If you drizzle extra virgin olive oil over your salads, you’re doing a good job loading up on heart-healthy fats and oleocanthal, which has properties similar to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
But don’t make it the only culinary oil in your pantry. “Adding a variety of healthy oils to your diet can expose your body to a number of different beneficial vitamins, antioxidants and fats, some of which have anti-inflammatory properties,” says Wendy Bazilian, a registered dietitian and author of The SuperFoodsRx Diet (Rodale, 2008). “Plus, liquid oils are almost always more heart-friendly than solid fats such as shortening and butter,” she adds.
Here’s some of the latest research on four additional oils, which are available at most grocery stores.
Avocado oil: Mild-tasting avocado oil is rich in monounsaturated fats and has been shown to boost levels of HDL, or so-called “good cholesterol,” while lowering C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation in the blood. With a higher smoke point than most plant oils, this green-tinged oil is ideal for high-heat cooking such as stir-frying.
Pour it on: Try avocado oil as an alternative to olive oil in pesto recipes, whisk together 2 tablespoons of avocado oil with 1 tablespoon each of balsamic vinegar and maple syrup for a vinaigrette, or use straight-up for bread dipping.
Grapeseed oil: Extracted from the seeds of grapes, it’s an excellent source of vitamin E as well as beneficial polyunsaturated fats, including oleic acid, an omega-9 fatty acid that may help suppress food cravings. Grapeseed oil has a high smoke point, making it an ideal cooking oil, and its clean, light flavor works well in marinades.
Pour it on: Whisk together ¼ cup grapeseed oil, ¼ cup orange juice, 1 tablespoon honey, 2 teaspoons grainy mustard, 1 teaspoon orange zest and 2 minced garlic cloves, and use as marinade for pork, poultry or fish.
Safflower oil: A daily 1⅔ teaspoon dose of neutral-tasting safflower oil may improve a number of health measures such as cholesterol levels, abdominal fat, blood sugar, insulin sensitivity and inflammation. High amounts of polyunsaturated fats and the antioxidant vitamin E could be producing these benefits.
Pour it on: Use in dips, salad dressings and spreads such as hummus; or blend ¼ cup safflower oil with the juice of ½ lemon and ⅓ cup fresh basil; drizzle over fish.
Walnut oil: This oil has more than 10 times the omega-3 fatty acids in olive oil. Bonus: Your body will burn more calories after eating a meal higher in walnut-derived omega-3s than it will after a meal higher in saturated fat. To preserve its health benefits and great taste, it’s best not to heat this delicate oil.
Pour it on: Toss walnut oil with cooked quinoa or roasted root vegetables; or prepare 2 cups of whole-grain spiral pasta and toss with 2 tablespoons walnut oil, 1 cup baby spinach, 1 cup cooked shrimp, ⅓ cup fresh chopped cilantro and ½ cup sautéed mushrooms.