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Healthy oils and their benefits

BT Toronto | posted Monday, Jan 16th, 2017


These days it seems there are about a million cooking oils to choose from at the grocery store: Olive vs. avocado, unrefined vs. refined, and extra virgin are just a few things found on labels today. These details can make a simple selection very confusing! Andrea Donsky, label detective and founder of NaturallySavvy.com, breaks down each oil.


What is it made from: Avocado oil is one of Andrea’s favourite oils. It’s made from avocados (the fleshy part that surrounds the pit). This oil is now being used in many products including mayonnaise and potato chips and is one of the few oils we can eat that doesn’t come from a seed.

Smoke Point: 500F (highest smoke point of all oils).

How to use: You can use avocado oil for everything from frying eggs, to baking cookies and roasting veggies. It can also be used on salads.

Health Benefits: Avocado oil is high in “good fats” such as oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat. Avocado oil is good for our heart, our eyes, is a good source of vitamin E, it also helps our body absorb nutrients (certain nutrients like carotenoids need fat to help with absorption).


What is it made from: “Camelina” oil comes from the “camelina sativa” seed—an ancient oilseed grown in Saskatchewan. The seed is part of the brassica family (which also includes broccoli, cauliflower, and kale).

Smoke Point: 475F It has a high smoke point so it’s this oil is a good choice for roasting vegetables, searing fish and topping pasta. It’s a cold pressed oil which means the oil isn’t heated when it’s produced.

How to use: You can use it to roast vegetables, in soups, and drizzled on pizza.

Health benefits: Camelina oil is high in omega 3’s and vitamin E. It contains a unique type of vitamin E called “Gamma Tocopherol” that allows the oil to stay stable when cooking with it. It comes in three different flavors: original, roasted onion and basil and garlic & chilli.


What is it made from: Canola is a popular vegetable oil that is made from the rapeseed plant. It was developed in Canada and is used in many packaged products as well as restaurants.

Smoke Point: 400F (refined canola oil, unrefined is 225F)

How to use: Canola is a good choice for cooking and baking with. It can also be a good substitute for olive oil if you want to cook with higher heat. Canola oil comes unrefined and refined. Opt for unrefined because refined may contain chemicals such as bleach and hexane.

Health benefits: Canola contains omega 3’s and oleic acid and is mostly made up of monounsaturated fats. Keep in mind that many Canadian canola crops can be GMO, so looking for an organic brand can be critical if using this oil.


What is it made from: Coconut oil is known for its numerous health benefits and is made from coconuts.

Look for cold pressed and virgin on the label. Some companies are making flavourless coconut oil by removing the “coconut” taste and smell so people can still enjoy its health benefits, be weary of chemicals used to deodorize the oils.

Smoke point: 350-375F

How to use it: Eat coconut oil straight from the jar with a spoon and add it to your shakes and morning coffee or use in baking or on popcorn.

Health benefits: Coconut oil is a good type of saturated fat that contains medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). It is being studied for brain health (Alzheimer’s), it increases our metabolism (so it’s great for weight loss), and it lowers bad cholesterol.


What is it made from: Olive oil, also called “liquid gold,” is made from olives and comes from different parts of the world (Greece, Tunisia, Morocco, Spain and Portugal and Italy).

Smoke point: 320- 425F

Here is what you need to know about olive oil:

  • There are different types of olive oil available at the grocery store: Extra virgin, virgin light and pure. Andrea warns to stay away from olive oils that says “pure” on the label as these are often the lowest quality.
  • Extra virgin is the gold standard. It means there are no defects* in the olives used to produce the oil. It is the least processed and contains the most nutrients (antioxidants, polyphenols, tocopherols, etc. *Defect examples: muddy, fusty, vinegary.)
  • First cold-pressed is a must! Cold pressed, or expelled pressed means the oil is extracted without heat and refers to the first pressing of the oils, meaning it is the least processed type.
  • There is a big sensory component to olive oil. If it smells like crayons or smells rancid don’t eat it.

This is a great example of you get what you pay for. Less expensive olive oils can be “cut” with cheaper oils. To avoid buying a fraud, buy organic and make sure there is a production date and a 2-year expiry date.

How to use it: Use expensive olive oil for dipping bread, dressings, dips and cold dishes. Use less expensive olive oil for cooking, but still make sure it is extra virgin or virgin (i.e. to make kale chips).

Health benefits: Olive oil contains antioxidants that help to reduce oxidative stress (free radicals). It has a compound called “oleocanthal” that mimics ibuprofen and can help reduce inflammation and pain (so it can be a great choice for people who suffer from painful conditions like arthritis), it’s good for your heart (it reduces cholesterol).


What is it made from: Sunflower oil is made from sunflower seeds.

Smoke point: 220-325F Sunflower oil has a smoke point of 225-320F so it is not a great option for cooking.

How to use it: It’s great in dips, topping your cold pasta, or on a bean salad.

Health benefits: Sunflower oil can be high in linoleic oil (a polyunsaturated fat) or oleic oil (monounsaturated fat). PUFAs can be pro-inflammatory so look for a sunflower oil that is high oleic, which means it contains higher amounts of monounsaturated fats. This means that the oil would be similar to olive oil in that it is good for your heart, is anti-inflammatory and is high in vitamin E.



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