Which Cooking Oil is Healthiest – The difference between Refined and Unrefined

All about oil! This post will talk about the different kinds of oils we use in our salads, stir fries, baked goods and more. There are refined oils and unrefined oils, virgin, extra-virgin, cold-pressed…etc. What does this mean in terms of how healthy they are? If you want to know more about which cooking oils are healthiest and which are best for high-heat, low-heat, then keep reading. And remember to not be afraid of some oils. Healthy fats are good for you, when they are in moderation, as with everything else!

What are the Healthiest Oils to be using in our salads and in our cooking? Not all are created equally.

There are so many different kinds of oils available to us: Canola Oil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Sweet Almond Oil, Rapeseed Oil, Avocado Oil, Sunflower Oil, Sesame Oil, Peanut Oil, Coconut Oil, Corn Oil, Soy Bean Oil and more. It can be a bit daunting if you are used to using the same kind for everything. Firstly, let’s talking about the two different categories of oil:

  • Refined Oils
  • Unrefined Oils

Do you know which oils fall into which category and what the differences between refined and unrefined oils? Which one is healthiest and which ones should we use for salads, stir fries, deep-frying and pancake-making? Keep reading and find out!


*UNREFINED OILS (not extensive list):

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Avocado Oil
  • Sesame Oil
  • Macadamia Oil

Unrefined oils are usually cold-pressed, which means the oils are mechanically extracted by a machine which applies pressure and not heat. This leaves the high flavour and nutrient content in the oils, making them a healthier choice.  You may have seen “Cold Pressed Coconut Oil” at the store. This means it is an unrefined oil.

*REFINED OILS (not extensive list):

  • Canola Oil
  • Ricebran Oil
  • Soya Oil
  • Sunflower Oil

Refined oils are extracted using heat and a solvent, which are then bleached and deodorized. Doesn’t sound too healthy, does it?

The Smoking Points of Oils – Low and High Smoking Points and Why it’s important

Knowing the different smoking points of oils is important. You don’t have to memorize the temperatures, but it is important to know which are better for high temperatures and which are best for cold or low temperatures.

  • When an oil starts to smoke when it is heated, it means that it is starting to break down. This also alters the flavour. Refined oils generally have a higher smoke point and are therefore more commonly used in things like deep-frying.
  • Unrefined Oils, such as Coconut oil and Avocado oil are not good to use with high temperatures. There are a number of reasons for this. The more an oil is heated, the more it loses its flavour, and since unrefined oils have more flavour, you should use them in things like salads and cold dishes, or at least for when you are not needing to use very high temperatures. It is fine to use them in stir fries and for making pancakes and such (I love using coconut oil to make pancakes!), just don’t use them for things such as deep-frying, as the oil can even catch on fire if heated too high, which can be very dangerous.

What’s the difference between Virgin Olive Oil and Extra-Virgin Olive Oil and Pure and Light Olive Oil?

  • Whether the Olive Oil is Extra-Virgin, Virgin, Pure or Light depends on the olive’s chemical attributes and the way the oil is pressed. Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Virgin Olive Oil are cold pressed, making them unrefined and a healthier choice than Pure or Light.
  • Extra Virgin Olive oil is less acidic than Virgin olive oil. This gives it a sweeter flavour.
  • Unlike wine, Oil is best when it is fresh. Oil should be consumed within the first 1-2 years that an oil is pressed. Check the bottle of oil for the “Pressed on” date. You shouldn’t bye oils in clear containers as light will degrade the oil’s quality. Store your oils, regardless of type, in a cool, dark place.

All these facts and information on oil are found in this very informative and concise 20 minute video on oils. I suggest giving it a watch as it is more enjoyable than reading my text and it has really been informative and I learned a lot in just 20 minutes. Note: You do have to sign up, but if you don’t want to get a subscription, just cancel before 10 days are up.

Watch What’s Really in Our Food.

Conclusion: Unrefined Oils are Healthier than Refined Oils. They have stronger flavours, more nutrients and because they are not used for deep-frying, the dishes you make using unrefined oils are probably going to be healthier than if you are using refined oils. Some unrefined oils, such as Coconut Oil are often said to aid in weight loss, despite the fact that all oils are made up of 100% fat. (Remember, our body needs certain kinds of fats in our bodies, so don’t omit all healthy fats from your diet. Everything is good in moderation and you wouldn’t be doing your body any favours by eliminating them).

20 minute video on oil

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