Spotlight on Vegetable Oil
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Many consumers are confused about what vegetable oil is, and how it compares to other oils like canola, olive or sunflower. Keep reading to get clarification on this matter and help consumers make informed decisions.

Any oil that is derived from a plant source technically can be called vegetable oil, but most vegetable oils on grocery store shelves are made of soybean oil. Some manufacturers now are selling vegetable oils that are a soy/canola oil blend. While there are slight variations in product formulations, they aren’t big enough to affect nutrition value or cooking performance. For the most part, here are some main characteristics of vegetable oil:

  • Fatty acid composition: Soybean oil is high in polyunsaturated fats and also contains some monounsaturated fats, and soy/canola blends supply fairly equal amounts of the two. Saturated fat makes up 14% of the total fat in both varieties.
  • Flavor: Vegetable oil has a light, yet distinct flavor, but it does not typically interfere with the flavor of foods themselves.
  • Smoke point: Vegetable oils made of pure soybean oil have a smoke point of 450°F. Soy/canola blends are slightly lower, with the exact smoke point depending on the blend.
  • Best uses: Vegetable oil can be used a variety of ways, including frying, sautéing and baking.

This chart provides an overall look of how the two main varieties of vegetable oil compare to other popular oils made primarily from good fats.

Oil MUFA PUFA Sat. Trans Flavor Best Uses
Vegetable (soybean) 29% 57% 14% 0% Neutral Frying, sautéing, baking
Vegetable (soy/canola blend) 43% 43% 14% 0% Neutral Grilling, broiling frying, stir-frying, sautéing, baking, dressings/marinades
Commodity Canola 62% 31% 7% 0% Neutral Grilling, frying, stir-frying, sautéing, baking, dressings/marinades
High Oleic Canola 74% 19% 7% 0% Neutral Grilling, frying, stir-frying, sautéing, baking, dressings/marinades
Olive 75% 10% 15% 0% Strong Marinades, dips, dressings, sautéing
High Oleic Safflower 79% 14% 7% 0% Neutral Frying, sautéing, dressings, baking
High Oleic Sunflower 82% 9% 9% 0% Neutral Frying, sautéing, dressings, baking

 

As you can see, vegetable oil can have a place in a heart-healthy diet, along with the other oils mentioned. When possible, use these oils in place of saturated and trans fats, such as butter, margarine and shortenings.