8 : 1

Benefits

  • In recent lab tests analyzing commercial cooking oils, EVOO outperformed all other oils—including coconut oil—in that it contained the least amount of polar compounds after heat exposure (14).
  • EVOO is a significant source of polyphenols, which help to protect the oil against oxidation from heat, light, and oxygen (32).

Drawbacks

  • Unfortunately, fraud has plagued the olive oil industry, and there have been numerous cases of products fraudulently claiming to be genuine extra virgin olive oil. See this guide to trustworthy olive oil brands for help finding an authentic oil.
  • Genuine EVOO is more expensive than most other cooking oils, but you get what you pay for.
Key Point: Extra virgin olive oil is a healthy cooking oil option. Contrary to the popular myth, it displays excellent stability at high temperatures.

9) Ghee

Ghee (Pure Butterfat) In a Glass Tub.

Ghee is a traditional cooking fat from India.

This fat is also very similar to butter, with the only difference being it doesn’t contain the water, lactose, and casein content.

Here are the nutrition details per tablespoon (33):

Calories112 kcal
Fat12.7 g
Saturated Fat7.9 g
Monounsaturated Fat3.7 g
Polyunsaturated Fat0.5 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids52 mg
Omega-6 Fatty Acids452 mg

Ratios

  • Saturated Fat: 65.3%
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 30.6%
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 4.1%
  • Omega-6 to 3: 8.7 : 1

Benefits

  • Ghee does not contain lactose or casein (milk sugars and protein). As a result, ghee is a better choice than butter for individuals with milk allergies or sensitivities (34).
  • Ghee has a similar fatty acid profile to butter, and it provides the same heat-stable properties. However, since ghee does not contain milk sugars and proteins, it will not burn as quickly at high heat.

Drawbacks

  • The only real negative is that ghee is more expensive than butter.

If you’re wondering how it compares to butter in a full review, see this guide.

Key Point: Ghee beats butter as a cooking fat, especially at higher temperatures. However, you have to pay more for the privilege of using it.

10) Goose Fat

Goose fat is widely thought to be one of the best-tasting cooking fats available.

Nutritionally, this popular fat offers the following values per tablespoon (35);

Calories115 kcal
Fat12.7 g
Saturated Fat3.5 g
Monounsaturated Fat7.2 g
Polyunsaturated Fat1.4 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids63.8 mg
Omega-6 Fatty Acids1250 mg

Ratios

  • Saturated Fat: 28.9%
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 59.5%
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 11.6%
  • Omega-6 to 3: 19.6 : 1

Benefits

  • Goose fat is mainly monounsaturated fat, similar to the main fats in olives and avocados. It contains a moderate amount of saturated fat and minimal amounts of polyunsaturated fat. Due to this fatty acid profile, goose fat is stable at high temperatures.
  • Goose fat adds a substantial amount of flavor to anything you use it with. If you’re making a roast dinner, then using a bit of goose fat makes it that much better.

Drawbacks

  • Depending on the location/country, it can be difficult to find.
Key Point: Goose fat is a delicious cooking fat that performs well at higher temperatures.

11) Grapeseed Oil

Grapeseed Oil In a Glass Bottle Next To Fresh Grapes.

First introduced as a byproduct of the winemaking industry; producers make grapeseed oil by pressing leftover grape seeds to extract their oil.

As is the case with most seed oils, grapeseed is very high in omega-6 fatty acids.

Per tablespoon it offers (36);

Calories119 kcal
Fat13.5 g
Saturated Fat1.3 g
Monounsaturated Fat2.2 g
Polyunsaturated Fat9.4 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids13.5 mg
Omega-6 Fatty Acids9395 mg

Ratios

  • Saturated Fat: 10.1%
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 17.0%
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 72.9%
  • Omega-6 to 3: 696 : 1

Benefits

  • Grapeseed oil is reasonably cheap.
  • A source of vitamin E.

