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October 31, 2023 12 min read

When it comes to achieving your weight loss goals, the choices you make in your kitchen can have a significant impact. Cooking oils are a key ingredient in many recipes, and choosing wisely can make your meals healthier and lower your overall calorie intake.

No cooking oil has magical fat-burning properties, but some stand out as better options when you're trying to shed those extra pounds.

Here, we'll look at the best cooking oils for weight loss, exploring their nutritional profiles, ideal uses, and what to look for when selecting them. With the right knowledge, you can make smart choices that help you lose weight and lead a healthier lifestyle.

How Healthy is Cooking with Oil?

When you eat foods that contain fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, E, D, and K, pairing them with dietary fat such as olive oil, flaxseed oil, or canola oil, can significantly increase the body's ability to absorb them. Here’s a guide to sources of fat-soluble vitamins:

Vitamin A: Various fruits and vegetables, including kale, carrots, spinach, pumpkin, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes.
Vitamin D: Fatty fish and mushrooms.
Vitamin E: Sunflower seeds and sunflower oil, nuts, and vegetable oils.
Vitamin K: Vegetables such as kale, spinach, parsley, and Brussels sprouts, and also egg yolks, beef, and fermented soybeans.

Oils are not only great flavor enhancers, but they also boost energy and help with cell structure.

The different types of fats in cooking oils can affect human health in different ways. They contain saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated fats. 

The American Heart Association reports that a lower intake of saturated fat coupled with a higher intake of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and other major causes of death.

Different Types of Fat

If you consider modifying your diet to reach your health goals, it is crucial to understand the different types of fat components in your diet.

This is because the types of fats that make up your cooking oil determine how healthy it is.

The two main types of fat are saturated and unsaturated fats, and cooking oil comprises different levels of both. The body typically saves saturated fats, often evident as belly fat, while unsaturated fats are used as energy and for the proper functioning of the body.

Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature, while unsaturated fats remain liquid.

Another thing to know when shopping for healthy, low-calorie oils, is that unsaturated fats also come in different types. You’ll want to select cooking oil made mostly of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.

On a cooking oil label or ingredient list, these words may indicate the source of unsaturated fats:

— Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs)

— Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs)

— Omega-3 fatty acid

Some oils contain medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are easily converted into energy by the body. MCTs can increase your metabolism and help you burn more calories. They're also less likely to be stored as body fat compared to other types of fat.

Best Cooking Oils for Weight Loss

The list of available cooking oils on the market seems endless, but not all are created equal. After all, oil is a fat, and when you're trying to lose weight, it's good to keep in mind that some fats are healthier than others.

According to a November 2015 randomized, controlled trial in ‌Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome, a diet higher in monounsaturated fat may help with weight loss when you're cutting calories.

The following oils are recommended for use while trying to lose weight:

1. Olive Oil

Olive Oil

One tablespoon of Olive oil has 119 calories.

Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids and also contains medium-chain triglycerides. Both can help with weight loss and weight management, as well as reducing cholesterol levels.

Furthermore, the monounsaturated fats in olive oil have been shown to increase feelings of fullness and reduce appetite and cravings, making it a lot easier to stick to a calorie-controlled diet.

Olive oil contains polyphenols, which are nutrients in plants and plant-based foods that help your body manage inflammation and protect you from oxidative stress.

Polyphenols have also been shown to boost metabolism and increase fat burning, helping to support weight loss.

Olive oil also has a high concentration of antioxidants, reducing the risk of heart disease, lowering blood pressure, and improving brain function.

It contains antioxidants and vitamin E that promote healthy skin and hair.

Olive oil is a good choice for cooking and weight loss and an excellent addition to many meals.

It is a tasty and healthy option as a salad dressing, drizzled over veggies or pizzas, blended into pasta or soups, or used in baked desserts.

It should be noted that extra virgin olive oil is not suitable for cooking because it has a low smoking point.

NOTE: The labels “light,” and “extra light” typically found on olive oil containers are not an indication of fat or calorie content. Instead, it refers to the color and flavor. All olive oils generally contain the same number of calories, so choose olive oil based on your taste preferences.

