I researched this question years ago and the answer was olive oil. It’s true that olive oil is better than other oils, especially for salads, drizzling after your food is cooked and cooking at lower temperatures. However, there is something called “the smoke point” (the temperature at which an oil begins to break down and becomes unhealthy) which is important to consider as well. Here’s a good chart, which includes the smoke point as well as the fat content of various oils.
Since the medical community is ever-changing on this subject, I decided I had better make sure I was up to date on the latest research available. I found some good information on Dr. Oz’s website:
For high-heat cooking (frying, searing, grilling, stir-frying, or roasting) use light (or refined) olive oil, avocado oil, clarified butter, refined palm, or coconut oil. All have a high smoke point and are low in polyunsaturated fats.
For medium-heat cooking (including gentle sauté, stewing, baking, or braising), any of the above would work fine. For extra flavor, you could also choose a filtered olive oil.
For off-heat cooking (salad dressing or drizzling over a finished dish), choose unfiltered extra virgin olive oil, or unrefined or toasted nut and seed oils for maximum flavor and health benefits. Click here for the complete article.
Something else I learned from this article is that the “smoke point” of an oil is only one part of the equation. Some oils are high in polyunsaturated fats (corn, soy, sunflower and seed oils) and “when heated, they form a harmful compound called HNE.” What in the heck is HNE you ask? Here’s some info from Wikipedia in case you’re interested. Even after reading this article though, I have no idea what it is. But I do know that it’s considered a toxin and personally I like to avoid toxins whenever possible!
Hold on now, before you go out and buy a huge container of coconut oil, here’s more research…
The Cleveland Clinic did a comparison between Olive Oil and Coconut Oil. Very interesting indeed. If you want to know which oil wins, check out this chart.
From now on I guess I’ll just do the best I can in choosing oils to cook with at higher temperatures. My decision you ask? I will go with my original research and choose an oil that is listed by both Dr. Oz and The Cleveland Clinic, with a slight modification: light or refined olive oil. The smoke point of regular olive oil is 410 degrees but for light olive oil it is 460 degrees. Here’s an article on how to use olive oil properly.
No matter what, my objective is not to poison my family. Hopefully this slight modification in cooking will help!