4 Alternative Healthy Cooking Oils

While olive and canola oils are definitely healthy choices, newer oils like grapeseed, avocado, and coconut oil are vying for attention. Are they worth your health dollars?

Newly popular oils like hemp and grape seed, and long time standards in Asian cuisine like sesame oil are showing up in supermarkets with their own good-for-you claims. The question is, how do they rate when compared to heart-healthy staples like olive and canola oil? And more importantly, how do you cook with them? We took a look at some of the more popular nut, seed, and fruit oils that are showing up these days in the local grocery to find out how they taste and how they stand up when it comes to nutrition. Here's a look at eight oils you might be wondering about.

Avocado Oil

An emerald green oil made by cold-pressing the flesh of ripe avocados, this oil ranks right up there with olive oil as a rich source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. It's also rich in vitamin E, plant based omega-3 fats, and beta-sito sterol, a potent cholesterol lowering agent.

Taste: Buttery rich with a distinct avocado flavor
Uses: Drizzle over seafood, salad and vegetables. Great for frying and high heat cooking because of its high smoke point.
Storage: Keep in a cool, dark cabinet away from heat and light. Can be refrigerated but will solidify.

Get Recipe: Spiced Shrimp with Avocado Oil

Coconut Oil
Coconut oil (a solid waxy white fat) is riding a wave of popularity among the health food crowd. Some reports suggest the saturated fats in coconut oil are not as damaging as the saturated fats in fatty meat or heavy cream. But expert opinion from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American Heart Association still hold that oils high in saturates (this one is 86% saturated fat) are best limited.

Taste: Coconut overtones with a hint of sweetness and vanilla

Uses: Sautéing, baking, making popcorn
Storage: Keeps at room temperature

Get Recipe: Grilled Swordfish with Tomato-Molasses Dressing

Grape Seed Oil
Prized by chefs for its neutral flavor and high smoke point, this polyunsaturated-rich oil is made from the seeds of wine grapes. Grape seed oil is adept at raising "good" cholesterol (HDL) and lowering LDL or "bad" cholesterol. However, unlike grapeseed extract, the oil doesn't harbor appreciable amounts of proanthacyanadins, potent antioxidants that fight disease.

Taste: Clean, light flavor
Uses: Frying and sauteeing. Good for ethnic dishes
Storage: Opened, it will keep for up to a year in a cool, dry cabinet.
Get Recipe: Arugula, Grape, and Sunflower Seed Salad

Pistachio Oil
A jewel-like deep green color and a rich pistachio flavor makes this oil a stunning garnish for almost any dish. But since it's not as delicate as most other nuts oils, pistachio oil also lends itself to both baking and sauteing. Bonus: It's also adept at lowering cholesterol and, according to a recent report, lowering risk of heart disease.

Taste: Rich pistachio flavor.
Uses: Drizzle it over grilled fish, mashed potatoes, salads or steamed veggies.
Storage: Store in a cool, dark cabinet. Refrigerate after opening.

Get Recipe: Pistachio Rice

Keep Reading: 4 More Alternative Healthy Cooking Oils

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