Everyone Should Have These Healthy Cooking Oils in the Pantry


When I first started learning to cook, there was olive oil, and there was vegetable oil.

Of course, I’m sure there were plenty of other cooking oils on store shelves. But to be fair, this was the 90s, and most people just kept the basics in the pantry. My mom’s pantry was no different.

These days, if you take a stroll down the oil aisle at the grocery store, you’re likely to become paralyzed with indecision.

Olive oil is a pretty safe bet, right? Although, avocado oil sounds pretty healthy — is it really? Perhaps you should reach for the coconut oil, instead. I’ve heard it can cure my metabolism and help my hair grow a mile long. Does anyone actually know what a safflower is?

To make things easier, I’ve compiled a list of some of the best — and most healthy — oils that you’re likely to find on your grocer’s shelves.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Olive oil is a classic choice, and it’s definitely one of your more healthy options. It’s rich in healthy monounsaturated fats, full of antioxidants, and has strong anti-inflammatory properties.

Just make sure that if you’re reaching for it, you’re looking for the extra virgin variety. Why?

Oil is technically a processed food. Oils can be refined, they might be chemically altered, or they could include additives. Extra virgin olive oil is extracted in a way that does not alter the oil. That means that it retains more of the olives’ flavor, vitamins, minerals, and all the other good stuff. Other varieties of olive oil can’t boast the same nutritional value.

Coconut Oil

Okay, so coconut oil probably won’t “cure” your metabolism or whatever other wild claims are out there, but it is a good choice when it comes to cooking oils. Like other oils on this list, it is high in healthy fatty acids. It can encourage your body to burn fat, raises HDL (good) cholesterol in your blood, and provides a quick boost of energy.

Of course, it does contain more than 90 percent saturated fat, so it’s probably best not to drown your food in it. Even still, it’s good for high-heat sautéing or roasting. Plus, who doesn’t love a hint of coconut flavor?

Avocado Oil

No, this isn’t just another product of millennials and their obsession with avocados. This oil is rich in oleic acid, a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid — the same one in olive oil. That means that avocado oil boasts some of the same health benefits as my traditional kitchen stand-by. Studies have shown avocado oil may reduce cholesterol and improve heart health.

Plus it’s high in lutein, a carotenoid naturally found in your eyes, and functions as an antioxidant that benefits your peepers. Essentially, that means it can improve eye health and may lower the risk of age-related eye diseases.

The real kicker is that avocado oil has a high smoke point — much higher than olive oil — and a neutral flavor, which makes it a great all-purpose cooking oil.

Sesame Oil

Sesame oil, made from raw, pressed sesame seeds, is actually one of my favorite oils to cook with. It has a distinct taste and smell that really adds a boost of flavor.

Beyond its obvious flavor benefit, it also boasts a few health benefits, too. Sesame oil is high in antioxidants, has strong anti-inflammatory properties, and may even help control blood sugar.

Much like avocado oil, sesame oil has a much higher smoke point and can withstand higher cooking temperatures.

Pumpkin Seed Oil

No, this isn’t pumpkin spice oil. This oil is made from — you guessed it — shelled pumpkin seeds. It’s rich in vitamins A, K, and E, and also boasts omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

If you’re going to check out this unique oil, it’s best to use it for light sautéing or low-heat baking, since it loses some of its nutritional value when heated. It does, however, make a delicious salad dressing or dip, you can add a few drops to pumpkin soup, and it gives vanilla ice cream a nutty taste.