4 Cooking Oils You Should NEVER Use (and use these instead)

Written by Tim Skwiat

4 Worst Cooking Oils

Things started to go downhill about 60 years ago when health organizations began suggesting folks replace animal fats rich in saturated fats with “heart healthy” vegetable oils packed with polyunsaturated omega-6 fats. A classic example is the recommendations to swap margarine (and vegetable shortening) for butter.

Ironically, there’s now pretty darn good evidence that saturated fat is not the devil it was once thought to be. In fact, it’s now well-established and widely accepted that saturated fat is not associated with heart-related issues and other adverse health outcomes. Even more, some have speculated that ramping up the consumption of vegetable oils may have increased the rates of death from all causes, as well as coronary heart disease, and cardiovascular disease—the exact opposite of the desired outcome!

While there’s some debate about that, there’s no question this recommendation has resulted in the majority of people consuming way too many omega-6 fats. Why is this important? Overconsumption of omega-6 fats promotes inflammation, particularly when they are consumed in excess of omega-3 fats, which are truly heart healthy and have anti-inflammatory effects.

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Believe it or not, research shows the average person consumes between 10 and 20 TIMES more omega-6 than omega-3 fats. Ideally, this ratio should be closer to 2 to 1. That means most people aren’t even close!

This unhealthy consumption of omega-6 fats has been tied to virtually every negative health outcome you can imagine—even accelerated aging. While there are several reasons for this health-derailing imbalance, it’s due, in large part, to the ubiquity of the following refined vegetable oils, which we recommend avoiding at all costs:

  • • Soybean oil
  • • Canola oil
  • • Corn oil
  • • Vegetable oil

“Vegetable oils” sound oh-so-healthy though, don’t they? Au contraire. Vegetable oil is a catch-all term, and it may include one or more of the above oils along with any/all of the following, which we also suggest avoiding like the plague:

  • • Safflower oil
  • • Sunflower oil
  • • Cottonseed oil

In addition to being primary contributors to excess omega-6 fat intake, which drives inflammation, these vegetable oils are heavily processed. In fact, those in the industry call them “RBD” oils, which refers to the refining, bleaching, and deodorizing processes they go through during manufacturing.

The refinement process strips the oils of potentially healthy nutrients and antioxidants. For example, extra-virgin olive oil contains nearly 40 times more health-promoting antioxidant polyphenols than refined (“light”) olive oil.

But there’s more. Because consumers prefer bland-tasting oils, these oils go through a deodorization process, which subjects the delicate oils to very high heats for prolonged periods of time. While it’s remarkably effective at removing the natural taste and smell of the oils, deodorization creates artificial trans fatty acids, arguably the worst fat you could possibly consume.

While the amount of trans fats present (~4%) is substantially lower than partially hydrogenated oils (~50%), the fact is industrial-produced trans fats like these are not healthy in ANY amount. In fact, the Institute of Medicine says that any intake of artificial trans fats above zero increases your risk of heart disease, and the FDA has recently taken steps to ensure all artificial trans fats are removed from the food supply.

And don’t let the labels fool you. Manufacturers can list the amount artificial trans fats as ZERO if they contain less than 0.5 grams per serving. Remember, artificial trans fats are toxic to your body in ANY amount.

But hang on, there’s still more. These vegetable oils are rich in polyunsaturated fats, which are very unstable. When heated, these fats are very susceptible to oxidation, which results in the production of free radicals and harmful compounds, and rancidification, which results in an unpleasant smell and taste.

Now that you know what cooking oils you should never use, let’s talk about what you should be using. Here are our top choices, listed in alphabetical order to avoid showing favorites (BUTTER!):

  • • Butter from grass-fed cows
  • • Cold-pressed macadamia nut oil
  • • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • • Extra-virgin avocado oil
  • • Extra-virgin coconut oil
  • • Ghee (also known as clarified butter) from grass-fed cows

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  • Richard Chelvan

    I use butter, coconut oil, and ghee!

    • Cristina

      Kudos to you, Richard, for being so in tune with what constitutes good nutrition. I am of the mindset that a combination of different types of fats and oils seem to be optimal for overall health and body composition.

      • Holly

        Hi what about Rice oil ???

  • Eric

    What about peanut oil?

