Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Chances are you have a bottle of extra virgin olive oil stashed in your pantry. It’s true that this lynchpin of the Mediterranean diet is crazy healthy for you. But if EVOO is the only grease you eat, you might be missing out on some key fats and nutrients. Just as a runner should switch up her training routine for better results, a body in motion can also benefit from running toward a greater diversity of culinary oils.
Not only do oils vary in their flavor nuances, they can also vary hugely in nutrition. In other words, switch up the oil you douse your greens in or use to sizzle up pork chops. You can benefit from eating a wider range of healthy fats, vitamins and oh-so-important antioxidants. And no longer are we being told to approach high-fat liquid oils with more caution than a hungry grizzly. So reach for any of these slick picks, and get ready to strike oil.
This oil, extracted from the flesh of the fruit that everybody is smashing on toast, is blessed with a buttery flavor. Its nutritional résumé is brag-worthy, too. For starters, avocado oil is brimming with monounsaturated fats (10 grams per tablespoon, the same amount in olive oil) and the compound beta-sitosterol. Both of these can bolster heart health by improving cholesterol numbers. You’ll also take in lutein, an antioxidant shown to improve eye health.
Researchers at Ohio State University determined avocado oil can make your salad bowl more potent. The oil can improve absorption rates of fat-soluble antioxidants like beta-carotene and lycopene found in vegetables. With a sky-high smoke point, avocado oil is at home in and out of your frying pan. This oil is available in more delicate “virgin” varieties, which have a greenish tinge and stronger avocado flavor, and refined versions, which have a more golden hue and milder taste along with a much higher heat tolerance. To prolong shelf life, store in a cool, dark place such as a pantry cupboard away from the oven.
Make: CRISPY AVOCADO POTATOES
Poke several baby potatoes with a fork. Place on a microwave-safe plate. Cover with a paper towel and heat until tender and nearly cooked all the way through, about 6 minutes. Slice potatoes in half or quarters and heat 1 tablespoon avocado oil (not virgin) in a frying pan over medium-high. Add potatoes plus salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until crispy and cooked through.
The more wine that’s made, the more grapeseed oil hits store shelves. Squeezed out of the seeds that are leftover in the wine-making process, this budget-friendly oil has a fairly light flavor but lofty amounts of vitamin E. Infuse your diet with more vitamin E-plush foods like grapeseed oil, and you’ll be in a better position to build stronger bones and fend off certain cancers. Yet surveys show that more than half of Americans aren’t getting the vitamin E they need.
Oleic acid, an omega-9 fatty acid present in grapeseed oil, has been shown to help suppress hunger between meals. During digestion, oleic acid is converted into a hunger-fighting hormone that tells your brain to keep away from the vending machine.
More reason to stash grapeseed oil in your kitchen: British scientists reported that adding grapeseed oil to a meal with high-glycemic-index foods like refined breads, white rice and potatoes can slow the rise in post-meal blood sugar. Its neutral flavor and relatively high smoke point makes grapeseed oil a great all-purpose cooking oil for everything from sautéing meats to stir-frying vegetables. In baking, replace 1 cup solid fat such as butter or shortening with 3/4 cup grapeseed oil. Some also like using this oil in marinades, DIY mayo and salad dressings. Its unobtrusive taste won’t bulldoze other flavors.
Make: MEDITERRANEAN CORNBREAD MUFFINS
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large bowl, mix together 11/4 cups coarse cornmeal, 3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour, 11/2 tablespoons chopped rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. In a separate bowl, lightly beat 2 eggs and whisk in 1 cup buttermilk, 1/4 cup grapeseed oil and 1 tablespoon honey. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Fold in 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese and 1/2 cup chopped Kalamata olives. Divide among 12 greased or paper-lined muffin cups and bake for 20 minutes.
This verdant oil is pressed from ultra-healthy hemp seeds and possesses an earthy flavor with nutty overtones. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are two types of polyunsaturated fats found in each spoonful of hemp oil. But while the typical American diet includes far too many omega-6s (abundant in many processed foods) and far too few omega-3s—a skewed balance that can drive up inflammation in the body— hemp oil has a much healthier 3-to-1 omega-6 to omega-3 ratio.
And here is some news to take to heart. After reviewing numerous studies, the white coats at the Harvard School of Public Health stated that replacing some of the saturated fat in a diet from sources like red meat and cream with polyunsaturated fat like that in hemp can slash the risk of suffering coronary woes by 19 percent. Hemp may bring to mind peace, love and tie-dye. However the variety grown for oil production contains virtually none of the psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana. Along with walnut oil, store this one in the fridge; once opened it can go rancid—fast. Hemp oil is also too delicate to be heated. Save it for dips, pestos and dressings— anywhere you would use extra virgin olive oil.
Make: HEMPSEED OIL DRESSING
Whisk together zest of 1 orange, juice of 1 orange, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger, 1 minced garlic clove, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. In a slow stream, whisk in ⅓ cup hemp oil. Use to add some zing to salads or steamed veggies, like broccoli.
Fatty in a good way, toasty and slightly bittersweet-tasting walnut oil packs in about 13 times more omega-3 fat than olive oil. The type of omega-3 in walnut oil is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which has been shown to help in the fight against heart disease and diabetes when consumed on a regular basis. One way research suggests that walnut oil helps with the former is by improving endothelial functioning (the stuff that lines your blood vessels). A diet generous in omega-3 fats may also help runners by decreasing the muscle inflammation associated with spirited workouts.
What’s more, a study in the journal Clinical Nutrition discovered that people who ate a meal high in walnut-derived polyunsaturated fats benefited from a 28 percent greater post-meal calorie-burning rate than when they consumed a meal with the same number of calories but with more of them coming from saturated fat. It’s best not to heat up this delicate nut oil. Instead reserve walnut oil for dressings and dips or drizzle on soups, cooked grains, pasta, roasted vegetables and pizza. Many dietary oils like walnut have a shelf life of around 12 months from pressing (not purchasing). When oil starts to smell musty, throw it out.
Make: WALNUT HERB SAUCE
Place ⅓ cup walnut oil, 11/2 cups parsley, 2 tablespoons fresh oregano, 1 chopped garlic clove, juice of 1/2 lemon, 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in a blender or food processor and blend until well combined. Serve over fish or chicken, or mix into pasta.