Is Olive Oil the Only “Good” Oil?
Olive oil is the gold standard in vegetable cooking oils. There’s really no discussion. It’s got the monounsaturated fats, it’s got the phenolic compounds, it can help reduce blood pressure, and it can decrease inflammation. It’s the foundation of the widely-hailed Mediterranean diet. It tastes great. It can be enjoyed basically alone and basically straight from the bottle. What’s not to love?
Olive oil though, being the queen bee, has a strong flavor; it makes sure you know it’s present in whatever dish you add it to, it takes up room, and it pushes other things around or out. Olive oil is cranky about temperatures, needs to be coaxed into heat, and gets smoky earlier on than most. It really wants to just be used as-is in vinaigrettes and dressings and mayonnaises, without you altering its present perfection one bit.
Sometimes, however, you want, you need, an oil that just meekly fades into the background and does its job with no fuss at whatever temperature without tasting like anything or announcing its presence louder than the other ingredients. Sometimes you just don’t want olive oil.
Other oils can be good
And here we introduce the neutral-flavored extras on the vegetable oil shelf, without whom no oil movie could ever be filmed.
Corn oil and sunflower oil are really holding down the fort. Both have low smoke points; corn’s is lower than sunflower’s. Sunflower has less flavor, so will stick to its one job of adding fat without adding taste to your dish, and does the extra work of providing you with a major dose of vitamin E.
Grapeseed oil also has a high smoke point so you won’t be setting off the fire alarms in your building when you leave the pan unattended for a few minutes. Its flavor won’t turn as fast with the heat either. It does have high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids, which you may be getting too much of if you eat a lot of processed foods. If not, you should be fine using grapeseed oil as a substitute for olive oil.
Coconut oil isn’t unassuming; you know it when you taste it. But since it’s not olive oil it can be used more artfully in baked goods as a butter substitute, without adding that nutty slightly tangy flavor. It is high in saturated fat, unfortunately. That doesn’t mean you can’t use it ever, just that it should be used in moderation.
Olives have really subsumed themselves and their identity in many of our heads to the product of their fruit, the oil, but this next oil alternative has not, not yet at least. It’s time to introduce the next of the vegetable oils in line to the throne: avocado oil. It’s taste is creamy and buttery and it is much less pungent than its more prestigious cousin. It’s mostly made up of monounsaturated fats, making it a healthy option. It’s unrefined which means it retains its original nutritional properties, just like virgin olive oil, but has a high smoke point. Avocado oil has a lot going for it, but we might have assumed that, since it does come from, well, avocadoes.
Food Crowd offers all these alternatives to buy oil online and a few more to boot. We also have a wide array of olive oils in a variety of formats, no worries there.