Drawbacks

  • Grapeseed oil contains substantial amounts of omega-6. This essential fatty acid is healthy in moderate amounts. However, recent research demonstrates that most of us are consuming far too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3. A high omega 6 to 3 ratio has links to the promotion of chronic disease (37, 38).
  • Due to its fatty acid profile, grapeseed oil is susceptible to oxidative at high heat temperatures. Numerous studies show that this oil generates significant numbers of polar compounds during cooking (14).

See here for a full overview of grapeseed oil.

Key Point: Grapeseed oil has been shown to generate significant numbers of polar compounds, and there are better cooking fat options .

12) Lard

Lard is rendered pork fat, a traditional cooking fat that was once common in households.

However, lard declined in popularity alongside the rise in trans fats, shortening, and vegetable oils.

In recent years, animal fats such as lard have started to become more popular once again.

One tablespoon of lard provides the following nutritional values (39):

Calories115 kcal
Fat12.8 g
Saturated Fat5.0 g
Monounsaturated Fat5.8 g
Polyunsaturated Fat1.4 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids128 mg
Omega-6 Fatty Acids1300 mg

Ratios

  • Saturated Fat: 41%
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 47.5%
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 11.5%
  • Omega-6 to 3: 10.2 : 1

Benefits

  • Lard is extremely cheap, and it has a great effect on the flavor of food. Lard tends to make everything taste better.
  • Since lard is almost 90% saturated and monounsaturated fat, it is very stable for cooking at high temperatures. Studies demonstrate that lard offers greater oxidative stability than vegetable oils, and produces very few oxidation products during cooking (40).

Drawbacks

  • Some lard is not 100% pure and contains lard shortening (made by hydrogenation). Fully hydrogenated fat does not have the same harmful effects as partially hydrogenated (trans) fat. However, check the labels if this is important to you.

See this full guide to lard for more.

Key Point: Lard is a healthy, traditional fat that stands up to high-heat cooking well.

13) Macadamia Nut Oil

Macadamia Oil In a Glass Jug Next To Macadamia Nuts.

Macadamia nuts are delicious, and since they are full of fat, they make good cooking oil.

Per tablespoon, macadamia nut oil provides (41);

Calories120 kcal
Fat14.0 g
Saturated Fat2.5 g
Monounsaturated Fat11.0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat0.5 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids68.5 mg
Omega-6 Fatty Acids431.5 mg

Ratios

  • Saturated Fat: 17.9%
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 78.6%
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 3.5%
  • Omega-6 to 3: 6.3 : 1

Benefits

  • Macadamia nut oil is extremely low in polyunsaturated fat, and it offers excellent oxidative resistance. In one study testing the oxidative stability of culinary oil, macadamia oil outperformed all the other oils (grapeseed, rice bran, avocado, and walnut oils). (42).
  • Macadamia oil also contains a range of antioxidants/polyphenols, which may help to preserve the oil (43).

Drawbacks

  • Macadamia oil is one of the most expensive cooking fats.

See this complete guide to macadamia nut oil for more information.

Key Point: Macadamia oil displays excellent heat stability, but it can be expensive.

14) Margarine

Margarine was once thought to be a healthy replacement for butter.

However, that soon changed when we found out the harms of the trans fats it contained.

In recent years, margarine no longer contains trans fat, and most products use interesterified fats instead.

Despite this, the jury is out on the relative safety of interesterified fat.

Margarine’s nutrition properties may vary depending on the specific vegetable oils used to make it.

That said, here are the general nutrition facts per tablespoon (44);

Calories100 kcal
Fat11.3 g
Saturated Fat2.1 g
Monounsaturated Fat5.4 g
Polyunsaturated Fat3.4 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids275 mg
Omega-6 Fatty Acids3128 mg

Ratios

  • Saturated Fat: 19.3%
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 49.5%
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 31.2%
  • Omega-6 to 3: 11.4 : 1

Benefits

  • Extremely cheap.
  • Margarine may be less susceptible to oxidation than liquid vegetable (seed) oils (45).

Drawbacks

  • The biggest concern about margarine is that most “vegetable spreads” contain interesterified fats, and we don’t fully understand the health effects of these manufactured fats.
  • Some studies show that interesterified fats may result in elevated fasting insulin and blood glucose levels (46).