2. Coconut Oil

Coconut Oil

One tablespoon of Coconut oil has 117 calories.

Coconut oil has been called a bad thing recently because it is high in saturated fats.

Nonetheless, medium-chain fats, such as lauric acid, which is present in coconut oil, have been associated with enhancing insulin resistance and alleviating inflammation. Nevertheless, unlike long-chain fats, lauric acid is more likely to be utilized for energy in the body rather than being stored as adipose tissue, better known as body fat. The medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) present in coconut oil also boost energy expenditure, reduce appetite, and enhance brain function. 

Furthermore, coconut oil has antimicrobial properties that help prevent infections. 

Coconut oil has become trendy and can be used to replace butter. It's suitable for frying, and baking, but not deep-frying because it breaks down at very high temperatures. It can be used for pancakes, cakes, cookies, etc. 

For best results, you should moderate the consumption of coconut oil for cooking due to its high content of saturated fats.

3. Avocado Oil

Avocado Oil

One tablespoon of Avocado oil has 124 calories.

Avocado oil, like whole avocados, is praised for its healthy fats. It is also considered to be heart-healthy. Avocado oil is packed with healthy fats called monounsaturated fats.

For example, monounsaturated fats are less likely to cause insulin resistance and inflammation and may help reduce “bad” cholesterol and increase “good” cholesterol. It also contains oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat, which can help reduce belly fat and lower the risk of metabolic syndrome. 

Furthermore, avocado oil is high in polyunsaturated fats and other nutrients, like vitamins B and E, potassium, and antioxidants.

Avocado oil can also help people with diabetes because it can increase insulin sensitivity and balance blood sugar.

Avocado oilhas the highest smoke point of all plant-based cooking oils (510 to 520°F), which makes it ideal for sautéing and roasting.However, it is also perfect for salads because of its light avocado aroma and mild nutty taste.  It also works well drizzled over pizzas, breads, and fish. 

4. Flaxseed Oil

Flaxseed Oil

One tablespoon of Flaxseed oil has 124 calories.

Flaxseed oil and actual flaxseeds share many of the same health benefits, such as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a plant-based omega-3 acid, and monounsaturated fat. Compared to all other cooking oils, flaxseed oil contains the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

Flaxseed oil can lower the risk of certain types of cancer, help reduce inflammation, improve heart health, and more.

It is recommended that you keep flaxseed oil refrigerated to prevent it from going rancid and that you avoid using flaxseed oil when cooking with heat. It's best enjoyed for dipping or as a dressing.

5. Sesame Oil

Sesame Oil

One tablespoon of Sesame oil has 120 calories.

Sesame oil has sesamol and sesamin, two compounds that are anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. It can also help lower blood pressure, support bone health, and improve heart health.

A recent study involving women with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a chronic condition that is associated with metabolic disorders and obesity, has revealed that the consumption of sesame oil can aid in alleviating the severity of NAFLD.

Researchers suggest that, when used as part of a low-calorie diet, sesame oil can have favorable outcomes for people working to maintain a healthy weight.

Sesame oil is surprisingly versatile and has a uniquely nutty flavor. A little goes a long way, meaning you may be able to reduce the suggested serving size and cut calories even further.

Sesame oil can be used in sauces or dips, stir-fries, fish or meat marinades, and sesame noodles.

6. Canola Oil

Canola Oil

One tablespoon of Canola oil has 120 calories.

Canola oil is a cost-effective yet nutritious oil that is primarily composed of monounsaturated fat. When compared to other cooking oils, this one has the lowest amount of saturated fat at just 7%.

Canola oil has a lot of omega-3 fatty acids and phytosterols, which can help reduce cholesterol in the body. This oil has also been associated with lowering total cholesterol and levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, particularly when consumed for a month or longer.

A randomized controlled study of 100 people found that eating canola oil in a diet can help people lose belly fat, especially if they are overweight.

Oil from canola has a medium-high smoke point, similar to extra-virgin olive oil, but with a milder flavor. It is also versatile and can be used for sautéing, cooking, grilling, dressing, and more.

7. Walnut Oil

Walnut Oil

One tablespoon of Walnut oil has 120 calories.

