Whether you’re making a grilled cheese or shrimp fried rice, oil may come in handy during the cooking process.

But it can be hard to figure out what oil to choose. Some oils contain unhealthy or even harmful compounds that you likely want to avoid.

So what are the healthiest oils? And are there any oils that you should totally avoid?

Is it healthy to cook with oil?

Oils play an important role in our diet. Registered dietitian Pam Hartnett told Forbes that cooking oils, which all fundamentally contain fat, help the body absorb vitamins A, D, E and K, and “play a crucial role in providing energy and supporting cell structure and communication.”

When you’re choosing an oil for a recipe, you need to pay attention to the oil’s smoke point. The smoke point is “the temperature at which an oil begins to break down and smoke,” according to Forbes.

If your dish is going to get hotter than an oil’s smoke point while you’re cooking, that can be dangerous. Once an oil breaks down, it can oxidize and release free radicals potentially causing cellular damage and leading to the development of disease, per Healthline.

Another quality to consider when choosing a cooking oil is degree of processing. Healthline reports that highly refined oils maintain a higher smoke point and are typically less expensive, whereas unrefined oils are more nutritious, yet have more sensitivity to heat.

You should try to use unrefined oils to take advantage of the health benefits, but you can use refined oils in moderation for budgetary reasons or if you have smoke point-related concerns, according to health experts.

Additionally, you should incorporate a wide range of oils with varying amounts of fat into your diet, since each type brings unique benefits to the human body, registered dietician Abbey Sharp told USA Today.

1. Avocado oil

Smoke point: 520 degrees Fahrenheit.

Avocado oil is ideal for high-heat cooking methods such as sauteing, broiling and deep frying. It has a mild avocado taste good for savory cooking and maintains its quality at both low and high temperatures, according to Forbes.

In terms of nutritional value, avocado oil contains a high percentage of oleic acid, which supports heart health and reduces inflammation, registered dietician Kat Benson said to USA Today.

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2. Extra-virgin olive oil

Smoke point: 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Extra-virgin olive oil is a versatile oil typically used for baked goods and cold dressings. While its smoke point is 400 degrees, some studies have found olive oil “doesn’t degrade to the degree some other oils do, maintaining many of its naturally-occurring protective polyphenols,” per Forbes.

Out of all listed options, olive oil is considered by experts as the healthiest kind of oil. It contains oleic acid like avocado oil, but it also has antioxidant compounds which help to lower blood pressure and prevent bad cholesterol (LDL) from oxidizing, reported Healthline.

3. Safflower oil

Smoke point: 510 degrees Fahrenheit.

Produced from safflower plant seeds, safflower oil is best suited for frying and barbecuing. With its neutral flavor, it can also be used to make dips, sauces and marinades, according to Healthline.

Medical News Today stated that safflower oil can help lower blood sugar levels, boost heart health and — when used topically — can soothe dry skin.

4. Sesame oil

Smoke point: 410 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sesame oil works best for general purpose cooking and sauteing. It can also be used with multiple stovetop dishes to provide a mild nutty flavor, per Healthline.

As for nutritional benefits, sesame oil is high in antioxidants and provides omega fats, which help prevent the development of heart disease. It can promote hair health, potentially heal burn wounds and even “protect skin against UV damage” — although the latter needs more research, according to WebMD.

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