All about cooking oils

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All about cooking oils

Are you overwhelmed by the abundance of cooking oils at your local grocery store? We uncover the best uses for some of the most popular cooking oils, and let you in on some best practices.

Shopping tip
Look for cold-pressed oils. Naturopathic doctor Joel Villeneuve, clinical director of Revivelife Clinic in Ottawa, says this pressure technique produces the best quality oil, whereas mass production uses chemicals to remove the oil from the grain.

Storing tip

Remember, cooking oils are a food -- so when they are exposed to heat, light and oxygen their nutritional properties begin to break down. Instead of keeping them on your counter or under a kitchen cabinet, consider storing oils in your refrigerator.

But won't they solidify?
Villeneuve says that the more saturated an oil is, the more solid it will become in the fridge. However, cold-pressed oils are less saturated than other oils, which helps keep them in a liquid state when refrigerated.

What does 'smoke point' mean?
Knowing the smoke point of a particular oil will help determine its best use. Once it reaches its smoke point, it will -- as the term suggests -- begin to smoke, destroying its nutritional value. Keep in mind that different variations of the same oil (for example, refined and unrefined peanut oil) will have different smoke points.

10 varieties of cooking oils

Canola oil
Canola oil was invented in the 1970s by Canadian agricultural scientists who crossbred the rapeseed until its bitter taste and toxic fat turned sweet and toxin-free -- and voila, canola oil was created!

Best use: For sauteing, grilling, stir-frying or baking

Olive oil
Taken from olives, this oil provides high levels of antioxidants and is great for anyone on a Mediterranean diet.

Best use: As a dip for bread, a coating for pasta and a base for salad dressings

Page 1 of 2 -- Discover which cooking oil has the highest smoking point on page 2
Sunflower oil
Produced from sunflower seeds, this oil supplies more vitamin E -- which reduces respiratory problems and helps blood circulation -- than any other oil.

Best use: For light cooking and sauteing, and as a base for salad dressings

Safflower oil
Extracted from safflower seeds, safflower oil is high in vitamin E and omega-6 fatty acids.

Best use: Although it has a medium smoke point (225°F for unrefined safflower oil), Villeneuve says it's better to use safflower oil in salad dressings.

Flaxseed oil
Made from the seeds of the flax plant, this oil contains high levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Best use: You should never cook with flaxseed oil, as it has a low smoke point. However, it works well in salad dressings and smoothies, and on top of snacks like popcorn.

Peanut oil
Taken from peanuts, this oil is extremely stable and has a long shelf life.

Best use: While it's good to stay away from fried foods, Villeneuve says peanut oil's high smoke point (450°F for the refined variation) makes it perfect for frying. However, she recommends using it for a light fry or stir-fry, as opposed to deep-frying.

Avocado oil
Pressed from the pulp surrounding the avocado pit, avocado oil is a source of omega-3 fatty acid, iron, folic acid and vitamins E, A, D and B6. It also gets rid of bad cholesterol and helps boost good cholesterol.

Best use: Its high smoke point (520°F) makes it ideal for stir-frying.

Pumpkin seed oil
Pumpkin seed oil is not only full of nutrients, such as zinc and vitamin A, but it also contains both omega-3 and omega-6 and has a long shelf life.

Best use: Drizzled on top of cooked foods, such as soups, salads and vegetables. It's also a great addition to smoothies.

Coconut oil
Pressed from the flesh of coconuts, this oil boosts good cholesterol, and studies have linked it to weight loss.

Best use: Drizzled on top of popcorn, used in light sauteing or added to smoothies.

Walnut oil
This oil has received more attention over the past few years. It is high in vitamins B1, B2 and B3, and is rich in antioxidants.

Best use: In marinades, as a coating on pasta and drizzled over soups and salads.

Health tip:
Cut back the calories by using a spray bottle for your oil. A few calories per spray always wins when compared to 120 calories per teaspoon, says Villeneuve using a regular spritz bottle is the best way to go since many manufactured spray oils have chemicals added to them to help produce a better spray.

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All about cooking oils