There is a reason—several, actually—why olive oil is so popular. In addition to tasting great, it’s one of the most versatile oils around and can be used for everything from making salad dressing to grilling chicken to scrambling eggs. On top of this, olive oil contains monounsaturated fats, which help improve blood cholesterol levels, thus lowering your risk of heart disease and stroke. These healthy fats are also a major source of vitamin E, an essential antioxidant that many Americans don’t have enough of in their diets. Plus, consuming monounsaturated fats helps your body better absorb the fat-soluble vitamins and phytochemicals in the foods you eat.
In other words, if you cook with olive oil, you’re on the right track.
But olive oil isn’t the only cooking fat to have in your arsenal. The supermarket is full of alternatives, including plant-based oils and spreads that can do the work of olive oil, while also delivering health-benefitting fats. Plus, many of these oils and spreads bring new flavors to the table, allowing you to put a fresh spin on some of your old favorites. So, put down the olive oil and consider the following six cooking situations that call for other good-for-you oils and spreads.
Stir-fry with Peanut Oil
Stir-fry is a speedy, high heat cooking process, so it’s absolutely essential to use an oil that can withstand high temperatures. Olive oil certainly fits the bill—though extra-virgin olive oil has a lower smoke point and should be avoided—but consider using peanut oil, which boasts a smoke point of 450°F. While it’s fairly neutral tasting and won’t overpower any of the delicious meat, veggies, or sauces in your stir-fry, the subtle peanut notes complement the Asian flavor profile of most stir-fries. And, like olive oil, peanut oil is a source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.
Sear a Steak with Canola Oil
As with stir-fry, high heat is the secret to a perfectly seared steak. Olive oil is an option, but if it’s beautifully browned beef you’re after, you may prefer canola, a neutral oil with a smoke point of 400°F. In addition to monounsaturated fats, canola oil also contains heart-healthy polyunsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, a particular type of polyunsaturated fat that is associated with cardiovascular health, aids in numerous body functions, and may offer benefits for a variety of health issues, including cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Make Salad Dressing with Avocado Oil
When it comes to making vinaigrette, olive oil is a no-brainer, but why not try something a little unexpected? Avocado oil has rich, buttery flavor and a mild nuttiness, but is versatile enough for almost any salad combination. Like the fruit it comes from, avocado oil contains potassium, magnesium, and fiber, as well as the kind of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats found in olive oil. And remember: These good fats also help your body better absorb the fat-soluble vitamins and phytochemicals in food, something that comes in handy when you’re digging into a salad full of greens and veggies.
Grill with Safflower Oil
Safflower oil has an especially high smoke point—510°F—making it one of the best options when it comes to cooking over a live fire. Its neutral flavor means safflower oil can be used to grill everything from burgers to chicken to veggies. And, like olive oil and many other plant-based oils, safflower oil contains good-for-you monounsaturated fats that promote heart health and are a source of vitamin E.
Cook Eggs with a Plant Oil-Based Spread
Ditching butter for olive oil when cooking eggs is a smart move in terms of healthy eating. But buttery spreads made from plant-based oils deliver the same healthy fats as olive oil, plus irresistible buttery flavor, making them ideal for scrambled eggs, omelets, frittatas, and even the toast you’ll likely serve alongside. Make sure you grab a spread that’s free of preservatives and other additives; the majority of ingredients should be plant-based oils (skip any that have partially hydrogenated oils), which are a source of healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids that further contribute to cardiovascular health and aid in numerous body functions, such as controlling blood clotting and building cell membranes in the brain.
Sauté Aromatics and Vegetables with Grapeseed Oil
Olive oil is likely your go-to oil when sautéing aromatics like onions and garlic or your favorite veggies. And that’s a good thing, as olive oil is packed with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. But those aren’t the only good fats essential to a healthy diet. Try sautéing with grapeseed oil, a source of polyunsaturated fat, which can lower “bad” (LDL) cholesterol, and reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. Made by pressing grape seeds collected in the winemaking process, grapeseed oil has a neutral flavor and a smoke point that is comparable to that of olive oil, making it a great choice for sautéing, especially when you want your ingredients to really shine.
Provided by Dr. Oz The Good Life Magazine