When it comes to cooking with oil, going back to basics is best.

By Abigail Rosenthal

Eat this: Olive oil and coconut oil

Not that: Canola oil and spray-on oils

Says who: Deirdre Earls, registered dietitian and author of Your Healing Diet

Why: If you’re looking for a natural approach to cooking, olive oil and coconut oil are your best bets. Both have occurred naturally throughout history, unlike canola and spray-on oils. While there are conflicting reports about the health benefits and risks of canola oil, Earls emphasizes a diet of plant-based whole foods and avoiding man-made oils when possible. Canola oil was developed as a cheaper alternative to olive oil, and spray-on oils can contain chemicals and ingredients companies aren’t required to list, like aerosol.

“For people who really want to prioritize their health, olive oil is the ideal choice. We should be trying to eat like all of our ancestors have eaten,” Earls says. “I think there’s still a lot of research that needs to be done on canola oil. I’m not convinced it’s good or bad, but I think it’s clear it’s not a food from nature, so I personally avoid it. To me, there’s still too much about it that’s unknown. If you want something that will spray, they have all kinds of oil sprayers out there. You don’t need to buy the oil with the aerosol in it.”

The proof is in the pesto: “The diet that research has shown to be the healthiest diet for optimizing your health and longevity is the Mediterranean diet. It’s built upon olive oil,” Earls says. “If it’s good enough for the healthiest people in the world that comprise a gigantic clinical research trial…it’s good enough for me.”

Consider this 

Storage: The best storage method for oils is in dark glass, which prevents light from getting in and causing the oil to go rancid. Oils should also be kept in a dark cabinet, away from heat and light.

Smoke point: Always avoid heating oils to the point at which they smoke, Earls says. Overheating oils can release toxic fumes and cause the fats in the oil to break down just as they do when they go rancid.

Break it down 

Olive oil: 

Calories per tablespoon: 120

What to look for: Extra virgin olive oil, which means the oil has gone through less processing

Good for: salad dressings, quick sauteing, pesto and hummus

Our pick: Whole Foods’ 365 Everyday Value Cold-processed Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Coconut oil:

Calories per tablespoon: 120

What to look for: Unrefined, organic, virgin or extra virgin. This means the oil has gone through less processing and was made using organic coconuts.

Good for: sauteing, baking, stir-frying and even as a moisturizer

Our pick: Nutiva Organic Virgin Coconut Oil


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