For a deeper read on interesterified fats, the following review paper goes into detail:

What are interesterified fats and should we be worried about them in our diet?

Key Point: Margarine is very cheap, but its safety profile is questionable.

15) Palm Kernel Oil

A Glass Jar of Refined Palm Oil.

Palm oil is one of the biggest sources of fat in the Western—and global—diet.

Large numbers of processed foods use this oil in their products, and it is also available as cooking oil.

Palm oil is a type of seed oil, and manufacturers produce it from the seeds within palm fruit.

Palm oil offers the following nutrition values per tablespoon (47):

Calories119 kcal
Fat13.5 g
Saturated Fat6.7 g
Monounsaturated Fat5.0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat1.3 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids27 mg
Omega-6 Fatty Acids1228 mg

Ratios

  • Saturated Fat: 51.5%
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 38.5%
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 10.0%
  • Omega-6 to 3: 45.5 : 1

Benefits

  • Palm oil is cheap and readily available.
  • Palm oil appears to have similar oxidative stability to high-OLEIC oils, and it offers better performance at high temperatures than seed oils like Canola and sunflower (48, 49).

Drawbacks

  • Despite its low polyunsaturated fat contents, palm oil’s oxidative resistance appears to vary. Some studies show that it produces excessive amounts of volatile oxidation products during frying. This may be due to the ultra-processing palm oil goes through and the lack of antioxidant compounds in the oil (50).
  • The palm oil industry is responsible for mass deforestation and threatening the habitats of animals in the tropics. Ideally, ‘certified sustainable’ palm oils are a more ethical choice.
Key Point: Palm oil is a reasonably good oil for cooking. It isn’t the best, but it is better than seed oils.

16) Peanut Oil

Peanut oil is high in monounsaturated fat, and it has a tasty and slightly nutty flavor (at least in its unrefined state).

Per tablespoon, peanut oil provides (51):

Calories119 kcal
Fat13.5 g
Saturated Fat2.3 g
Monounsaturated Fat6.2 g
Polyunsaturated Fat4.3 g
Omega-3 Fatty AcidsTrace
Omega-6 Fatty Acids4321 mg

Ratios

  • Saturated Fat: 18.0%
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 48.4%
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 33.6%
  • Omega-6 to 3: 5230 : 1

Benefits

  • Peanut oil is rich in compounds that have antioxidant properties, such as tocopherols and phospholipids. Research demonstrates that these compounds help to improve (slow oxidation) peanut butter’s oxidative stability (52).
  • A recent laboratory study of plant-based cooking oils found that heating peanut oil generates one of the lowest amounts of oxidation products. In this extensive test, peanut oil was third to only extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil (53).

Drawbacks

  • Unrefined peanut oil is relatively expensive. Given that extra virgin olive oil offers better performance, it doesn’t offer value-for-money.

See this full guide to peanut oil for more information.

Key Point: Peanut oil is reasonably heat-stable, but it is very expensive.

17) Red Palm Oil

Red Palm Oil Next To Palm Fruit.

Red palm oil comes from the same fruit (palm fruit) as palm kernel oil.

However, red palm oil is derived from the actual fruit rather than the seeds (kernel).

Nutritionally, one tablespoon of red palm oil supplies (54):

Calories130 kcal
Fat14 g
Saturated Fat6.0 g
Monounsaturated Fat6.0g
Polyunsaturated Fat1.5 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Ratios

  • Saturated Fat: 44.45%
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 44.45%
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 11.1%
  • Omega-6 to 3: Unknown

Benefits

  • Red palm oil is full of carotenoids, which give the oil its deep red color. It also contains vitamin E, and all of these compounds collectively give red palm oil a high level of oxidative stability (55).
  • Red palm oil contains a small amount of polyunsaturated fat, and it is almost 90% saturated and monounsaturated.

