There is an ongoing debate about the health benefits of vegetable oils, or the lack thereof.
Some contain healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, while others are made from unhealthy trans fats. Most nonorganic vegetables oils are processed with chemical solvents.
If you’re looking for a healthier option, there are several vegetable oil substitutes to choose from.
Not all oil substitutes are appropriate for all types of cooking and recipes. Some oils have stronger flavors than others, which may alter the taste of your food. Other oils have low heat points and can’t be used for baking or high-heat cooking.
Although many oils offer health benefits, keep in mind most options are also high in fat and calories. Even if the fat is considered “healthy,” it may still pack on pounds if too much is consumed.
Olive oil is one of the healthiest oils you can buy. It’s made from the fruit of the olive tree. Olive oil contains mostly healthy monounsaturated fats, which may help lower your risk of heart disease. They may also help regulate blood sugar.
Not all olive oil is created equal. According to a 2016 CBS News report, much of the Italian olive oil found on supermarket shelves is fake. The report suggests buying olive oil online direct from Italian producers. You should also read labels carefully to see if the product comes from olive oil-producing Italian towns like Sicily or Puglia.
Olive oil can be substituted for vegetable oil in dressings or marinades, and sautéed over low to medium heat. Since olive oil has a low smoke point, it shouldn’t be used for recipes that require high heat. Olive oil isn’t a good choice for baked goods due to its strong flavor.
Coconut oil is extracted from coconut meat. Although it contains saturated fats, the fats are more neutral than those found in other foods. Coconut oil contains lauric acid, a saturated fat that may actually raise “good” cholesterol levels.
To substitute coconut oil for vegetable oil, use the same amount of coconut oil as vegetable oil. Since coconut oil is solid at room temperature, you’ll need to melt the oil if your recipe requires liquid oil. Just make sure the other ingredients aren’t too cold or they will re-solidify the coconut oil. Coconut oil withstands high heat well so it’s a good choice for high-heat cooking and baking.
Keep in mind that coconut oil has a rich, vanilla-like flavor. It’s a delicious alternative in baked goods, but may not be right for all recipes.
Flaxseed oil, also known as linseed oil, comes from the seeds of the flax plant. It’s a good source of soluble fiber. A 2015 animal study showed that flaxseed oil has laxative effects and may help relieve constipation. Some evidence shows that it may help lower cholesterol and reduce heart disease, but more research is needed.
Flaxseed oil is not heat-stable. It shouldn’t be used as a vegetable oil substitute in recipes that call for cooking over heat. You can use it in marinades and salad dressings. It’s also great drizzled over grilled vegetables or other cooked foods before serving.
Avocado oil comes from pressed avocado pulp. It’s made up mostly of oleic acid, a healthy monounsaturated fat. It’s also a good source of antioxidants to help fight free radicals in the body.
A 2005 study showed that avocado oil may help lower blood pressure. A separate study the same year found that avocado oil helps boost carotenoid absorption in salads and salsa. Carotenoids like beta carotene and lutein are linked to eye health and may reduce the risk of some cancers.
Avocado oil has a creamy, buttery taste. It also has a high smoke point. It’s good for:
Substitute avocado oil for vegetable oil in equal amounts. Avocado oil isn’t as easy to find at your local grocery store as other vegetable oil substitutes. Most natural health food stores keep it in stock.
Peanut oil and grapeseed oil are often heralded as healthy substitutes for vegetable oil. Both have a high smoke point and are good for:
They both contain vitamin E, monounsaturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats. The problem is, they contain high levels of omega-6 fatty acids.
According to Dr. Andrew Weil, since the typical American diet includes large amounts of processed foods, Americans are consuming too many omega-6 fatty acids. This gets the delicate balance of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids out of whack.
When omega-6 fatty acids are too high, your risk of inflammation and disease increases. Peanut oil and grapeseed oil can be healthy alternatives to vegetable oil. But you should use them sparingly if you consume a lot of processed foods or foods which naturally contain omega-6 fatty acids.
Peanut oil is made from peanuts. Don’t use it if you have a peanut allergy.
Vegetable oil substitutes don’t have to be other oils. Unsweetened applesauce, mashed fruit, or pureed fruit such as bananas, pears, and prunes may be substituted for vegetable oil in baked goods.
You can substitute cup for cup. The texture of your foods may be altered slightly. For example, applesauce makes cookies moister and more cake-like.
Yogurt may also be substituted for vegetable oil in baked goods. Plain yogurt is recommended for most recipes, but vanilla yogurt adds a pop of flavor. Choose organic, low-fat varieties. Replace vegetable oil cup for cup, but also reduce the amount of other liquids in your recipe. The end result will have a tangy flavor.
If you’re phasing vegetable oil out of your diet, you have many alternatives. If weight loss is your goal, use applesauce or yogurt to make baked goods lighter. Olive oil and flaxseed oil are better used raw. Avocado oil is great for high-heat cooking. Coconut oil adds richness to baked goods.
If possible, choose organic, cold-pressed, unrefined oils. Don’t limit yourself to a single oil substitute. Keep several healthy oils in your pantry to enjoy a variety of culinary tastes, textures, and health benefits.