Good oil/bad oil. Now you’ll know the difference.

By: Leanne Ely


There is a good deal of confusion around which oils are good for cooking and which are not.

Fat is essential for human health. We need fat in our diets for hormone health, cell building, energy, and even for keeping our skin in good shape. There are certain vitamins (A, D, E and K) that require fat to help us absorb them as well.

Unfortunately, however, the average American’s diet today is high in poor quality fats, specifically, vegetable oils. Vegetable oils are relatively new to the human diet (within the past hundred years or so), and they are actually doing more harm than good in the human body. Especially when they are used in cooking.

Canola oil, corn oil and margarine are all examples of vegetable oils that increase inflammation and free radical damage in the body.

The majority of your fat intake should be coming from healthy oils like coconut and olive oil (the main two oils I personally use), and whole foods like avocados, salmon, grass fed animals, nuts and seeds.

With all the oils that look up at you from store shelves, which one should you use for what so that you get the most that you can out of those good fats?

Different sorts of cooking oil, close-up

Good Fats

• Coconut oil
• Olive oil
• Avocado oil
• Fish oils
• Walnut oil
• Macadamia nut oil
• Grass-fed butter
• Ghee
• Flax oil (but needs to be kept refrigerated and is very unstable so not recommended)

Fats to avoid

• Margarine and other artificial trans fats
• Vegetable oils
• Oils made from GMO grains
• Grape seed oil (it’s very high in Omega 6 fatty acids which we need to be consuming less of)

You want to cook with stable cooking oils like avocado oil and coconut oil.

EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) should never be heated up because doing so not only destroys the benefits of the olive oil, but it can also turn that healthy oil into a damaging trans fat that will actually harm your health.

This may be the first time you’ve heard of there being a significant difference between olive oil and extra virgin olive oil. EVOO is what you get after the first press of the olive. The result is a rich, pungent oil, best for drizzling over salads or breads.

When the oil is pressed multiple times, you have a lighter oil that is best for cooking. The more the olives are pressed, the lighter the oil.

I wouldn’t recommend cooking with nut oils, they’re so expensive they aren’t really a reasonable option anyway. Flax is excellent for you, but I don’t recommend buying it in a liquid oil form because of how unstable it is. It goes rancid very quickly.

At the end of the day, you need to know that vegetable oil is to be avoided at all costs (margarine, canola oil, corn oil). Save those fancy nut and seed oils for salad dressings and use coconut oil, avocado oil, ghee for cooking.

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  • Carol Tally

    What about peanut oil? What is the best oil to use for cooking/frying? I don’t fry often – shrimp, 1-2 times per year. I don’t think my husband would like the taste imparted by coconut oil.

    • Judy

      See my response to Lucy Diana above about coconut oil.

    • admin

      Skip the peanut oil altogether (too many omega 6’s) I would try avocado oil.

  • Lucy Diana

    I am also confused about what oil to use for occasional frying, especially during the holidays.

    I have tried the coconut oil but my family didn’t care for it.

    • Judy

      You can order expeller pressed coconut oil on-line and it still has health benefits, is good for cooking and has no coconut flavor. Try Wilderness Family Naturals or Tropical Traditions…

    • admin

      Try Avocado oil!

    • Michelle Bishop

      Try Avocado or ghee too. Mix it up.

    • Nanaknows

      Coconut oil is good for sauteing fish, chicken and veggies. Butter or ghee for eggs.

  • Joanne Eaton

    It says to cook with stable oils like coconut and olive oil, but not EVOO. So does that mean all other olive oil is okay for cooking?

    • admin

      We wouldn’t recommend cooking with olive oil, stick to avocado or coconut oil or ghee.

    • Michelle Bishop

      No it says to cook with coconut and avocado. All olive oils have a low burning point, and when they burn it damages the oil and makes it bad for you.

      • Lucy Diana

        Leanne actually says not to cook with EVOO. It sounds like she is suggesting that it is okay to use the lighter versions of olive oil for cooking. I am italian background and this is probably the most difficult subject I am challenged with, many older women traditionally do use EVOO for sautéing.

        • Michelle Bishop

          It depends on what priority a person has on their health. Lighter versions of olive oil are refined which means the health benefits are removed. Plus the low burn point means the oil is damaged at normal temperatures used for cooking. All damaged oils are carcinogenic and can affect the brain and nervous system which contain fat cells.

  • Michal Davis

    Are all olive oils good for you or are the light ones not as good, because they have been pressed so many times? I have heard if the oil hardens in the cold then it is better for you. Is that true?

    • admin


      EVOO is healthier than the lighter ones. And yes, oil that harden in the cold (like coconut oil, butter, lard from good sources) is optimal. You may want to check out Dr. Terry Wahl’s site to read more about oils that harden in the cold.

    • Michelle Bishop

      You are correct. The extra virgin oil has all the beneficial health benefits… the lighter refined versions don’t. And the extra virgin sometimes forms sediment in the cold.

  • Anne Schnedl

    I don’t understand using ghee for cooking? What is the benefit of using ghee? Why not just use butter? Thanks.

    • Paul Lundbohm

      Ghee is clarified meaning the milk solids are seperated from the oil so it won’t burn, having the added benefit of being tolerated by people with lactose or casein sensitivities.

      • Anne Schnedl

        Paul – thanks. I’ve heard of it but am not very familiar with it.

        Is the taste of ghee very different from regular butter?

        If you make it yourself does it matter if it is made from salted vs unsalted butter?


