The phrase "healthy oils" may sound like a contradiction, but these nutrient-rich foods are indispensable when it comes to good living. Just a few teaspoons can boost your immune system, decrease your stress levels and reduce your risk of a heart attack. Just remember to use them in moderation; at 120 calories per serving, cooking oils can quickly pack on the pounds. Here are five healthy oils you should always keep in your kitchen.
1. Olive Oil
Is this Mediterranean superfood already a staple in your kitchen? For years, experts have hailed extra virgin olive oil for its heart-healthy benefits. Research has shown that supplementing your diet with quality olive oil can increase your good cholesterol and reduce the bad. When you exchange your regular butter or lard for olive oil and other monounsaturated fats, you can reduce your risk of heart disease. Whether you are baking, stir-frying or cooking in the oven, make sure that you choose a pure olive oil with a high level of antioxidants.
2. Sesame Seed Oil
You should not use sesame seed oil everyday, but once a week you can splurge on its unmatched nutty aroma and taste. This oil is best known for flavoring Asian stir-frys, but you can also add it to meat sauces and salad dressings for a unique experience. Toasted sesame oil contains important vitamins and minerals that may slow bacterial growth, prevent cellular damage and reduce your cancer risk. The high magnesium content has been shown to lower blood pressure and decrease glucose in diabetic patients.
3. Cottonseed Oil
Cottonseed oil had been a staple of the American kitchen for more than 40 years before World War II caused widespread shortages. Now, this versatile oil is making a comeback. New technologies and genetic enhancements have made it possible to produce a healthier oil with fewer pesticides. Cottonseed oil's high level of vitamin E fights free radicals and cancer development, while the fatty acid structure provides heart benefits. Because cottonseed has a muted, nutty flavor, it can be used virtually anywhere you might add canola or vegetable oil. The high smoke point makes it ideal for searing, browning and deep-frying.
4. Coconut Oil
Like cottonseed, coconut oil has undergone a leave-it-then-love-it comeback. The nutrients help the body process blood sugars, increase metabolism and endurance and fight off dangerous bacteria, viruses and fungi. It can also aid digestion. The light, mildly addictive flavor is a bonus. Try cold-pressed, virgin coconut oil with your popcorn, hash browns and baked goods.
5. Walnut Oil
If you worry about getting enough omega-3 fats and vitamins in your diet, walnut oil can help. This rich food delivers all of the nutritional benefits of whole walnuts without the mild bitterness. It can help to regulate brain functions, decrease artery inflammation and blood pressure and boost the immune system. Research from Penn State has even demonstrated a connection between consuming walnut oil and dealing with stress better. Pure walnut oil is loaded with vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin E, magnesium, selenium, zinc, potassium, copper and phosphorus. Since it does not stand up well to heat, use this product as a finishing touch instead of as a cooking aid. Add roasted walnut oil to winter vegetables, apple cakes, cheese pastas, grilled fish and beef bourguignon. Mix with balsamic vinegar for a more complex salad topping.