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.
Hemp is one of the few foods high in gamma-linolenic acid, the only omega-6 that reduces inflammation and lowers both cholesterol and blood pressure. It also has more omega-3s than olive oil.
Try it: Hemp has a low smoke point, so use it instead of extra-virgin olive oil in dips, dressing, and pesto. Or sprinkle it over roasted root vegetables or potatoes for an earthier flavor.
Credit: Photograph by Nick Ferrari