You got grass-fed meat, organic vegetables, and whole-grain bread for dinner, but did you think about which cooking oil you'll use? Increasing healthy fat by using certain oils not only helps protect your brain, heart, and cell health, it can also help you absorb more nutrients, burn more calories, and lower cholesterol. If you already use olive oil to dress salad and sauté meat, you're off to a good start, "but just like the more colorful vegetables you have on your plate, the more variety of culinary oils in your diet, the bigger the health benefits," says registered dietitian Diane Henderiks. Some oils can also boost your health in ways olive oil can't, by providing more omega-3 and monounsaturated fats, shown to fight heart disease. Every oil has a different smoke point, the temperature at which it begins to oxidize: Use light olive, avocado, and coconut for high heat (sautéing, roasting, grilling), and save extra-virgin olive, hemp, and walnut for dressings and dips. Here are four specialty oils to add to your kitchen, along with tips on how and why to use them.
Although it's 90 percent saturated fat, coconut oil – a staple in paleo and vegan cooking – has the kind of fat shown to actually boost heart health. In one study, people who ate coconut oil shed more fat than those who ate the same calories in olive oil.
Try it: A tropical taste and high smoke point make this oil ideal for curries, baked goods, and soups.
Credit: Photograph by Nick Ferrari