The 5 Gut-Friendly Cooking Oils a Gastroenterologist Always Keeps Packed in His Pantry

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Committed to make this the year of good gut health, thus racking up wellness wins across the board? While you can chow down on fermented foods, take probiotics, and get more fiber in your diet (PSA: 93 percent of Americans could use a lot more of this last one), you can also get your gut right by going back to basics—which includes spending more time in your kitchen and whipping up meals from scratch.

“As a gastroenterologist, I know that all health begins and ends in the gut,” says Kenneth Brown, MD, a board-certified gastroenterologist and GI doctor based in Plano, Texas. “My patients struggle to know what to eat, but healthy eating does not have to be complicated. The main thing that I do is avoid overly-processed foods and try to cook at home at often as possible.” With that in mind, you’ll want to ensure that your pantry is stocked with nutrient-rich staples that promote the health of your gut and entire body—including oils for cooking, dressings, smoothies, and more. Keep reading to see which ones get Dr. Brown’s stamp of approval.

Experts In This Article
  • Kenneth Brown, MD, board-certified gastroenterologist and GI doctor in Plano, Texas

5 gut-friendly oils for cooking, according to a gastro

So… what makes an oil good for your gut, exactly? “Gut-friendly oils are those that are easy to digest and do not cause irritation or inflammation in the digestive system,” Dr. Brown says. Such oils will naturally offer benefits that go beyond gut health, too, making it all the more essential to keep them in your pantry (and put to good use). According to Dr. Brown, the following oils are worth buying and using to the very last drop.

1. Olive oil

It’s no surprise that olive oil made the cut on Dr. Brown’s list, as it’s among the healthiest types of oils on the planet. It’s also a major staple of the Mediterranean diet, a style of eating that “represents the gold standard in preventive medicine,” according to one review of the longevity-promoting dietary plan. “Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats, which has been shown to be heart-healthy,” Dr. Brown shares. “It contains several polyphenols that have anti-inflammatory properties.” (Inflammation, as we know, is the root cause of countless health conditions and diseases—including ones related to the gut.)

“Gut-friendly oils are those that are easy to digest and do not cause irritation or inflammation in the digestive system,” Dr. Brown says.

Polyphenols, Dr. Brown continues, are the molecules that give color to fruits and veggies, but they also offer big-time benefits for your gut and greater health. As he explains, “Your microbiome uses polyphenols as prebiotic food that break down into potent anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective compounds.” BTW, it's also worth knowing how butter vs. olive oil rank in terms of longevity, too.

2. Avocado oil

Dr. Brown also gives the green light to avocado oil. Similar to olive oil, it’s “also rich in monounsaturated fats and polyphenols, but has a higher smoke point than other oils,” which makes it especially beneficial for cooking. Plus, it shares another commonality with olive oil: Both are revered across Blue Zones, or regions around the world where inhabitants live notably long and healthy lives.

Moreover, a 2019 review states that plant-based fat sources rich in “monounsaturated fats and, in some cases, polyphenols, and other phytochemicals, have been associated with increased bacterial diversity” in the gut. The more diverse your gut microbiome is, the better, so don’t skimp on the avocado oil to use in your home-cooked meals.

3. Flaxseed oil

This gut-friendly oil may be less common in most households compared to the previous two, but it’s well-worth keeping on hand to add in your smoothies, dressings, and dips. Dr. Brown notes that it’s a rich source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an essential omega-3 fatty acid, as well as an all-star for safeguarding digestion. “Flaxseed oil may help improve digestive health by increasing the production of mucus in the intestines, which can help protect against irritation and inflammation,” says Dr. Brown.

4. Chia seed oil

While chia seeds and flaxseeds are more similar than not—they’re both great sources of plant-based proteins, fiber, healthy fats, and anti-inflammatory oils—chia seeds actually have a bit of an edge on each of these fronts. And while we encourage you to continue prepping the likes of chia seed pudding, adding chia seed oil into your rotation is a great idea, too. “Chia seed oil is rich in omega-3, omega-6, and other fatty acids,” Dr. Brown says. “It [also] has anti-inflammatory properties and may help reduce inflammation in the gut,” hence why the GI doc always keeps it stocked in his own kitchen.

5. Coconut oil

Coconut oil earns the last spot on Dr. Brown’s list of gut-friendly oils, which he says is rich in fatty acids and vitamins that show promise for skin health, as well. Moreover, a 2017 study in mice found that those fed a high-fat diet containing coconut oil had fewer bacterial markers associated with Crohn’s disease. Mice fed even small amounts of coconut oil (or cocoa butter) “had less severe small intestine inflammation,” which suggests that using coconut oil in place of less healthy fats can yield improvements in those struggling with gut inflammation.

Up next? Debunking the is rapeseed oil healthy or not debate.

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