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Healthy Cooking Oils

Olive, Corn, Canola, Sunflower, Peanut, or Coconut? Cooking Oil Myths Revealed

By , Caring.com senior editor
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Open your cupboard door, and I'm guessing you'll see at least three different bottles of cooking oil, and possibly many more. Is it any wonder you're confused? After years of new -- and sometimes conflicting -- health claims about cooking oils, most of us have switched our recipes around so many times we no longer know which to use when. (And which to toss altogether.)

Here, a guide to the six most common cooking oils, in the order of "healthiness," along with six common myths debunked.

Why Olive Oil Is Good for Your Health

Olive oil reigns supreme as the healthiest oil to cook with because it's highest in monounsaturated fat, which lowers LDL, the so-called "bad" cholesterol. Olive oil is also the richest of all the oils in omega-3 fatty acids, which help keep arteries clear and boost brain function.

Best for: Flavor
The Italians use olive oil to dip or drizzle with practically everything, for good reason. Its distinctive taste adds a welcome dose of flavor to vegetables, sauces, and even bread.

Myth: Olive Oil Has No Saturated Fat
It sure would be simpler if this were true, but unfortunately the science of fat is a pretty complicated subject. According to Harvard Medical School's Harvard Health Letter, there are actually 24 different saturated fats. Some, like those from meat and dairy, are bad for you, raising cholesterol and blood lipids; others lower cholesterol levels. Olive oil actually contains 13 percent saturated fat, more then some other oils, but it's good saturated fat rather than bad saturated fat. (Another good saturated fat is stearic acid, the type found in dark chocolate.)