Drawbacks

  • Red palm oil makes everything taste like red palm oil. Additionally, it gives food an orange tinge. For example, fried eggs taste like red palm oil-flavored fried eggs. I suppose this one could be a ‘benefit’ if someone loves the flavor, though.
  • Similar to palm kernel oil, commercial production of red palm oil has devastated rainforests and animal habitats. Preferably look for a ‘certified sustainable’ red palm oil.

For more information, see this full guide to red palm oil.

Key Point: Red palm oil provides excellent heat stability, but its color/taste may not be for everyone.

18) Refined Olive Oil

There are several different names for refined olive oil, and these may include both of the following;

  • Light olive oil
  • Pomace olive oil

While these oils still come from real olives, the manufacturing process is different.

Unlike extra virgin olive oil, refined olive oils make use of the leftover pulp after extra virgin olive oil’s extraction.

Next, this pulp goes through an extraction process using solvents such as hexane (56).

Since refined olive oil still comes from olives, the fatty acid profile doesn’t differ to extra virgin olive oil.

Per tablespoon, refined olive oil provides (57):

Calories119 kcal
Fat13.5 g
Saturated Fat1.9 g
Monounsaturated Fat9.8 g
Polyunsaturated Fat1.4 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids103 mg
Omega-6 Fatty Acids1318 mg

Ratios

  • Saturated Fat: 15.5%
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 74.8%
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 10.7%
  • Omega-6 to 3: 12.8 : 1

Benefits

  • Refined olive oils offer a similar fat profile as EVOO for a lower price.
  • Refined olive oils are still relatively heat-stable owing to the minimal polyunsaturated fat content they contain.
  • The taste of refined olive oils is very “light” and bland, whereas extra virgin olive oil has a strong flavor. Some people prefer this lighter taste for specific recipes, such as homemade mayo.

Drawbacks

  • Heat tests on refined olive oils show that they do not offer the same oxidative stability as extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). The reason for this is that the refining process removes most of EVOO’s beneficial polyphenols, which act as antioxidants. The high polyphenol content of EVOO helps protect the fatty acids from oxidation (58).
  • Polyphenols appear to have some health-protective benefits, and refined olive oils barely contain any (59).
Key Point: Refined olive oils offer better stability to seed oils, but they are not as good as extra virgin olive oil.

19) Rice Bran Oil

Rice Bran Oil Next To a Bowl of Brown Rice.

Rice bran oil comes from the outer shell of brown rice, which is otherwise known as the chaff or husk.

This oil is especially popular in Japan and South Asia.

Per tablespoon, rice bran oil provides the following nutrition profile (60):

Calories119 kcal
Fat13.5 g
Saturated Fat2.7 g
Monounsaturated Fat5.3 g
Polyunsaturated Fat4.7 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids216 mg
Omega-6 Fatty Acids4509 mg

Ratios

  • Saturated Fat: 21.3%
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 41.7%
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 37.0%
  • Omega-6 to 3: 20.9 : 1

Benefits

  • Rice bran oil contains more saturated and monounsaturated fats than most “vegetable” oils, as well as some antioxidants. It offers better oxidative stability than Canola, sunflower, and other processed seed oils (61).

Drawbacks

  • Although better than seed-based vegetable oils, heating rice brain oil still results in the formation of more trans fats and polar compounds than animal fats or fruit/nut-based oils (62).
Key Point: Rice bran oil is somewhere in the middle as far as cooking oils go. It isn’t the best choice, but it’s not the worst either.

20) Safflower Oil

Safflower oil has been one of the most common oils over the past half-century, and it often turns up in food products.

This vegetable (seed) oil comes from the seeds of the safflower plant, and it provides the following nutrition values (63):

Calories119 kcal
Fat13.5 g
Saturated Fat0.8 g
Monounsaturated Fat1.9 g
Polyunsaturated Fat10.1 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-6 Fatty Acids10073 mg

Ratios

  • Saturated Fat: 6.3%
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 14.8%
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 78.9%
  • Omega-6 to 3: –

Benefits

  • Safflower oil is very cheap.
  • There is a high OLEIC version of safflower oil that is mainly monounsaturated fat. This version offers greater heat stability than regular safflower oil (64, 65).

