Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
20 Jan

The Definitive Guide to Oils

healthy oilsBefore you can hope to make it as a speculator and start slingin’ barrels for big money, you’ve got to understand exactly what’s gushing forth from the earth’s crust. Yes, that’s right – it doesn’t start and stop just with crude, and there’s far more to oil than dinosaur bones. In fact, most experts agree that the bulk of crude oil is derived from prehistoric single-celled plankton remains. Then you’ve got the abiogenic theory, which posits that…

Er, wrong oils. Sorry.

Today’s post is actually about edible oils. Well, they’re all technically edible – they can all be swallowed and digested – but as for being palatable, let alone healthful? That remains to be seen. Not all oils are created equal, especially given the fact that most of the ones people use nowadays are actually created in an industrial laboratory. No oil “exists naturally,” mind you. Olive oil isn’t harvested by leaving open containers under leaking, dripping olives on the branch, nor is that liquid sloshing around inside a coconut pure oil. I’m not trying to disparage processing in and of itself. It takes a certain amount of processing to get any sort of oil, but a good general rule is to avoid consuming the oils that require processing on a large scale. If it involves an industrial plant, multiple stainless steel vats, a deodorizer, a de-gummer, and the harsh petroleum-derived solvent known as hexane, I wouldn’t eat it. But that’s just me (and Grok, who probably wasn’t processing wild rapeseed to get the precious canola oil).

But this is the Definitive Guide to Oils. Everything goes. No stone left unturned. No oil left un-tasted and bereft of analysis for fatty acid profile, oxidative potential, and rancidity proclivity.


Canola oil comes from rapeseed, a completely unpalatable seed rich in erucic acid, which is bitter and rather toxic. Canola oil is rapeseed oil stripped of erucic acid, as I detailed in this previous post. It gets a lot of attention from doctors as a “heart healthy” oil (one of the “good” fats) rich in omega-3s, but the fact that canola processing generally uses upwards of 500 degrees means a good portion of the Omega-3s could be rancid on the shelf.

61% MUFA
21% Omega-6 PUFA
9-11% Omega-3 PUFA
7% SFA

Flax Seed

I mentioned the seed and its oil a few times, and, after being initially supportive of flax consumption, I now recommend minimizing intake. People generally use flax oil as an Omega-3 supplement, rather than for cooking – and this is a good choice, seeing as how flax is almost entirely made of PUFAs, which are prone to rancidity and oxidation when exposed to heat. Meat eaters, though, would be better off just taking fish oil. The DHA and EPA in fish oil are far more useful than the ALA in flax seed oil. Strict vegetarians, have at it – just don’t use flax seed oil to sautee your tofu.

19% MUFA
24% Omega-6 PUFA
47% Omega-3 PUFA (from ALA)
8-9% SFA


Corn oil boggles my mind. I can’t wrap my head around how extracting gallons upon gallons of liquid oil from a lowly corncob is actually possible. How isn’t it too much work for the payoff? I mean, I’m no corn eater, but I’ve chomped a few kernels in my day, and I don’t understand how squeezing oil out of this non-vegetable sounds like a good idea to anyone.

24% MUFA
59% PUFA (mostly O-6)
13% SFA

Olive (and variations)

Olive oil got a pretty good breakdown last year, so unless I’m leaving out some recent momentous news breaking out of the highly secretive olive oil world, there’s not much more to say. It’s a delicious salad oil, a decent sautéing oil, and it can even be used as moisturizer and shaving lotion. Olive oil is one area where CW gets it right. Enjoy this one, and keep a bottle of extra virgin, cold pressed olive oil on hand for salad dressings. It also does a decent job standing up to heat, but will lose it’s delicate flavors if heated too high. This is a good enough reason for me to use a different fat/oil when cooking at high temps. (Why waste precious (and often expensive!) olive oil when lard, for instance, will do the trick?)

73% MUFA
3.5-21% Omega-6 PUFA
1% Omega-3 PUFA (not even worth mentioning, really)
14% SFA


MDA’s darling, coconut oil is truly a star. I went over why yesterday, and in past posts, but the gist of it is this: it’s a tasty, shelf-stable (no hydrogenation required) tropical oil with a ton of saturated fatty acids. In fact, it’s almost purely saturated, which is why most doctors and nutritionists will probably advise against its consumption. Not us, though. We love SFA. The refined coconut oil stands up to heat a bit better, and it doesn’t have a distinctive taste, but I can’t recommend it. Unrefined virgin oil is a murky, cloudy mess – but a delicious, creamy mess. Eat the unrefined by the spoonful.

6.2% MUFA
1.6% PUFA
92.1% SFA


Palm oil is controversial; just check out the comments section on my last post on the subject. Many palm oil plantations encroach upon the rapidly dwindling natural habitats of the orangutan, which are already in short supply in this world. The consensus seems to be that sustainable palm oil, especially the more complex, nutritious unrefined red palm oil, can be found. You’ve just got to look a little harder at the labels. West African red palm oil, for example, is considered to be pretty safe environmentally. Oh, and palm oil is also highly saturated and heat stable. Red palm oil is also stable, but it deserves special mention for its nutrient density – lots of CoQ10, Vitamin E, and SFAs.

