April 18, 2017

Ask a Dietitian: Cooking Oils

Q: What’s the healthiest oil to use for high heat cooking, like for pan frying, wok cooking or under a broiler?


MANNA Registered Dietitian: What a great question! But before I give you the actual answer… I will break it down as to why certain oils are the healthiest and best to use for occasions of high heat cooking. This is because different types of oils, which are also called ‘fats’ have different heating and cooking temperatures.

There are generally 4 different types of fats/oils:

Types of Fats Sources of Oils Health Effects



Hydrogenated Vegetable oil




Raises laboratory values, such as LDL (bad cholesterol)

Lowers HDL (good cholesterol)

-Increases risk of heart disease & stroke






Animal sources:



Animal fats & bi-products

Plant based sources:

Coconut oil

Palm & Palm kernel oil




Raises Total Cholesterol & LDL (bad cholesterol)


-Primarily from animal sources

-Solid at room temperature






Olive oil

Canola oil

Peanut oil

Avocado oil

Walnut oil



-Plant based source

Lowers lab values such as Total Cholesterol, Triglycerides, and LDL

-Liquid at room temperature, solid when chilled





Soybean oil

Corn oil

Canola oil

Sunflower oil

Safflower oil

Flaxseed oil


Lowers LDL (bad cholesterol)

Raises HDL (good cholesterol)


The healthiest oils are those that are high in MUFA and PUFA, such as olive oil and safflower oil. These types of fats can help lower your risk of heart disease when used in place of SFA and TFA. Replacing your cooking oils that are high in SFA with MUFA or PUFA oils can help lower blood cholesterol levels and improve lipid profiles.

In regards to cooking with oils/fats, not all are the same, just as they are different structurally. When cooking with oil there is something called a “Smoke Point.” A smoke point is when the oil reaches a heated temperature and it will start to produce smoke and even combust. The nutrients in the oil break down from the high heat, creating a rancid smell and darker color.





To answer the question- healthiest oil for HIGH heat cooking is ….

Heat Range Temperature Range Oils
Low Heat 200° – 300° Flaxseed oil

Walnut oil

Extra Virgin Olive oil


Medium Heat 300° – 400°  

Olive oil

Canola oil

Corn oil


High Heat 400° – 500°  


Sunflower oil

Safflower oil

Soybean oil

Peanut oil

Sesame oil





BUT, remember- Fat is Fat! All fats are 9 calories per gram. So, 1 tablespoon is a serving size of oil, (which looks like a half-dollar or poker chip size in a pan) is equivalent to 14.3 grams.

14.3g x 9 kcals/g = 128 calories per 1 tablespoon of cooking oil. Though, fat is necessary and needed in a healthy diet, all fats/oil should be used in moderation.

– Brittany McCauley, RD, LDN