Drawbacks

  • Regular safflower oil is predominantly polyunsaturated fat, and studies demonstrate that it is prone to oxidation (66).
  • High OLEIC safflower is not the worst oil in the world, but there are better options: animal fats, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil and more offer greater resistance to oxidation.
Key Point: High OLEIC safflower oil is much better than the regular version of the oil.

21) Sesame Oil

Sesame Oil Next To a Pile of Seeds.

Sesame oil is an excellent choice for use as a condiment, and it adds a flavor to food that no other oil can match.

However, sesame oil is not one of the better options for high-heat cooking.

Sesame oil provides the following nutrients per tablespoon (67):

Calories119 kcal
Fat13.5 g
Saturated Fat1.9 g
Monounsaturated Fat5.4 g
Polyunsaturated Fat5.6 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids40.5 mg
Omega-6 Fatty Acids5576 mg

Ratios

  • Saturated Fat: 14.7%
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 41.9%
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 43.4%
  • Omega-6 to 3: 137.7 : 1

Benefits

  • Sesame oil is deep and flavorful, and it adds a lot of taste to dishes.
  • Sesame oil has a slightly lower proportion of polyunsaturated fat compared to other seed oil choices, and it also contains polyphenols. As a result, it displays somewhat better heat stability than other processed oils (68).

Drawbacks

  • Sesame oil may be better than most seed oils, but it still isn’t the best choice for high-heat cooking. Several studies demonstrate that it creates volatile oxidation compounds soon after exposure to heat (69).
Key Point: Sesame oil is delicious, but it is not good for use at high temperatures.

22) Soybean Oil

Soybean is one of the most common cooking oils throughout the world, and it is hugely popular in the United States.

Unfortunately, this oil is very high in omega-6 fatty acids and may not be the best cooking choice.

Here are the nutritional values per tablespoon of soybean oil (70):

Calories119 kcal
Fat13.5 g
Saturated Fat2.1 g
Monounsaturated Fat3.1 g
Polyunsaturated Fat7.8 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids917 mg
Omega-6 Fatty Acids6807 mg

Ratios

  • Saturated Fat: 16.2%
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 23.8%
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 60.0%
  • Omega-6 to 3: 7.4 : 1

Benefits

  • Soybean oil contains a moderate amount of vitamin E, which gives it slightly better oxidative stability compared to other seed oils (71).

Drawbacks

  • Soybean oil is ultra-processed, extremely high in unstable polyunsaturated fats, and displays poor oxidative stability when exposed to heat (72).
Key Point: Soybean oil is not a good choice for use at high temperatures.

23) Sunflower Oil

Sunflower Oil In a Glass Jar.

Sunflower oil is very similar to safflower in its fatty acid profile, and it comes from the edible seeds of the sunflower plant.

Nutritionally, sunflower oil provides the following values per tablespoon (73):

Calories119 kcal
Fat13.5 g
Saturated Fat1.4 g
Monounsaturated Fat6.1 g
Polyunsaturated Fat5.4 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids27 mg
Omega-6 Fatty Acids5374 mg

Ratios

  • Saturated Fat: 10.8%
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 47.3%
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 41.9%
  • Omega-6 to 3: 199 : 1

Benefits

  • There is a high OLEIC version of sunflower oil that provides better heat stability than the regular version. However, coconut oil and EVOO are still better plant-fat options (74).

Drawbacks

  • Regular sunflower oil is not heat-stable and easily oxidizes at high cooking temperatures (75, 76).
Key Point: Sunflower oil is prone to oxidation and there are much better cooking fat options.

24) Tallow (Beef Dripping)

Similar to lard, tallow is a traditional animal fat that once enjoyed great popularity.

This cooking fat comes from rendered beef fat, and it gives food a wonderful taste.

However, like other animal fats, tallow’s popularity went into decline in tandem with the rise of vegetable oils.

