anti-inflammatory oils

5 Best Anti-Inflammatory Oils To Cook With

Inflammation has become a buzzword in the world of health and wellness, and for good reason! Chronic inflammation has been linked to various health issues including heart disease, diabetes and autoimmune conditions (1). Fortunately, one powerful tool in combating inflammation lies within our kitchens.

As a functional nutritionist, it’s important to incorporate the use of certain anti-inflammatory oils as part of a comprehensive approach to managing inflammation. In this article I’m providing you with a round up of the top five anti-inflammatory oils that not only add a burst of deliciousness to your meals but also come with impressive anti-inflammatory powers.

Now let’s dive into the five best anti-inflammatory oils to level up your health and your cooking game!

Disclaimer: This article was written for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please notes that although this article is backed by the most current evidence-based research, that may change over time.

Note: This article contains affiliate links which means that if you choose to buy a product by clicking on my link, I receive a small commission at no cost to you. Thanks so much for your support! 

What is inflammation?

Inflammation is a natural immune response by your body when it recognizes a potential threat, such as injury, infection or irritation. Some degree of inflammation is totally normal and is actually critical for survival, even for those with a clean bill of health (1,2).

However, a state of chronic inflammation (aka long-term inflammation lasting several months to years) can lead to a number of symptoms like fatigue, weight gain and gastrointestinal issues. Managing and reducing chronic inflammation is crucial for maintaining optimal health and preventing the development or progression of various diseases.

With this being said, we want to avoid inflammation as much as possible!

How do you reduce inflammation?

One of the best ways to combat inflammation is by optimizing your nutrition. An anti-inflammatory diet consists of foods that help reduce inflammation in the body such as:

  • Colorful fruits and veggies
  • Whole, high-fiber grains
  • Lean protein sources
  • Healthy fats
  • Anti-inflammatory spices & herbs

On the other hand, you want to avoid pro-inflammatory (i.e. lead to inflammation) foods such as refined sugars and ultra-processed foods like fried foods, candy and sugar-sweetened beverages. 

Additional ways to help reduce inflammation:  

Beyond diet, other lifestyle factors such as sedentary behavior, stress, inadequate sleep, and environmental toxins can also contribute to chronic inflammation. Here are some non-food ways to combat inflammation:

Oils and Inflammation

As you now know, certain foods are pro-inflammatory. Oils are a fat, but they are not all the same type of fat and some fats cause inflammation. Certain cooking oils that are high in omega-6 fatty acids or contain trans fats have been associated with promoting inflammation in the body when consumed in excess or used for high-heat cooking. Here are some pro-inflammatory oils that are best limited or avoided due to their potential to promote inflammation:

  • Vegetable oils: Oils such as soybean oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, and safflower oil tend to have high omega-6 fatty acid content. While omega-6 fatty acids are essential, an excessive intake of omega-6s relative to omega-3s can promote inflammation. These oils are often used in processed foods and commercial cooking due to their low cost and high availability.
  • Margarine and shortening: Margarine and shortening often contain partially hydrogenated oils, which are a source of harmful trans fats. Trans fats are known to promote inflammation and increase the risk of various health issues. It’s best to avoid or minimize the consumption of products containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils.
  • Palm oil and palm kernel oil: Palm oil and palm kernel oil are commonly used in processed foods, baked goods, and some cooking applications. While they are high in saturated fats, which have been associated with inflammation when consumed in excess, the impact on inflammation may vary based on individual factors and overall dietary pattern.
  • Canola oil (in some cases): Canola oil is often considered a healthier choice due to its lower saturated fat content and higher monounsaturated fat content. However, some evidence suggests that the refining and processing methods used to produce canola oil may contribute to pro-inflammatory compounds. It’s best to choose minimally processed, organic, and cold-pressed canola oil, if used.

It’s important to note that occasional use of these oils in moderation is unlikely to cause significant inflammation. However, for long-term health, it is generally recommended to prioritize oils with a healthier fatty acid profile and consume them in balance with a variety of whole, unprocessed foods.

Best anti-inflammatory oils to cook with

When it comes to choosing cooking oils with anti-inflammatory properties, it’s important to focus on oils that have a high ratio of monounsaturated fats and a favorable omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid balance. Here are some oils known for their anti-inflammatory properties and how to use them:

anti-inflammatory oils

Avocado oil

Avocado oil is a great versatile, anti-inflammatory oil. It’s best known for its high smoke point which works well for high-heat cooking methods like grilling or stir-frying. It also contains monounsaturated fats and vitamin E, which possess anti-inflammatory properties.

Extra virgin olive oil

Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is rich in monounsaturated fats and contains beneficial antioxidants, such as polyphenols, which have anti-inflammatory effects. EVOO is another versatile oil, suitable for various cooking methods, including sautéing, roasting, and salad dressings.

Coconut oil

While coconut oil is high in saturated fats, it contains a unique type of fat called medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), making it another great anti-inflammatory oil option. It is suitable for medium-heat cooking and baking, and works as a replacement for butter in many recipes.

Walnut oil

Walnut oil is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, specifically alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which has anti-inflammatory properties. It has a delicate nutty flavor and is best used in low to medium heat cooking or as a finishing oil for salad dressings and dips.

Flaxseed oil

Similar to walnut oil, flaxseed oil is exceptionally high in omega-3 fatty acids, particularly ALA. Due to it’s low smoke point, this oil is best used as a finishing oil and should not be heated. Add it to smoothies, drizzle it over cooked vegetables, or use it in homemade dressings to enjoy its anti-inflammatory benefits.

Conclusion: Anti-Inflammatory Cooking Oils

Choosing an oil to use when cooking can be daunting, especially since many unhealthy, harmful oils come from plant sources (I’m looking at you, vegetable oil). Having more than one of these anti-inflammatory oils on hand will be helpful when cooking a variety of dishes with different flavor profiles and smoke points.

One small change, like swapping to an anti-inflammatory oil, can make a big impact on your overall health. Including a variety of anti-inflammatory oils in your diet, along with a range of whole foods, helps to manage inflammation and support your overall health & well-being!

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