The 8 Types of Oils and Their Characteristics

Today, we're going to show you what the main types of oils are, as well as their characteristics and health effects when they're included in the diet on a regular basis.
The 8 Types of Oils and Their Characteristics
Saúl Sánchez

Written and verified by el nutricionista Saúl Sánchez.

Last update: 16 December, 2022

There are several types of oils on the market. Some are optimal for cooking, however, others should only be consumed raw. Both their organoleptic characteristics and their lipid profiles are different. Not everyone is even considered healthy. In the following article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know.

But first, it’s important to note that fat is necessary in order for the body to function optimally, as it participates in a multitude of physiological reactions. In addition, it serves as a vehicle and storage medium for vitamins, such as A and D.

Types of oils

Next, we’re going to show you the main types of oils that can be purchased, and the differential points between each of them. Keep in mind that in order to ensure that a diet is healthy, the presence of higher-quality fats will have to be emphasized.

1. Olive oil

Olive is one of the most consumed oils. It comes from the olive, and we can find different qualities on the market, extra virgin being the best. In addition to presenting excellent organoleptic characteristics in terms of flavor and texture, it stands out for its contribution of fatty acids from the omega-3 series.

There’s evidence that the inclusion of these compounds in the diet helps to regulate the inflammatory states of the body, which leads to a better state of health. It’s important to remember that excessive inflammation is one of the mechanisms underlying the development of many chronic and complex diseases.

At the same time, these same omega-3 acids have been shown to be able to help reduce the incidence of certain diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases. The risk factors associated with them, such as hypertension and atherosclerosis, also decrease.

Of course, it’s not only important to increase the intake of omega 3, but that the intake of this nutrient is in line with that of omega 6. Currently, diets with an omega 6 / omega 3 ratio of 10: 1 or higher abound, when ideally, both compounds should enter the body in similar amounts.

Likewise, extra virgin olive oil contains another high-quality nutrient: Vitamin E. This has a fat-soluble nature and a strong antioxidant power. Therefore, it helps to neutralize the formation of free radicals.

Finally, it should be noted that, due to its lipid profile, olive oil is an ingredient that withstands high temperatures well. This doesn’t mean that it should be subjected to them, as it will stimulate the formation of trans fats. However, it’s one of the most suitable options for frying.

Olive oil.
Olive oil is one of the healthiest types of oils. It’s best to choose the extra virgin variety.

2. Sunflower oil

Sunflower oil also has a beneficial lipid profile, although significantly less than olive oil. Its content of fatty acids of the omega 3 series is lower, meaning that the intake of this product can’t be related to a reduction in cardiovascular risk.

Despite being the most consumed oil in Europe, it’s not the most suitable for frying. Its smoke point is high, but a large part of its fatty acids are monounsaturated. This makes it easier for trans lipids to be generated. These compounds are capable of causing inflammation, according to a study published in the journal Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome.

Either way, this is a relatively cheap oil, so it’s usually the main option. Of course, it’s not usually consumed raw, as its organoleptic characteristics aren’t comparable to those of olive oil.

3. Cottonseed oil

This element is obtained from the cotton plant and has a dark color during the first stages of its production. It contains palmitic acid along with linoleic acid. The latter’s related to a good state of health, as it contributes to the modulation of inflammatory states in the body

It’s quite rare to include cottonseed oil in your diet on a regular basis. It can’t be obtained in any supermarket and its function doesn’t go beyond the preparation of a seasoning.

4. Corn oil

Oil can also be extracted from corn. In this case, we’re talking about a product with nutritional interest, as it has a significant concentration of vitamin E and also provides a large amount of linoleic acid. Although this last nutrient can be produced endogenously, it’s advisable to ensure a regular supply.

Increasing the presence of vitamin E in the diet could be effective in preventing and treating neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. Both corn and olive oil, as well as avocado, are sources of this beneficial nutrient.

In the culinary context, it can be used to make margarine and mayonnaise. It can even be part of the dressing for certain salads, as its organoleptic characteristics are good.

5. Peanut oil

In this case, we’re dealing with a nutritious but very expensive product. For this reason, it doesn’t appear frequently in the diet.

When using or taking advantage of the fat from nuts, it’s always better to consume them in the form of creams or butters, which are obtained by crushing them. In this case, the entire food is used, so other important nutrients, such as proteins, aren’t wasted.

However, peanut oil contains lower amounts of omega-3 series fatty acids than could be extracted from other nuts. For this reason, its quality is slightly lower, although in no case are we talking about a bad product.

Peanut oil contains both oleic and linoleic acid. The first of these has been shown to be positive for cardiovascular health, according to a study published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity.

6. Soybean oil

Soy is a fairly refined oil, so it doesn’t have the highest possible quality. It’s one of the cheapest types of oils.

It contains a significant amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids, which causes it to become stale easily. It’s used to make margarine, as well as for baking and frying.

We’re talking about a fairly unstable product that usually undergoes an autoxidation process. If we add a high temperature to this, the result is a high content of waste compounds that increase the formation of free radicals in the internal environment. We must keep in mind that the accumulation of the latter in the body could be the cause of the development of various diseases, as stated by research published in Infectious Disorders Drug Targets.

7. Sesame oil

This oil is extracted from sesame seeds and is used mainly in oriental cuisine. There are many preparations that include it among their ingredients.

Although its conservation is good, due to its content of oleic, linoleic, and tocopherol acids, it’s not suitable to subject it to high temperatures. The rate of transformation of lipids from cis to trans is high, which compromises your health.

In general, you have to be very careful with seed oils. Most of them are used to make margarine, a product that’s not highly recommended in the context of a healthy diet.

The quality of good butter sourced from free-range, grass-fed animals can’t be compared to that of margarine, which has an industrial ultra-processed profile. Its presence in the diet should be limited as much as possible.

Sesame seed.
The oil derived from sesame seeds doesn’t have as much quality as the first options mentioned in this article.

8. Palm oil

Palm oil is one of the most controversial and criticized ingredients in modern industry. Palm oil is extracted from the seed of the palm tree and stands out for containing 50% of saturated fatty acids. The problem isn’t the type of these lipids in question, but that it’s usually used in products that subsequently undergo a baking process.

Saturated fatty acids have a greater tendency to become trans due to the arrangement of their chemical bonds, which causes a greater risk at the cardiovascular level. In fact, many industrial foods claim not to use palm oil among ingredients as a marketing method in order to trick consumers into thinking that the end product is healthier.

At the same time, the massive use of this oil causes a great environmental problem. This is evidenced by research published in the journal Nutrients. Governments have proposed a series of measures to limit the production of this element, as it promotes climate change.

How much oil can be consumed in the diet?

A quality oil, such as extra virgin olive oil, can be included in the context of a healthy diet. However, this doesn’t mean that it can be abused, as we’re talking about a very energetic product that could produce a caloric imbalance.

For this reason, it’s 2 tablespoons of oil per meal to dress salads and vegetables would be more than enough. In the case of using the fat for cooking, you should only add just enough so that the food being cooked doesn’t stick to the surface of the pan or griddle.s

As a general rule, oils tend to increase the energy value of preparations, but most aren’t very interesting at a nutritional level. Sometimes it’s better to sacrifice a little flavor to gain health.

There are many different types of oils

There are several different types of oils according to their origin. Not all are equally healthy or tasty. Nor are they used for the same purposes, as many are used only for the preparation of margarine or other ultra-processed products.

Keep in mind that when choosing one of the types of oils, you shouldn’t skimp on expenses. It’s better to buy a high-quality option that ensures an optimal supply of unsaturated fatty acids than to buy a cheap version that barely stands up to cooking processes.

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