39% MUFA
11% PUFA
50% SFA


Fish oil is another one of the widely accepted “good” fats. This time, though, we agree with Conventional Wisdom. The Omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, are unequivocally beneficial to us. They help balance our O6-O3 ratios (to a more appropriate, pre-agricultural level), while they also promote proper cell function, good lipid numbers, and improved insulin sensitivity. To bone up on more fish oil information, check out my Definitive Guide on the subject.

EPA and DHA levels vary by brand and type of fish. Check the label for yourself, or look at this handy table if you’re getting your fish oil from actual seafood.


Who doesn’t love a plump avocado with the right amount of give? If you can’t get your hands on a good one, the next best thing might be a bottle of avocado oil. Its fatty acid profile is similar to that of olive oil, but it has an even higher smoke point, making it a decent choice for cooking. Personally, I still wouldn’t use it for high heat cooking. The light, subtle taste lends itself far better to salad dressing, if you ask me. Buy in dark bottles to minimize oxidation.

70% MUFA
12% Omega-6 PUFA
1% Omega-3 PUFA
12% SFA


Walnut oil is one of the better tasting nut oils. It is high in Omega-6s, sure, but walnut oil isn’t something you’re going to use every day, or even every week. The stuff tastes great, though, and a small splash goes a long way at the end of a cooking session or onto a tossed salad. I definitely would advise against using this on a regular basis, especially for cooking, and you should always store it in a dark, cool spot in the house. For those that “do dairy”, try mixing a bit with some full-fat Greek yogurt, or unsweetened fresh whipped cream and berries: amazing.

23% MUFA
53% Omega-6 PUFA
10% Omega-3 PUFA
9% SFA

Macadamia Nut

I love this oil, but I also love the parent nut. The oil assumes the buttery, smooth, rich flavor of the macadamia nut, making it an interesting – but favorable – choice for salad dressings. It’s also remarkably high in MUFAs and low in PUFAs, so it won’t throw your ratios all out of whack. Makes a surprisingly good homemade mayonnaise, and can be used to sauté and cook in a pinch. The only drawback is its price; macadamia nut oil can get expensive.

71% MUFA
10% PUFA
12% SFA

Sesame Seed

The premier “flavor oil.” Sesame seed oil, especially the toasted variety, offers an unmatched and irreplaceable flavor profile. Certain Asian dishes work best with a bit of sesame oil, but if you’re wary of using it over high heat (which you probably should be), you can always add it to the dish after cooking. Despite the high PUFA content, sesame oil also contains a ton of antioxidants that can help minimize heat oxidation. I wouldn’t use this more than semi-regularly, though. Good to keep in your pantry (or fridge), but not an everyday item.

43% MUFA
43% PUFA
14% SFA


Restaurants like to tout that they use “healthy” peanut oil in their deep fryers. Okay, the relatively MUFA-rich peanut oil may be a better choice than corn or sunflower oil for high heating, but it’s still a legume (already off limits) oil prone to rancidity. In the UK, it’s known as groundnut oil. Avoid both.

46% MUFA
32% PUFA
17% SFA

Sunflower Seed

Insanely high in PUFAs with little to no Omega-3s to balance them out, sunflower seed oil is a pretty bad choice for sauteeing, baking, roasting, and even salad making. Trouble is it’s everywhere, and it has a reputation for being healthy. Just don’t keep the stuff in your house (not a problem; it’s flavorless, odorless, and completely boring), and keep dining out in cheap chain restaurants to a minimum (or you could do what I do and request everything be cooked in butter), and you should be able to avoid sunflower seed oil.

19% MUFA
63% PUFA
10% SFA


Like sunflower seed oil but worse, the oil derived from the “bastard saffron” is about 75% Omega-6 PUFAs with not a speck of Omega-3 in sight. It’s also lower in MUFAs and SFAs. What’s not to dislike?

14% MUFA
75% PUFA
6% SFA


At least most of the oils I’ve mentioned come from technically edible plants, in some form or another. Cottonseed oil, however, comes from cotton. You know, the stuff that shirts are made of? Yeah. It’s everywhere, from margarines to cereal to shortening to frozen desserts to bread, because it’s cheaper than other oils (you can thank its status as one of Monsanto’s big four genetically modified crops for that) and it only needs “partial hydrogenation” to maintain stability. Luckily, that won’t be an issue for PBers who already avoid all that stuff in the first place. Warn your friends and family, though.

17% MUFA
52% PUFA
26% SFA

Grape Seed

Skip this stuff. It does have a buttery taste, and it gets a lot of hype as a worthy replacement for olive oil, but it’s got high oxidation potential, especially if you follow the recommended instructions and use it for deep frying or high heat sauteeing. It’s rather pricey, too, so there’s no good reason to use it.

