Vegetable unsaturated fats, especially cold-pressed and unrefined oils are usually much healthier because they provide essential fatty acids. But should you cook with them?
Learn about the smoke point of oils, and discover which oils are best to cook with.
About the smoke point of oils
Heating often removes the oil’s flavour and destroys antioxidants. This is why it is important not to heat them above what is called the smoke point (SP). It is the temperature at which a cooking oil or fat begins to break down. If the chemical structure is altered, high levels of some free radicals can harm your body and encourage inflammation!
The smoke point for a vegetable oil varies according to the variety and growing conditions, and how the oil was produced.
Unrefined and unfiltered oils have usually a lower smoke point. When they are refined, they have a higher smoke point generally.
However it is preferable to choose the right unrefined virgin oils to cook with as they have much more benefits than refined oils. The good fatty acids have also been removed from refined oils.
Here are the smoke points of the most common oils:
Oils that should not be heated: smoke point around 225F
- Black current oil – unrefined (SP: 225F/107C)
- Borage oil – unrefined (SP: 225F/107C)
- Evening primrose oil – unrefined (SP: 225F/107C)
- Fish oil (SP: 235F)
- Flax seed oil – unrefined (SP: 225F/107C)
- Pumpkin seed oil – unrefined (SP: 225F/107C)
- Safflower oil – unrefined (SP: 225F/107C)
- Sunflower oil – unrefined (SP: 225F/107C)
- Wheat germ oil – unrefined (SP: 225F/107C)
Oils that can be lightly heated at low temperature: smoke point around 350F
- Olive oil – extra virgin (SP: 375F/191C)
- Hempseed oil (SP: 330F/165C)
- Peanut oil – unrefined (SP: 320F/160C)
- Sesame oil – unrefined (SP: 350F/177C)
- Soy bean oil – unrefined (SP: 320F/160C)
- Walnut oil – unrefined (SP: 320F/160C)
- Butter (SP: 350F/177C)
- Coconut oil – unrefined (SP: 350F/177C)
Oils that are least toxic when fried: smoke point around 420F
- Almond oil ( SP: 420F/216C)
- Avocado oil (SP: 520F/271C)
- Canola oil (SP: 410F/210C)
- Grape seed oil (SP: 410F/216C)
- Macadamia nut oil (SP: 413F/210C)
- Olive oil – virgin (SP: 420F/216C)
Smoke point is an important consideration if you’re planning to cook at high heat—as you do when you’re frying or grilling. Try to do less frying, particularly at high temperature. If you are frying, minimize the amount of oil you use.
The ideal “compromise” oil for cooking purposes is olive oil. Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat and research shows that monounsaturated fats help keep “bad” LDL cholesterol low and boost levels of “good” HDL cholesterol. In addition, extra-virgin olive oil is high in antioxidants called polyphenols that have been linked to heart health.
It’s best not to use the same oil all the time. Alternate with other oils, such as coconut oil or avocado oil, which contain great health benefits too.