        • Paul Lundbohm

          You’re welcome Anne,
          I always prefer unsalted so I can adjust the amount myself (I’m a chef, btw). Ghee has a strong, nut-like flavor and works well with almost all foods and especially vegetables. Making it yourself is probably cheaper but my only caveat is to use butter from pastured animals. There are great grass-fed brands on the market. I suggest choosing those with the yellowest golden color. Because of its stability it doesn’t have to be refrigerated and it’s so delicious, it wont last long enough to spoil. It’s good in coffee as well (called bulletproof).

          • Anne Schnedl

            Paul – thanks for the additional information … I may just give it a try!

    • Lisaanimallover

      hi Anne, she says to cook with avocado and coconut oil, not olive oil :o)

  • Rachael Lewinson

    What about sesame oil? Is it good for you and can it be heated?

    • admin

      Small doses of sesame oil is fine, but I would stick to coconut oil, avocado oil or ghee for cooking.

    • Michelle Bishop

      Save it for occassional salads in moderation. Is high in omega 6 so dont eat too much, balance it out with other oils like evoo or ghee

  • Patti

    Okay, it says to cook with olive oil and coconut oil. THEN it says that EVOO should never be heated up and to use those for salads, etc. I’m confused!!!

    • admin

      Patti, so sorry for the typo, it should say coconut and avocado oil for cooking (and you can always use ghee!)
      Hope this helps 🙂

    • Liz

      Patti, I’m seeing where Leanne says to USE olive oil (as in salads), but not to COOK with it.

      • Frankigirl

        The following line is in the article which is why I think Patti is asking the question. “When the oil is pressed multiple times, you have a lighter oil that is best for cooking. The more the olives are pressed, the lighter the oil.”
        I think what Nanaknows replied is most accurate.

    • Nanaknows

      Extra virgin, dark green shouldn’t be heated. Regular light olive oil can be used except on really high heat or deep frying.

  • Kimberly Hoye

    Hi Leanne! I’m just curious as to where you got this information about EVOO? I’ve read many articles/studies that say that it is actually a myth that EVOO turns into trans fats when heated and that it indeed is a good and healthy choice to use for cooking/frying. With such contradicting information I’d love to be able to do more research on my own to figure out what’s the truth! Thanks in advance for your help in getting to the bottom of this 🙂

    • admin

      HI Kimberly, this article may help 🙂

    • Michelle Bishop

      You lose all the polyphenols and other beneficial health benefits when you heat it. It has a low burn point. It is healthier to drizzel it on warm food when you are serving.

  • Thanks for the skinny, Leanne. I’d heard that EEVO shouldn’t be used for cooking, and have stopped using it for sauteeing, switching to coconut oil, but is there a problem with adding EEVO to warm/hot foods, such as pasta, afterwards?

    Much obliged

    • admin

      HI Doug,

      You can add it to warm foods, it shouldn’t get too hot if you add it after they are cooked 🙂

    • Legend79

      No its fine to drizzle, the warm/cooked food is not hot enough to alter the chemical structure.

  • connieko

    Is deep-frying an absolute no-no? If not (& occasionally is fine!), what oil is best?

    • admin

      Hi Connie,

      Deep frying is not recommended :).

  • kkh

    ok so i cook with regular olive oil and use EVOO like it says to, as dressings and drizzled on veggies, etc. so its ok to cook with the regular olive oil? i also cook with coconut oil and grass fed butter a lot too. BTW Trader joes has the KerryGold grass fed butter at the best price that ive found. its over $5 for 8 ounces at my local grocer, but is about $3.25 at TJs.

    • Sheila

      Best price I’ve found for Kerrygold is at Costco – 6.99 for a package of 3 (8 oz bars)! It is even on sale right now at my Costco for $5!

      • kkh

        so i never got an answer to my original ? tho. is it ok to cook w regular olive oil?

        • Nanaknows

          Yes. Not deep fry though.

      • kkh

        thats a really good price. do u know if they have the salted AND unsalted? some places only have the salted.

        • Sheila

          It’s only salted

      • eric

        Trader Joe’s has teh best price if there is one in your area. I pay 3.19 at Traders for the Kerrygold.

        • eric

          Sorry, THE best price and Trader Joe’s has both salted and unsalted.

        • Sheila

          Is that 3.19 for a 3 pack like at Costco?

  • pixelzombie

    I’ve tried using coconut oil when cooking my eggs but i don’t like the flavor. I use grass fed butter or EVOO cooked on a low temp.

    • Nanaknows

      Butter with a little olive oil, not extra virgin, is the best.

      • pixelzombie

        I will have to try that, I’m curious to see how much of a difference there will be.

        • Nanaknows

          Clarified butter with olive oil is really good too.

  • Dimple Stewart

    What is your opinion on rice oil?

    • admin

      One MAJOR problem with this oil is its ratio of omega 6 to omega 3. Rice bran oil contains high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids (linoleic acid) — and virtually no omega-3 (linolenic acid). This fact alone is enough to strike this oil out of your diet permanently unless you are supplementing with omega-3. The ideal ratio between these two fatty acids is 1:1 and the nutritional habits of most people in developed nations has this ratio soaring more than 15:1 (Omega 6: Omega 3). So unless you are consuming reasonable amounts of Omega 3 in your diet, my opinion, you should stay away from this oil.

  • DJB

    What is considered a high temperature, and what oil is good for baking?

    • admin

      The High temperature really depends on the oil and it’s smoke point, you don’t want an oil to reach it’s smoke point. If you are baking, try using coconut oil or avocado oil.