If you always reach for the same bottle of oil in the kitchen, it may be time to switch things up. Try any of these healthy oils, which are packed with good-for-you nutrients and offer a range of subtle flavors that can liven up salads, sides and stir-fries.
Sesame oil has a rich sesame flavor and is packed with poly- and monounsaturated fats. It has a low smoke point (the temperature at which it breaks down and burns), making it best for cooking at lower temperatures, drizzling on dishes before serving and using in dressings. Store sesame oil in the fridge to prolong its shelf life.
The gold standard of healthy oils, olive oil is a good source of monounsaturated fats and antioxidants. Olive oil has been studied for its potential to help reduce inflammation and lower heart disease risk. Look for “cold-pressed” and “extra-virgin,” which mean the oil has not been treated with chemicals or altered by temperature, so the nutrients are preserved.
Try to use olive oil within six months of opening — research shows it starts to lose antioxidants after that. You might consider seeking out an extra-virgin olive oil from California; while Italian olive oils tend to get all of the attention, California has a perfect climate for growing olives — and a robust labeling system that ensures you’ll get exactly what you’re paying for.
Walnut oil, like walnuts, is one of the best nut sources of omega-3 fatty acids. It has a low smoke point, which means it’s not ideal for cooking; instead, use it in vinaigrettes or drizzle it on cooked veggies. It brings a deliciously nutty flavor to a variety of dishes.
Full of anti-inflammatory antioxidants along with heart-healthy polyunsaturated fats and vitamin E, grapeseed oil has a neutral flavor that mixes well with herbs and spices.
Peanut oil is a good source of monounsaturated fats and resveratrol, the antioxidant also found in red wine. Thanks to its high smoke point, peanut oil is good for stir-frying, sauteing and roasting.
Heart-healthy monounsaturated fats make up nearly 70 percent of this oil, which has a high smoke point and a smooth, nutty taste. It costs a bit more than other oils, but stays good longer than most — about a year.
Flaxseed oil is a concentrated source of omega-3s and omega-6s. Because omega-3s are unstable, flaxseed oil only keeps for two to three months and should be refrigerated.
(Better Homes and Gardens is a magazine and website devoted to ideas and improvement projects for your home and garden, plus recipes and entertaining ideas. Online at www.bhg.com.)
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Erin O’Donnell is a freelance health and science writer, parent, and graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. Walks by Lake Michigan make her happy.