    • Cristina

      Great question, Eric.

      About 32% of the fat in peanuts/peanut oil is polyunsaturated fats, nearly all of which are omega-6 fats. On the other hand, there is a negligible amount of omega-3s in peanut oil. The remaining fat in peanuts/peanut oil is monounsaturated fat.

      By comparison, safflower (75%), sunflower (65%), corn (54%), soybean (51%), and cottonseed (50%) are quite a bit higher in omega-6 fats.

      Although the omega-6 concentration is lower in peanut oil than these other vegetable oils, there is still a fair amount of polyunsaturated fats, which as mentioned in the article are most susceptible to oxidation. So, it is not a very good choice for cooking. On the other hand, macadamia nut oil, which is mostly monounsaturated fat, is a good choice for cooking.

      Another consideration is that peanut oil doesn’t help improve the balance of omega-6 to omega-3 fats, which is a problem for most people. Taken into context and given that there are so many better choices (named in the article), we wouldn’t suggest using peanut oil for cooking although it could be used in dressings (i.e., cold) from time to time.

      Coach Tim put together an amazing free report on peanut butter, which lends itself to this conversation:

      What Does Peanut Butter Do To Your Body?

  • Headache

    I never hear about walnut oil. It has a higher smoke point than coconut oil.

    • Cristina

      Hi Headache. I certainly hope your used name is not an indication of your current state of health. If so, maybe we could offer some helpful tips for how to avoid these, and improve your overall well-being.

      With regards to walnut oil, this is a great question, and I am surprised we don’t hear more about this ingredient. Walnut oil has a flavorful, nutty taste, which I have found to be great in salad dressings, however it doesn’t stand up to heat very well. It has been said that when walnut oil is heated, it loses much of its nutritional value and antioxidant power when heated.

      In terms of health benefits, walnut oil contains polyunsaturated fats, including alpha-linolenic acid–a heart-healthy, anti-inflammatory omega-3–and omeaga-6, as well as vitamin K, which may strengthen bones.

      A great resource to help determine which oils are best suited for cooking can be found here:

      Kitchen Guide to Fats and Oils

      I hope this helps, Headache.

  • Lew

    Anything else????

    • Cristina

      Hi Lew. We appreciate you checking out this article on cooking oils. I would be more than happy to elaborate on the information already provided by the author. Do you have a specific question, or are you looking to obtain information on a specific cooking oil?

  • Diana

    what about grapeseed oil? It’s not on your list, so I am wondering if it is a good or a bad one! thanks.

    • Cristina

      Hi Diana. Awesome question! Grapeseed oil is exactly what it sounds like. It is an oil made from the seeds of grapes. More specifically, it is extracted from grape seeds, as a by-product of wine making. This process usually involves various chemicals, including the toxic solvent hexane.

      To put this in perspective, grapeseed oil falls right in line with vegetable oils like soybean oil, corn oil and safflower oil, so the health effects of grapeseed oil should be very similar to these other oils, because the fatty acid and nutrient composition is similar.

      The only real micronutrient found in grape seed oil is Vitamin E. This oil is also very high in omega-6 fatty acids, which upsets the balance between the polyunsaturated fats, so with this one, I would have to give it two thumbs down.

  • Cristina

    Hi Dru. Great question! I would be curious to know what type of oil you are currently using in your restaurant?

    Generally speaking, one of the most important things to consider when choosing an oil for deep frying is to choose an oil that consists primarily of saturated and monounsaturated fats, because these types of oil are the most stable at high heat.

    As I am sure you are aware, another key element is to ensure your oil reaches a temperature of roughly 350-375 so that when your ingredients are placed into the oil, they get a quick seal, preventing the oil from getting into the food itself.

    I would have to say coconut oil would be your best bet, mainly in part to its proven ability to handle hours of continuous deep frying without any changes to the quality. Not to mention that coconut oil is also very high in saturated fats, and has a plethora of health benefits.

    If I had to choose another alternative, I would go with ghee. Animal fats are largely made up of saturated and monounsaturated fats, which allows for a high smoke point. The thing to be mindful of with ghee is to find grass-fed animal sources, so as not to compromise the fatty acids. Ghee made from animals that are not grass-fed may contain too many polyunsaturated fats which, in my opinion, would take this option off the table.