WHICH ONE should I use?

  • Corn oil has four times more cholesterol blocking plant sterols than olive oil.

  • Rapeseed oil is from the same species of plant as cabbage and Brussels sprouts and naturally contains Omega 3 and 6, two essential fatty acids.

  • To retain the flavour, colour and nutrients of cold pressed, virgin and extra virgin oils, they should only be used in low or no heat recipes.

  • The Department of Health recommends we change deep fat frying oil frequently for best results, as repeated use lowers its smoke point and can create trans fats. It should always be changed when it discolours, if it has been heated beyond its smoke point, foams or froths

  • Our bodies need essential fatty acids to survive. Examples of essential fatty acids are polyunsaturated Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. They help create membranes around cells and hormones..

  • Polyunsaturated fats cannot be manufactured by the body and must be provided through our diets – it’s why they are classed as essential fatty acids.

  • Oil or fats are vital to our well being but it’s important that we don’t eat too much. All edible oils have exactly the same calories i.e. approximately 120 calories in 15ml tablespoon of any edible oil

  • Only cold pressed oils contain appreciable amounts of carotene. Carotenes or carotenoids are converted into vitamin A by the body and are thought to reduce the risk of some cancers.

  • Some seed and nut oils provide natural antioxidants like Vitamin E, which seek out potentially damaging free radicals in the body and prevent oxidation of fats that can thicken the arteries, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease.

A Few Key Facts About Oils And Fats

Cooking oils supply different dietary fats. Oils and fats in various forms have been an essential part of diet for centuries and we all need certain types of them in our diets to keep us healthy.

According to NHS Choices not only are certain fats and oils useful as a slow burn energy source, they can also help us absorb nutrients such as vitamins A & D and supply us with essential fatty acids that our bodies need to function properly.

Some cooking oils contain antioxidants such as vitamin E and some contain essential fatty acids that we need from foods to function properly.

The World Health Organisation recommends*, for most of us, that dietary fat and oil should supply at least 15% of our daily requirements in a balanced diet.

BUT on the other hand, of course we all know that too much dietary fat does us no good at all! Each oil or fat has its own unique properties and no one variety should be used for all things. So you need to tailor your oil or fat selection to your dish.

Some cooking oils enhance the flavour of foods, others should not be heated.

To help you, here's some useful information, in a chart format, to help you see at a glance which oils or fats you should use for different culinary tasks.

    Grade/Type Flavour Additional Nutrients Smoke Point Saturated V. Monounsaturated V. Polyunsaturated fat ratio Suitability and suggested uses

Everyday Oils


  Refined Rapeseed Neutral Omega 3 & 6 Very High 430F/220C
All rounder:
basting deep fry roasting shallow frying stir fry
      Refined Rapeseed Neutral Omega 3 & 6 Very High 430F/220C
All rounder:
basting deep fry roasting shallow frying stir fry
      Cold Pressed Rapeseed Grassy or subtle nutty Omega 3 & 6 vit E, K, plant stanols and sterols, antioxidants Medium 300F/150C
baking dressing marinade shallow frying
      Organic Rapeseed Grassy and dusky or subtle nutty Omega 3 & 6 vit E, K, plant stanols and sterols, antioxidants Very High 430F/220C
basting roasting sauteing shallow frying stir fry


    Refined Sunflower Neutral Omega 6, Vitamin E High 430F/220C
deep fry dressing marinade sauteing shallow frying
      Organic Sunflower Neutral Omega 6, Vitamin E High 430F/220C
deep fry dressing marinade sauteing shallow frying


    Standard Olive Distinctive   Medium 300F/150C
dressing marinade sauteing shallow frying
      Extra Virgin Olive Oil Robust, varies Antioxidants Low
dressing marinade
      Light and Mild Olive Fruity   Very high 430F/220C
dressing marinade sauteing shallow frying