Let’s now look at the nutrition data per tablespoon of tallow (77):

Calories115 kcal
Fat12.8 g
Saturated Fat6.4 g
Monounsaturated Fat5.3 g
Polyunsaturated Fat0.5 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids76.5 mg
Omega-6 Fatty Acids395 mg

Ratios

  • Saturated Fat: 52.5%
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 43.4%
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 4.1%
  • Omega-6 to 3: 5.1 : 1

Benefits

  • Tallow is high in saturated and monounsaturated fat, and it contains minimal polyunsaturated acids. As a result, it is very heat-stable with excellent resistance to oxidation. The biodiesel industry even adds tallow to soybean oil to increase the latter’s oxidative stability (69).

Drawbacks

  • Watch out for overpriced “100%” and “pure” tallow products in glass jars. These goods are mostly the same as the cheap bars of tallow in supermarkets, except for being about 10x the price.
Key Point: Tallow is a heat-stable cooking fat that adds a lot of flavor to food.

25) Vegetable Shortening

Glass Bowl of Vegetable Shortening On a Red Cloth.

Vegetable shortening became popular in the early 20th century since it provided the same cooking properties as lard for a much cheaper price.

Once marketed as healthy fat, it was later found that it contains a harmful type of fat known as ‘trans fat’ (partially hydrogenated oil).

In recent times, shortening may be fully hydrogenated (no trans fat) or it may still include partially hydrogenated (trans) fats.

Per tablespoon, Crisco shortening provides the following fat profile (70):

Calories110 kcal
Fat12.0 g
Saturated Fat3.5 g
Monounsaturated Fat2.5 g
Polyunsaturated Fat6 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Ratios

  • Saturated Fat: 29.2%
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 20.8%
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 50.0%
  • Omega-6 to 3: Unknown

Benefits

  • Shortening is a solid fat, and it contains more saturated fat than most vegetable oils. It should, therefore, offer better heat resistance compared to liquid vegetable oils high in polyunsaturated fat. However, there is little research in this area using the new shortening formations.

Drawbacks

  • Shortening is an ultra-processed fat using solvents and various chemicals. Additionally, many shortening products still contain trans fat. Sometimes the trans fat concentrations are very small (<0.5g per serving) to avoid declaring it on the label (71).
Key Point: Animal fats such as lard or tallow are a safer, more natural alternative to shortening.

Which Is the Healthiest Cooking Oil?

The answer to this question is subjective, and there are many different views.

However, in my own opinion, oxidative resistance is a key issue, and the oils lowest in polyunsaturated fats generally offer the highest heat stability.

The cooking fats which display the best stability at heat include animal fats such as ghee, goose fat, lard, and tallow.

Additionally, plant oils such as avocado, peanut, and (especially) extra virgin olive oil display excellent oxidative stability.

If we focus on the cooking fat’s overall health benefits rather than just heat stability, extra virgin olive oil is probably the most evidence-based choice.

Lastly, if you’re looking for an oil for deep frying, see this guide to the best deep-frying oils.

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Lukin
Lukin
1 year ago

Hi Michael, I came upon your writing while I was searching for the best oil to include in my child’s diet. She is underweight and doctors recommend adding oil to her food to help gain some weight. I have been using EVOO mixed directly into her food but the flavour is strong. But if that is what will give the best to her health I would continue. Or is there any other oil you suggest? Your kind response is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Lukin
Lukin
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael Joseph

Thank you Michael! I think I’ll try that.

Anand Gulab
Anand Gulab
1 year ago

Micheal, Thanks for a great article. Very interesting. Nice to hear other factors than just the smoke point of a fat or oil. I’m interested in Aldehydes that are released in to food when oils are heated. Have heard that refined coconut oil creates the lowest and it has little or no taste of coconut. It’s not an oil you covered, but I’d be interested in your thoughts. Kind regards, Gulab.

Anand Gulab
Anand Gulab
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael Joseph

Thank you Micheal. I will look at that.

Debby
Debby
1 year ago

Excellent! Thank you!

peter nyakondo
peter nyakondo
1 year ago

Good informative information.

Sandra
Sandra
1 year ago

Are the seed oils inflammatory if you do not heat them? Like mayonnaise made with soybean oil or canola oil? Like in chicken salad?