Food/Nutrition Columnist
Oils – Are They All The Same?
Feb 24, 2014 - 12:04:50 AM

( - Using a moderate amount of oil is a healthy habit, but sorting out all the oils available at the supermarket can be daunting. All plant oils are made up of different types of fats - saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Each variety of oil has some of each fat but the oil will be classified by the predominant fat in the oil.

The more saturated fat in oil the thicker or more semi-solid it will be. Good examples are coconut and palm kernel oil. Saturated fat is less health promoting because it increases your risk for heart attack and stroke. We are encouraged to swap foods high in saturated fat with foods that contain more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. The same holds true for oil. Select oils with more monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fat and less saturated fat. Almost all plant oils are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats which are heart healthy choices.  All plant oils are trans fat free.

Oils with high smoking points can handle heat and are good for frying. Those with low smoking points are better for salad dressings, drizzles or dips. Once oil is heated beyond its smoking point it begins to break down, creates irritating smoke, and loses its flavor. It can also ignite. Any oil that smokes should be discarded.

Let's take a look at the oils found on the supermarket shelf to help you decide what to buy and how to use each type.

Oil can be unrefined or refined.  Refined oils are extracted from clean oilseed by a solvent extraction to produce a clear oil, free from rancidity and foreign matter. Refined oils can be used for baking, sautéing, stir frying and oven cooking. If the oil you buy has a bland neutral flavor and is pale, it has been refined.

Unrefined oils are processed by cold-pressed and expeller-pressed methods. They are often called salad oils and are better used for dressings, marinades and low heat baking. They should not be cooked at high temperatures. Unrefined oils have full-bodied flavors that can dominate a recipe. They are more prone to spoilage so it is wiser to buy small amounts.

© NRH Nutrition Consultants, Inc.
Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian and the author of the nutrition counter series for Pocket Books with sales of more than 8.5 million books.

Look for:

The Diabetes Counter, 5th Ed., 2014

The Fat and Cholesterol Counter, 2014

The Most Complete Food Counter, 3rd ed., 2013

The Calorie Counter, 6th Ed., 2013

The Complete Food Counter, 4th ed., 2012

The Protein Counter, 3rd Ed., 2011

The Ultimate Carbohydrate Counter, 3rd Ed., 2010

The Healthy Wholefoods Counter, 2008

Your Complete Food Counter App:

For more information on Jo-Ann and her books, go to:


For advertising and promotion on, call Mike McCurdy: 877-634-9180 or [email protected] We have over 7,000 journalists as subscribers.


© Copyright by