    Rapeseed and Olive Mildly Fruity Dependant on ingredients blended Medium 300F/150C
marinade sauteing shallow frying



  Refined Neutral Omega 6 plant stanol and sterols Very high 430F/220C
roasting sauteing shallow frying


    Pressed Fresh, Nutty Omega 6, Antioxidants, plant stanols Very high 430F/220C
shallow frying stir fry

Ground Peanut

    Refined pressed Mild Peanut   Very high 430F/220C
stir fry


    Pressed Toasted Rich Distinctive Omega 6, Antioxidants Low
marinade stir fry


    Refined pressed Nutty Omega 3 & 6 Medium 300F/150C
dressing marinade sauteing


    Pressed Nutty Antioxidants Low
dressing marinade


    Various Neutral   Low
deep fry shallow frying

Solid Fats

Vegetable Oil

  Solid Vegetable Oil Neutral   Very high 430F/220C
basting deep fry roasting shallow frying

Beef Dripping

    Beef Dripping Savoury   High 350F/175C


    Dairy Butter Buttery   Low
baking sauteing


    Vegetable Trans Fat Neutral   Low


    Solid Lard Savoury   High 350F/175C
deep fry shallow frying

Baking Fats

Veg Based

  Solid Veg Oil Neutral   Very High 430F/220C
Solid Veg Oil       Neutral   Very High 430F/220C

Diary Based

    Dairy Butter Butter   Medium 300F/150C
baking sauteing



  Refined Neutral   Very High 475F/240C
Commercial food production

*Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations & World Health Organisation joint expert consultation: Fats and oils in Human Nutrition 1994

A bit about types of fat …

Cooking oils supply different dietary fats.
Not all fats are equal.
Some we should limit.
Many have positive health benefits…

Saturated fat.

This is one type of dietary fat most of us should try to cut down on. The UK government (NHS Choices) states that many people in the UK eat about 20% more than the recommended maximum of saturated fat.

High levels of saturated fat can lead to a build up fatty deposits in the walls of the arteries, blood clotting and increased risk of heart attack or stroke. Some studies have also linked certain cancers, like breast and bowel cancer to high intakes of saturated fat

Saturated fats are usually solid at room temperature. Examples are butter, margarine, full fat spreads and lard. Full fat dairy products such as hard cheese, cream and ice cream, fatty cuts of meat, sausages and pies, pastries, some chocolate confectionary, cakes and biscuits contain saturated fat. Coconut oil and palm oil are also high in saturated fat.


Cholesterol is a fat made by the liver from the saturated fat that we eat. It is essential for healthy cells, but if there is too much in the blood it can lead to coronary heart disease.

Cholesterol is carried in the blood stream by molecules called lipoproteins. There are several different types of lipoproteins, but two of the main ones are low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL).

LDL, often referred to as bad cholesterol, takes cholesterol from the liver and delivers it to cells. LDL cholesterol tends to build up on the walls of the coronary arteries, increasing your risk of heart disease.
HDL, often referred to as "good cholesterol", carries cholesterol away from the cells and back to the liver, where it is broken down or passed from the body as a waste product.

In the UK, the current government recommendation is that you should have a total blood cholesterol level of less than 5mmol/litre, and an LDL cholesterol level of under 3mmol/litre. This should be even lower if you have symptoms of coronary heart disease.

The liver makes most of the cholesterol your body needs. Eating foods such as butter, ghee, hard margarine, lard, fatty meats and dairy fats increases cholesterol production in the body.

Cholesterol is also found in some foods including eggs, liver and kidneys and seafood such as prawns. 


Trans fatty acids are often referred to as Trans fats. They are fat lipid molecules that contain double bonds in a trans geometric configuration.

Artificial Trans fats can be formed when oil goes through a process known as hydrogenation, which makes oil more solid. This makes food such as margarine spreads more stable and convenient to use. Trans-fats also occur naturally in butter, milk, cheese and meat. Trans-fats raise “bad” low-density lipid (LDL) cholesterol and also decrease “good” high-density lipid (HDL) cholesterol level. As well as some spreads, trans fats can also be found in cakes, biscuits and other processed foods.