Walnut oil, particularly the cold-pressed version, is a nutritious option and a potent source of omega-3 fatty acids, primarily alpha-linolenic acid, which is a rare occurrence in food sources.

Research shows that including walnut oil in your diet can help keep your heart healthy. This is because it has a lot of good fats called PUFAs that help lower bad cholesterol.

Moreover, clinical trials have demonstrated that the blood glucose levels of individuals with type 2 diabetes decreased following the ingestion of walnut oil.

Walnut oil is a rich source of polyphenols that possess anti-inflammatory properties, thereby aiding in the prevention of diseases such as certain cancers, neurodegenerative diseases, and cardiovascular diseases.

Cold-pressed and unrefined walnut oil has a rich, nutty flavor, and it is healthy as a salad dressing or meal topping to finish a dish. However, you should avoid cooking walnut oil at high temperatures due to its low smoke point.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Cooking Oil for Weight Loss

Healthy Cooking Oils

When choosing oil for weight loss, there are several factors to consider:

Fat content: Choose oils that are low in saturated fat and high in unsaturated fat, like avocado oil, olive oil, and canola oil. These oils can help you control how many calories you eat, which is important for losing weight.

Fatty Acids: Oils rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, like flaxseed oil and walnut oil, can improve health and promote weight loss.

Smoke Point: The smoke point is the temperature at which oil starts to smoke and break down. This breakdown can result in the production of harmful compounds. Choose oils with a high smoke point, such as avocado oil, canola oil, and coconut oil, for cooking at high temperatures.

Flavor: Choose oils with a mild flavor to preserve the taste of your food, instead of overpowering it.

Omegas, MUFAs and PUFAs

When you go shopping for healthy cooking oil, it might help to understand the what and why of omega fatty acids and unsaturated fats. The following information may answer your questions.

Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, in the right ratio, are essential fats that must be obtained from your diet because your body can’t produce them on its own.

The typical American diet is often rich in processed and fast foods, which are high in vegetable oils like corn, soybean, safflower oil, and sunflower seed oils. These oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids.

Meanwhile, omega-3 fatty acids are significantly more difficult to obtain.

According to health authorities, a balanced omega-6/omega-3 ratio of 1–2/1 is one of the most important dietary factors in weight management and the prevention of obesity, along with physical activity.

Omega-3 fatty acids can help regulate the nervous system and decrease the risks of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and inflammation. Studies show maintaining the recommended balance of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet can help support gut health, immunity, and cognition, as well as reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and obesity.

Cooking oils with omega-3 fatty acids include flaxseed oil, canola oil, and walnut oil.

The Difference Between Monounsaturated Fats and Polyunsaturated Fats

Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are types of unsaturated fats with different chemical structures and effects on health. Monounsaturated fats are found in cooking oils like olive oil, and avocado oil.

They benefit heart health, help lower bad cholesterol levels, improve insulin sensitivity, and reduce inflammation. Consuming monounsaturated fats in moderation as part of a healthy diet and exercise routine has been shown to aid in weight loss.

On the other hand, cooking oils such as walnut oil, canola oil, and flaxseed oil contain polyunsaturated fats. Like monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats are considered beneficial for heart health because they help lower bad cholesterol levels and decrease inflammation. Consumed in moderation, polyunsaturated fats can also help with weight loss when consumed as part of a healthy diet.

Medium Chain Triglycerides

Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are fats that are made in a lab from coconut and palm kernel oils. Typical dietary fats are called long-chain triglycerides.

MCTs are known for their quick absorption and energy-providing properties. MCTs are often added to cooking oils, like olive oil or canola oil, that don't naturally contain them for various reasons, such as health benefits and culinary purposes.

Some studies suggest that MCTs can increase the feeling of fullness, potentially leading to reduced calorie intake, thereby helping with weight management.

These oils are typically labeled as “MCT oil” or “MCT-infused oil.”

Why Does the Smoke Point of Cooking Oil Matter?

Cooking Oil Smoke Point

Learning which oils to use for hot and cold applications can help preserve the oil's nutritional value and prevent you from being exposed to free radicals.

The smoke point of oil is the temperature at which it begins to break down and smoke. It's important to note that different oils have different smoke points. 

