‘I’m a Dietitian, and These Are the 6 Best Cooking Oils for Fighting Inflammation’

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Cooking oil is the base of practically everything we apply heat to in the kitchen. (And often, the finishing touch, too.) It's used to coat baking trays and skillets before veggies and protein are piled on, it's key for keeping homemade baked goods moist, and it's used to make flavorful salad dressings. Truly, a well-stocked kitchen has as least a few cooking oils at the ready.

While cooking oil of course contributes to the taste and texture of your dishes, it also works behind the scenes to either up or take away from the nutritional benefits of your meal. Many types of the best cooking oils for heart health and gut-friendly oils you'll find lining the shelves of your local grocery store are considered anti-inflammatory because regular consumption of them has been scientifically linked to helping prevent chronic inflammation, which can manifest into chronic diseases and cognitive decline, among other health woes.

Experts In This Article

But not all oils are nutritionally beneficial. In fact, some oils do the exact opposite, actually contributing to inflammation in the body. Confusing, right? Here, registered dietitian Melissa Rifkin, RD, explains why not all cooking oils are considered equal. Plus, see her list of anti-inflammatory oils so you know exactly which ones work to support the body.

Why do some cooking oils cause inflammation?

So, which oils are considered inflammatory oils and why? According to Rifkin, one reason why some cooking oils are linked to causing inflammation is because they are high in saturated fats—and no, that's not the healthy type of fats we love avocados for. Diets high in saturated fats have been linked to raising LDL cholesterol and up the risk for heart disease, which is the number one cause of death in the U.S. This is also why the American Heart Association recommends keeping saturated fat intake to under five percent of your overall diet.

Which oil is most anti-inflammatory?

These types of saturated fats are primarily found in meat products, but Rifkin says there are a couple types of cooking oils that are also particularly high in them. "Coconut oil and palm oil are both high in saturated fats," she says. Surprised about coconut oil? Years ago, this type of oil was uber popular in the wellness world, thought to be full of nutritional benefits. But according to scientific studies, it may not be the best option in terms of anti-inflammatory properties as it may raise LDL cholesterol levels.

But that certainly doesn't mean that coconut oil should be avoided at all cost. The best way to use this particular oil? Stick to using it as a beauty product and in moderation in the kitchen. While it may give good flavor to certain dishes, using it as your go-to won't be as beneficial for promoting heart health.

As for palm oil, Rifkin says the main place you'll see this oil pop up is in processed foods. In addition to being high in saturated fat, palm oil is also notoriously known for contributing to deforestation. So that may be two valid reasons to minimize your use.

Okay, so coconut oil and palm oil should both be used in moderation. But what are the best anti-inflammatory cooking oils that can actually work in your benefit? Fortunately, the list is a heck of a lot longer than two.

6 anti-inflammatory cooking oils

1. Olive oil

So, what is the strongest natural anti-inflammatory oil? It's likely this tried-and-true go-to: olive oil. Olive oil is the primary cooking oil in the Mediterranean (where it's an essential Blue Zones cooking oil for boosting longevity) and Rifkin says there are absolutely benefits to this ingredient beyond its delicious flavor. "Olive oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for heart health," she says. Besides being full of these beneficial fats, it's also a good source of antioxidants. Both of these reasons are why it's been linked in countless scientific studies to reducing inflammation. "Olive oil makes a great everyday cooking oil because it actually has a high smoke point, which not everyone realizes," Rifkin says. If we had to choose between butter vs. olive oil, it's safe to say olive oil wins this anti-inflammatory benefits round. Up next? Settling the canola oil vs. olive oil and butter vs. olive oil debates once and for all. Buckle up, fam.

2. Avocado oil

You probably already know how nutrient-rich avocados are, which is good news considering it's a must-have breakfast staple for many of us (hi, avo toast). The good news? Rifkin says much of the fruit's nutrients can also be found in avocado oil too (not just in its fresh, green flesh). "Similar to olive oil, avocado oil is high in unsaturated fats, linked to lowering inflammation," she says.

3. Canola oil

Canola oil is one of the most common cooking oils in the U.S. and even though healthy eaters often give it the side-eye, scientific studies and medical experts at Harvard Health point to canola oil being healthy because, like the other oils on this list, it's a good source of healthy fats and antioxidants. However, Rifkin says this one isn't *as* beneficial as the others for preventing inflammation because much of its antioxidants are lost when it's being processed. For this reason, cold-pressed canola oil is more anti-inflammatory than regular canola oil, which is processed using heat. "While canola itself isn't inherently unhealthy, it's often used in many over-processed foods that are," Rifkin also points out.

4. Walnut oil

Scientific studies have found that consuming walnut oil regularly not only helps lower inflammation (Rifkin credits those healthy fats once again as to why), it's also shown to keep blood sugar levels steady. It's not surprising how nutrient-rich this oil is considering the nut itself is especially good for heart health, much like olive oil.

5. Flaxseed oil

By now, you can probably guess why flaxseed oil makes the list of anti-inflammatory oils. Yep, one of the top flaxseed oil properties is that it's also high in omega-3s. "Flaxseed oil, fibers, and flax lignans have potential health benefits such as in reduction of cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis, and autoimmune and neurological disorders," according to an article published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology.

Although if flaxseed oil isn't available, chia oil presents similar benefits. According to Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, MA, RDN, a doctor of public health and nutritionist and owner of Bazilian’s Health in San Diego, it's the best cooking oil for boosting longevity, as it's packed with heart-healthy and anti-inflammatory properties. The dietitian also previously share with Well+Good that a single teaspoon of chia oil is considered an "excellent source" of essential omega-3's, and provides more than the daily adequate intake level established.

6. Pumpkin seed oil

Scientific studies have also linked regular consumption of pumpkin seed oil to lowering inflammation because it too is high in unsaturated fats and antioxidants. It's also been linked to helping prevent type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and certain types of cancer.

Cooking with an anti-inflammatory oil is the perfect way to start your meal off with health benefits before you even incorporate any food and, as you can see, there's no shortage of ones to choose from. Different oils work best for different dishes since they have different flavor profiles and burning points. Experimenting is the fun part anyway! Play around with the oils on this list and you'll soon discover your new favorites. Consequently, your meals and your body will both benefit.

Watch the video below to learn more about the health benefits of olive oil:

Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.
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