Unsaturated fats

These dietary fats are good for us as part of a balanced diet. The UK government recommends some people should be eating more of them because they can help lower blood cholesterol. (See the NHS choices web site)

Here are some different classifications of unsaturated fat:

Mono-unsaturated fats

These are “good dietary fats”. They lower “bad” low-density lipid LDL cholesterol and appear not to have an adverse effect on high-density lipid (HDL) or good cholesterol ratios. Rapeseed oil, olive oil, groundnut (peanut) and hazelnut oil are good sources of mono-saturated fats.

Poly-unsaturated fats

These are also “good dietary fats” Replacing saturated fats with poly-unsaturated fats in the diet, contributes to the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol levels. Sunflower, corn, grapeseed and walnut oils are good sources of poly-unsaturated fats.

Omega Fatty Acids

These specialist polyunsaturated fats are essential to our health. However our bodies can’t manufacture omega fatty acids 3 and 6, so we need to get them through our diet. 

Another type of fatty acid is omega 9. Although the body can produce this essential fatty acid, it’s still beneficial when consumed in food, as research has shown it may protect against cardiovascular disease risk factors.

Omega 3 and 6 are especially important to children and women of childbearing age. It’s important that we get the right balance of these in our diet. The ratio that's recommended is 5:1 of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids.

In Western diets, more omega 6 is generally consumed than omega 3. Therefore it’s useful to have a wide variety of oils, rich in both these essential fats to choose from. You can get omega 3 by eating rapeseed oils and fish oils. Omega 3 is thought to benefit many conditions including joint mobility, heart health and brain and eye development. Omega 6 fatty acids can be found in the oil of some seeds, grains and oils such as sunflower, rapeseed and corn oil. They play an important role in our nervous system; help cell growth and the production of hormones.

Other nutrients from cooking oils


Also known as Carotenoids. This can be converted into vitamin A by the body, which helps to regulate vision, growth and reproduction. Consuming natural levels of beta-carotene is thought to reduce the risk of developing some types of cancers. Only cold pressed oils contain appreciable amounts of Carotenes.


Substances like Tocepherols & Tocotrienols are found in some cooking oils like cold pressed rapeseed, extra virgin olive oil, grapeseed and walnut oils. They help Vitamin E activity. Vitamin E and C work together as antioxidants to prevent the damage caused by free radicals. Vitamin C can regenerate the activity of used Vitamin E. Eating both has a synergistic effect. They may also help protect skin from UV damage.

Stanols & Sterols

Numerous studies have been conducted to show the effectiveness of plant sterols and stanol esters in the reduction of cholesterol levels. High cholesterol is a risk factor in the development of coronary heart disease. Cold pressed rapeseed is high in stanols and sterols.

An introduction to different varieties

Fats and oils play many important roles in cooking and contribute to food’s texture and flavour. The following cooking oils are widely available in most UK supermarkets.

Vegetable oil

This is a generic term to describe seed oils such as rapeseed, soya and palm oils. A Vegetable oil can be any of these oils - or a blend of more than one. They are refined oils and have no flavour and very high smoke point. You’ll be able to see which seed oil family a particular brand comes from by looking at the ingredients label.


Rapeseed oil is pressed from the seeds of the striking yellow rapeseed flowers often seen in the UK countryside in spring and summer. It has one of the lowest levels of saturated fat of all cooking oils. Refinement of oils purifies the oil but retains the omega 3 content and produces clear, neutral tasting oil with hardly any aroma. These oils are versatile and are perfect for high temperature deep fat frying.