Cooking at a high temperature above an oil's smoke point can release free radicals, which can cause inflammation and lead to conditions like heart disease. 

Refined or Cold Pressed – Does it Matter?

When buying cooking oil, you'll want to look for those labeled “extra virgin,” “expeller pressed,” or “cold pressed.” These are processed by mechanically pressing fruits, nuts, and seeds to obtain their rich, nutritious oils.

Oils without any of those labels are refined oils, which are typically exposed to high heat during processing. Furthermore, chemical solvents are used to extract the maximum amount of oil from the source. The result is a final product with limited health-promoting benefits, like antioxidants.

Budget-conscious shoppers might prefer more cost-effective, refined cooking oils that have longer shelf lives. Also, although chemical- and heat-based extraction processes cause health concerns, refined oils tend to have higher smoke points.

Cold-pressed Cooking Oils

Benefits of Cooking Oils for Weight Loss

It is a common misconception that avoiding oils altogether is the best way to lose weight. Healthy fats are essential for proper body function, and consuming the right kind of oil can actually help with weight loss.

Here are some reasons why the healthiest cooking oils listed here are important for weight loss:

  1. They provide satiety and keep you full for longer periods, which makes it less likely to overeat or snack on unhealthy foods.

  2. They aid in the regulation of blood sugar levels, thereby reducing the desire for sweet and high-carbohydrate foods and snacks.

  3. The essential fatty acids found in cooking oils help to improve metabolism and promote fat burning.

  4. They contain triglycerides, which are easily converted into energy by the body to increase your metabolism and help you burn more calories.

  5. Oils with unsaturated fats are less likely to be stored as body fat than oils with saturated fats.

  6. Some cooking oils have omega-3 fatty acids that have been shown to increase fat-burning and reduce inflammation.

  7. Cooking Oils can also help you digest food and absorb nutrients, which is important for losing weight.

  8. Some oils have good fats that help the body move food through the digestive system and make it easier to digest. This can prevent constipation and other digestive issues that can make it hard to lose weight.

  9. Cooking oils also contain fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E, and K, which are crucial for maintaining overall health and wellness.

Tips on How to Use Cooking Oils for Weight Loss

Bread Drizzled with Oil

Use these guidelines when using cooking oils as a part of your weight-loss diet:

Prioritize heart health: Instead of using butter or unhealthy oils, try incorporating heart-healthy oils like olive oil or avocado oil into your diet instead. They are good for your heart because they have both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These fats can lower bad cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Avoid low-quality oils: Choose oils that are cold-pressed and unrefined because they have the most nutrients and are less likely to be damaged by heat.
Use oils in moderation: Even healthy oils are still high in calories, so use them sparingly to avoid consuming too many calories that can cause weight gain instead of weight loss.
Proper storage: Most cooking oils can be stored in a cool, dark place, but read the labels to see if they need refrigeration to prevent them from going rancid.
Avoid frying: Use healthy cooking methods like roasting, grilling, or baking instead of high-heat cooking like frying.
Experiment: Be creative with cooking methods and different oils. Try making marinades, dips, and salad dressings. For added flavor and healthy fats, drizzle a small amount of oil, such as extra virgin olive oil, on your salads or roasted vegetables.
Watch the heat: Use cooking methods that match the type of oil's smoke point. Oils like coconut oil and avocado oil have a high smoke point, so they can be used to cook at high temperatures. This can help keep your food fresh and flavorful while reducing the formation of harmful compounds. Also, don't reuse oils that have been heated to high temperatures. This can damage the oil and create harmful compounds.
Discard rancid cooking oils: It is advisable to dispose of rancid cooking oils as they can pose a risk to your health.

 

Conclusion

To summarize, although cooking oils do not directly contribute to weight loss, they are a valuable component of a well-balanced and healthy diet. Choosing the right cooking oils can help you reduce your saturated fat intake, manage your calorie consumption, and improve your heart health.

All the cooking oils discussed here are excellent choices, each with its own unique attributes. Remember that moderation is important for weight management, and portion control is still important.

You can ensure that every meal is a step towards a healthier, fitter you by considering these healthier cooking oil options as allies in your culinary adventures.