5 healthy substitutes for vegetable oil
Vegetable oil is a fat that is extracted from the seeds of certain plants such as corn, safflower, sunflower, cottonseed and soybean.
There are a number of ways of extracting these oils. One is cold pressing, which involves crushing and pressing the seeds at low temperatures to obtain the oils from them. Another way of extracting the oil is to use harsh chemical solvents.
Manufacturers of vegetable oils market their products as being healthy, because they can lower cholesterol levels and help prevent heart disease.
Despite this, there have been studies that have raised concerns about just how healthy these oils are.
One reason is because vegetable oils tend to be very high in Omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 does bring with it some benefits, such as fighting inflammation and protecting heart health, but there needs to be a certain balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6.
Consuming too much Omega-6 can throw this balance off, thereby bringing its own health problems.
You can read more on the health issues associated with vegetable oils here.
In this article, we will list out some healthy substitutes that can be used in place of vegetable oil. Some substitutes will work better than others, depending on the way in which the oil needs to be used.
1. Coconut Oil
As you might have guessed, coconut oil is obtained from the coconut plant. In particular, the white flesh of the coconut.
High quality organic virgin coconut oil is obtained from fresh coconuts and is usually extracted within a few hours of the coconut being cracked open. Coconut oil is usually a white solid at room temperature but can be liquefied by heating it at a low temperature.
Consuming and cooking with high quality coconut oil brings with it a number of health benefits.
- it contains lauric acid, which can kill harmful pathogens like fungi, bacteria and viruses.
- it can help reduce belly fat (which is the most dangerous type of fat) as seen in this study. It also improves blood cholesterol levels by reducing Total and LDL (bad) cholesterol whilst increasing HDL (good) cholesterol.
- it may fight inflammation and help treat arthritis, as seen in this study.
- it could help reduce hunger, and studies have found that it helps increase energy expenditure. Both of these factors come in handy when trying to lose weight.
Coconut oil can be used for deep & shallow frying, baking or in recipes that make use of vegetable oil. It can also be eaten on its own, spread over toast and used in smoothies.
Not all coconut oil is created equal, so in order to reap the many health benefits that it brings, it is important to use organic virgin coconut oil rather than refined versions.
2. Olive Oil
Olive oil is well known for being a part of the Mediterranean diet, one that helps you lose weight, improves heart health, fights cancer and prevents diabetes.
Olives are harvested, ground and pressed or spun to extract the oil. Like with other oils, olive oil that is obtained at low temperatures tends to be the highest in quality.
Olive oil is beneficial for our health.
- it is a rich source of monounsaturated fats, namely oleic acid, which is thought to help reduce inflammation.
- it is loaded with powerful antioxidants that may help reduce oxidation, thereby fighting off a number of diseases.
- this study found that olive oil was associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke.
- its consumption does not cause weight gain and obesity, as seen in this study.
- it may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, fight Alzheimer’s disease and prevent some types of cancer.
The flavour and taste of olive oil tends to go off when heated to high temperatures, so doing so is not a good idea. However it can still be used in place of vegetable oil for cooking at low temperatures. It can also be drizzled over salad or used when preparing marinades and sauces.
Extra virgin olive oil is superior to other types and should be the kind that you opt for if budget allows.
3. Avocado Oil
This is a less common type of oil and is one that you may not have heard of.
The avocado, from which it is obtained, is quite different from other types of fruit because it contains large amounts of fat.
To make avocado oil, avocados are washed, pitted and skinned, leaving behind the flesh of the fruit. This is then pressed and the oil is separated from the pulp in a centrifuge. Unrefined avocado oil is slightly thick and green in colour.
It too has a number of health benefits.
- like olive oil, it is rich in oleic acid.
- it is effective at increasing levels of good cholesterol and improving heart health.
- it is high in lutein, an antioxidant that must be obtained from the diet and one that promotes eye health.
- it may reduce the symptoms associated with arthritis, as seen in this study.
- it has antioxidant properties that can help prevent damage caused by free radicals.
Like olive oil, avocado oil works best at low temperatures. It tends to be more expensive than coconut and olive oil so you might only want to use it occasionally.
Replacements for vegetable oils don’t necessarily need to be another type of oil. For example, applesauce can be used in place of vegetable oil when baking.
Applesauce is made by cooking apples in water until they are soft and then mashed into a smooth paste. Unsweetened applesauce brings with it similar health benefits that apples do.
- it is highly nutritious and a source of various vitamins and minerals, including vitamins C and B-6. It is also high in fiber.
- it contains far fewer calories than vegetable oil because a large part of it is made up of water.
- substances in apples may help prevent cancer, lower diabetes risk and improve heart health.
- applesauce is a rich source of antioxidants which could help protect your brain as you get older.
Applesauce can be used in place of vegetable oil in a 3/4:1 to 1:1 ratio. So if a baking recipe calls for 1 cup of vegetable oil, use between 3/4 and 1 cup of applesauce instead.
Mashed fruits such as bananas and pears, or purees of pumpkin, prune and pineapple can also be used instead of vegetable oil when baking.
5. Greek Yogurt
Like applesauce, Greek yogurt can also be used in place of vegetable oil when baking. Greek yogurt is very different to vegetable oil and applesauce because it is obtained from milk. Like other foods in this article, it has its own unique health benefits.
- it is high in protein, which is required for building muscle, repairing tissue and cell growth.
- it is a source of B-12, a vitamin that is necessary for energy production and healthy brain function.
- it contains calcium, the mineral that is required for strong bones and teeth.
Greek yogurt should be used in a 1:1 ratio (i.e. 1 cup of Greek yogurt instead of 1 cup of vegetable oil), though some tweaking may be required, depending on the recipe.
There are a number of different substitutes for vegetable oil. One of the best ones is coconut oil because it has a high smoking point and can be used for deep & shallow frying as well as baking.