Cold pressed rapeseed varieties e.g. Mazola have a more grassy or subtle nutty flavour and are high in antioxidants and essential fatty acids Omega 3 and 6 plus vitamin E & K. They also contain plant sterols and stanols, which lower cholesterol. which makes them ideal to incorporate into a healthy diet. Cold pressed rapeseed oil is good for medium temperature cooking. If it’s used for high temperature cooking, it’ll lose some of its nutrients and smoke earlier than the refined versions. Click here for more information.

Corn oil

Made from maize germ this oil is low in saturated fat and high in essential polyunsaturated Omega 6. It’s one of the richest natural sources of plant sterols and stanol esters. These nutrients have been shown to lower LDL blood cholesterol by preventing cholesterol being absorbed into the bloodstream. Corn oil is almost tasteless so it won’t over-power the natural flavours in your food, plus it has a moderately high smoke point making it great for shallow frying and roasting. Click here for more information.

Sunflower oil

Made from sun ripened sunflower seeds, sunflower oil is pale yellow and has a neutral flavour. It’s one of the richest natural sources of essential Omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acid and could help lower cholesterol as part of a balanced diet, leading to a reduction in the risk of heart disease. It's good for shallow frying and light salad dressings. Click here for more information.

Olive oil

Olive oil is a key component of the Mediterranean diet and is one of the oldest known culinary oils. It comes in many variants depending on where the olives are grown and how the oil is processed and extracted. From light amber to green in colour, flavours range from mildly fruity to distinctive and peppery. It is high in monounsaturated fats

Extra Virgin Olive Oil is completely unrefined and is the first cold pressed batch from the olives. It has low acidity (less tan 0.8%) and contains some of the highest levels of antioxidants of all oils, but is unsuitable for high temperature heating.

Cold pressed olive oil, sometimes referred to as Virgin, has a less pronounced flavour and can be used for low or medium heat dishes such as sautéing.

Standard olive oil consists of refined and virgin olive oils

Cooking removes the delicate flavour of cold pressed oils and reduces their health benefits. The low smoke point of the majority of cold pressed oils can create unhealthy fumes during the cooking process, a bitter or burnt taste and the formation of free radicals in food.

So use the more expensive extra virgin oils to add flavours of the Mediterranean to savoury dressings, marinades, dips and for drizzling over cooked foods. Click here for more information.


Made from pressed sesame seeds, sesame oil comes in two varieties; untoasted and toasted. Most of the sesame oil in UK supermarkets tends to be the toasted version. It should be used sparingly in stir fries at the end of cooking its flavour maybe too intense on its own and it has a low smoke point. Therefore it is usually used alongside a high smoke point oil like groundnut as the actual fry enabler. Sesame contains omega 6, and is high in both mono unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are the more healthy fats, plus antioxidants. Click here for more information.

Stir fry oil

A blend of sesame and sunflower oils, sometimes with added natural garlic and ginger extracts, giving both flavour and performance.


Walnut oil has both high levels and a good balance of Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids in a ratio of approximately 5:1, so it is in line with dietary recommendations. Hazelnut oil is rich in monounsaturated fat and antioxidants. Our bodies use antioxidants to control unwanted oxidation, which can lead to harmful free radicals.

Walnut and hazelnut are fragrant, full flavoured oils, pressed from the nut. They have a more nutty flavour when they are toasted prior to cold pressing.

As a general rule unrefined nut oils are best used in cold dishes, like dressings, because cooking can reduce their delicate flavour and health benefits.

Groundnut oil (peanut oil) is different, in that it is refined. It is derived from pressed, steam-cooked peanuts. This has a more neutral flavour and is good for cooking because it doesn't absorb or transfer flavours. It’s high in monounsaturated fats and has a higher smoke point; so can be used for stir fry dishes. Click here for more information.


This light yellow, aromatic oil is extracted from the seed of grapes and is a by-product of wine making. It’s high in polyunsaturated Omega 6 and has good levels of tocopherols, antioxidants and plant sterols, which reduce cholesterol. It’s great for salads and stir fry recipes. Click here for more information.