Which Oil Should You Use If You Have High Cholesterol?
Just because you’re on a low-cholesterol diet doesn’t mean you have to give up cooking with oil. The key is to choose recipes that are heart-healthy and tolerate high cholesterol levels.
Heart-healthy oils such as canola, corn, olive, peanut, and sunflower contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that help lower the “bad” LDL cholesterol and increase the “good” HDL cholesterol.
Types of healthy fats in oils
Including a variety of oils in your diet can provide you with a variety of micronutrients.
Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) contain only one unsaturated carbon bond in their molecules. Monounsaturated fats are a good source of vitamin E and are found only in plants.
Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) have more than one unsaturated carbon bond in their molecules and are found in plants and fish, such as salmon. PUFAs also contain high levels of vitamin E and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are essential for brain function and cell growth.
Some oils are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, a healthy fat that reduces inflammation and prevents the formation of arterial plaque. Avocados, canola, flax, olives, peanuts, sunflower seeds and walnuts are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
The smoke point (also known as the flashpoint) of an oil is also important. This indicates that the oil will break down, releasing free radicals and chemicals that can damage your body and give your food a burnt or bitter taste.6 The smoke point is the point at which the oil begins to burn.
For example, extra virgin olive oil is relatively smoke-free and is great for salads and light sautés, but can go rancid if used in a stir-fry. Safflower oil, on the other hand, has a high smoke point and is great for frying.
Most oils are a combination of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated fats. Choosing products that are low in saturated fatty acids (SFA) and high in unsaturated fats can help lower cholesterol levels. Fortunately, there are many options for heart health.
- Grape seeds
- Safflower Oil
- Rice bran
This list of heart-healthy oils includes non-tropical vegetable oils with less than 25% saturated fat (SFA) and a mix of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These oils are liquid at room temperature, but thicken and become cloudy when refrigerated.
Avocado oil is primarily a monounsaturated fat that has many uses. Its high smoke point (over 500 degrees F) makes it ideal for high-temperature cooking and frying, and its neutral, buttery, nutty flavor can be enjoyed in salad dressings, marinades and sauces. Avocado oil is cholesterol-free.
Canola oil is a good source of polyunsaturated fatty acids (and some polyunsaturated fatty acids) and has a moderate to high smoke point for cooking, baking and frying. Rich in omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), canola oil has a mild, neutral flavor and can be used in salad dressings, marinades and sauces. Canola oil is cholesterol-free.
Another cholesterol-free option, corn oil is good for light stir-fries, sauces and cooking. It has a light flavor and is less expensive than other oils. In addition, studies have shown that corn oil can lower LDL by about three times as much as olive oil.
Grape Seed Oil
This polyunsaturated oil has a mild flavor and a medium-high smoke point, making it ideal for baking, grilling, and stir-frying. It is also a rich source of vitamin E, which has been shown to have health benefits and cardioprotective properties.
Rich in omega-3s, flax oil is a powerful nutritional product with many proven health benefits, including improved heart health.
Its slightly hazelnutty, earthy flavor may be acquired, but it can be used in place of butter to drizzle over vegetables, mixed into salad dressings and dips, or added to smoothies. For quality assurance, choose cold-pressed flaxseed oil and keep it refrigerated in an opaque bottle.
Rich in the antioxidant vitamin E and polyphenols, olive oil is widely used in Mediterranean cooking for its rich flavor, versatility and heart-healthy benefits. Studies have shown that consuming one and a half tablespoons (20 grams) of olive oil daily can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.
Olive oil has a moderate smoke point and can be used for sautéing, medium heat frying and salad dressings. Choose an extra virgin olive oil that has not been over-processed.
Peanut oil is a good source of monounsaturated fats and is sometimes used in fried foods due to its high smoke point. As the primary monounsaturated fat, it contains no cholesterol.
Although many people have severe allergic reactions to peanuts, highly refined peanut oil is not considered an allergen and is used in commercial preparations.
Rice Bran Oil
Rice bran oil, rich in vitamins E and K and beneficial phytosterols, is one of the healthiest oils available.11 A meta-analysis of studies suggests that rice bran oil lowers LDL cholesterol by about 7 mg/dL and increases HDL cholesterol by 7 mg/dL.
The nutty flavor and high smoke point of rice bran make it ideal for frying, cooking with sauces, and low temperature cooking.
Safflower oil is a popular heart-healthy oil with a mild flavor and comes in a variety of forms. Safflower oil is high in linoleic acid, rich in polyunsaturated fats and low in smoke. Therefore, it should be used in sauces, dressings and other unheated dishes.
High oleic safflower oil is rich in monounsaturated fats and has a high smoke point, making it ideal for frying. Studies have shown that safflower oil can improve cholesterol levels, lower blood sugar levels and aid in weight loss.
Sesame oil is commonly used in Asian and Middle Eastern cooking and has been shown to be more beneficial to cholesterol levels than olive oil16.
Made from raw sesame seeds, light sesame oil has a mild flavor, can be used interchangeably with canola or vegetable oils, and can withstand the high temperatures of frying. Derived from toasted seeds, toasted sesame oil has a nutty flavor but a lower smoke point. The darker the color of the oil, the better the flavor.
Soybean oil is a versatile oil with a high smoke point. It has a neutral flavor and can be used in everything from salad dressings to stir-fries. Soybean oil is a polyunsaturated fat that is rich in vitamin E and phytosterols.
People with soy allergies should be careful about the type of cold-pressed soybean oil they use. However, studies have shown that highly refined soybean oil removes protein allergens and does not cause allergic reactions18.
Refined sunflower oil is milder, less aromatic and can be used for high-temperature cooking, but unrefined oil should only be used in recipes that do not require heat. Look for high-oleic sunflower oil, which has been shown to lower cholesterol levels.
If you are on a low-cholesterol diet, it is best to avoid high stearic/oleic sunflower oils, such as Nutrisun brand. This blend contains stearic acid, a saturated fat.
Refined coconut oil is popular for its neutral flavor and relatively high smoke point (450 degrees Fahrenheit), but it contains 87% saturated fat and is particularly effective at raising LDL levels.
Palm oil may be slightly better at 50% saturated fat, but should be considered a no-no for people on low-cholesterol diets. For palm kernel oil, which is close to the 85% saturated fat threshold, that number doubles.