Friday, January 22, 2010

Ask Mary...What oil should I buy?

How bad is canola oil? I know olive oil is better, but they're still both oil.

Thanks, Alex

Olive Oil, Canola Oil, Peanut Oil, Or Sesame Oil? Which should you choose?


First of all, let’s talk about what oils are and then which one you should use. Oils are pressed legumes (peanuts), seeds (canola seed), grains (corn) and fruits (olives and grape seeds). Through a series of stages, their oils are extracted and refined to make the oil that we eat.

Canola isn’t bad but, it isn’t my first choice. It really depends on what you’re using it for. When in doubt, always go with Olive Oil. There are some questions, however, you should consider before choosing one because even though they’re all oils, they taste very different.

What are you using it for?

What temperature are you cooking at?

What type of flavor do you want?

Which is healthier?

Oil is an extract.

Olive oil has such a rich beautiful flavor that it heightens and layers any dish when used to finish it off. Examples include salads, pastas and even a pureed soup. However, if you’re trying to create an emulsion (a perfectly blended mixture of oil and vinegar) in your salad dressing you need to use canola oil or grape seed oil. Olive oil is to heavy and may not mix as well as canola oil or grape seed oil. Plus, if you’re using an expensive vinegar or mustard, olive oil will lessen the flavors.

If you’re cooking at a high temperature, always make sure you use oil like peanut, grape seed or canola. They do not burn as quickly as olive oil, and olive oil loses its flavor at a high temperature.

All of these oils have monosaturated fats (an oil that stays liquid at room temperature); your body needs these fats to help break down vitamins in your body. These fats are better than saturated fat because, unlike monosaturated fat, saturated fats are solid at room temperature. This makes saturated fats harder to pass through your body.

“The more unsaturated a fat, the more liquid it is at room temperature. In contrast, the more saturated fat (the more hydrogen it has), the firmer it is. Thus, of the three- beef fat, chicken fat, and corn oil- beef fat is the most saturated and the hardest; chicken is less saturated and somewhat soft and corn oil is the most unsaturated, is a liquid at room temperature.”

Personal Nutrition, Sixth Edition pg 110-111

Heart disease is caused by the narrowing of the arteries and the buildup of plaque. By eating monosaturated fats, the oil runs through the arteries fluidly without sticking to the walls preventing a blockage, whereas eating saturated fats can add to the blockage.

There’s research to support that small amounts of good olive oil can help reduce coronary heart disease.

“Oils from plant sources (vegetable and nut oils) do not contain any cholesterol. In fact, no foods from plants sources contain cholesterol.”

My Pyramid

It’s important not to overdue any oil because they are significantly high in calories. One tablespoon is equal to about 100-120 calories. (Men should have anywhere from 1600-2000 calories a day and women around 1200 calories a day.)

If all else fails, just go with what tastes good. But remember, everything in moderation.

I hope this is helpful!


For more information on oils, check out My Pyramid Web site at

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