16% MUFA
70% PUFA
9% SFA

Soybean Oil

Soybean oil is about as ubiquitous as corn and canola (again, thanks to Monsanto). In fact, you’ll often see an ingredient list include “canola and/or soybean oil.” Huh? Do food manufacturers honestly not know what kind of fat is going into their product? Best avoid the crapshoot and skip anything that “might contain” soybean oil altogether. The fact that it’s often partially hydrogenated suppresses my appetite even further. No thanks.

23% MUFA
51% Omega-6 PUFA
6% Omega-3 PUFA
14% SFA

As you can tell, seed and nut oils probably shouldn’t make up a significant portion of your diet. Some, like coconut, olive, macadamia, palm, avocado, and fish, are great, but the vast majority of oils are unnatural and way too high in PUFAs. And just remember, with some of the more questionable/borderline oils, a little bit goes a long way.

I haven’t covered every edible oil known to humankind in this article. For information on other oils reference these tables and start up a discussion in the comment board or the forum.

What are your preferred edible oils and why? Let me know your thoughts. Grok on!

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Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. About the only oils I use with regularity are coconut oil (for cooking) and olive oil (for salads). We did make the mistake of buying a bottle of sunflower oil, on the basis that “if sunflower seeds are okay, the oil must be too”. Must remember to throw that out at some point – is there a safe way to dispose of oil, instead of just throwing it down the drain?

    gcb wrote on January 20th, 2010
    • Nah, don’t throw it out – put it with your tools. Next time you have a squeaky hinge or a stuck nut break out the sunflower oil and have at it. That’s how I’m getting rid of my old canola oil and the “light” olive oil I received as a gift.

      Geoff wrote on January 20th, 2010
      • In a similar light, I’ve also found that canola oil works great for cleaning paint brushes (for all you artists out there.)

        Darrin wrote on January 20th, 2010
        • Darrin, I am a portrait painter, are you using this to condition your brushes before and after use or literally for cleaning? What medium?

          mike wrote on January 21st, 2010
        • the great oil debate… Ha I associate (don’t eat with them)with ppl who think becel is healthy. Canola is in everything!!! have to make from scratch until it gets worked out, like sacrine, if I had any of that s**t i whould clean my brushes with it,I use mineral oil ;o)

          ria wrote on June 21st, 2012
        • I also do oil painting but I’m nervous about using any kind of oil long term on the brush that might oxidize and harden over time like linseed. Usually I just use mineral oil to maintain the condition of the hair while the brushes are just sitting around.

          Heda wrote on April 18th, 2013
      • Wait, what’s wrong with “light” olive oil? Light refers to color for olive oil, is there some heated processing to change its color or is it (my assumption) a natural variation thing?

        Matt wrote on January 20th, 2010
        • I think “light” olive oil is refined. I know it’s not extra virgin (or it would be labeled as such), and it doesn’t have any flavor.

          In my opinion, applying “light” was just a way to make the lower quality oil sound more healthful and appealing.

          Geoff wrote on January 20th, 2010
        • Basically, “light” means heavily-refined olive oil, removing much of its flavour and possibly damaging the good stuff within. Sometimes it’s olive oil that’s been adulterated with other, lesser oils such as canola.

          gcb wrote on January 20th, 2010
        • Wow, interesting. I shouldn’t be so surprised.

          Matt wrote on January 21st, 2010
        • That’s not olive oil at all.Watch this.

          Julia wrote on December 9th, 2012
        • any olive oil that is not extra virgin is a refined oil.

          Jeremy wrote on November 6th, 2014
      • hey, so what’s wrong with the light olive oil. i like it for cooking when I don’t want an olive oil flavor. is something in the processing making it out of favor for you?

        David wrote on January 9th, 2012
        • Melissa, from The Clothes Make the Girl and Author of Well Fed, says she uses light Olive Oil to make her homemade mayo so it doesn’t get bogged down with a heavy olive taste.

          Tina B. wrote on April 27th, 2012
        • When I was in Greece for 3 weeks, the topic of the “light” olive oil came up. In the same way that Extra Virgin is the first press, “light” olive oil is the very last. The Greeks see it as a byproduct of cleaning the olive press and are really surprised/appalled that they’re selling it in the US as edible! They say it’s often adulterated with chemicals used to clean the machine. They don’t sell or consume it there. That was enough reason for me not to use it! :-)

          Ellen wrote on March 13th, 2014
      • Canola oil can be used in a pinch as hydraulic fluid. It works, and it doesn’t harm the leaky seals in an old tractor.

        Joe wrote on February 6th, 2015
    • Use it in your diesel engines 😉

      NorthernMonkeyGirl wrote on January 20th, 2010
    • If you [ or your friends] have a diesel car you could use it as fuel.

      I made the same mistake – came across some organic cheap sunflower oil and stocked up – I’ll pass it on to friend
      and he can pour it in his fuel tank.

      Flo wrote on December 5th, 2011
    • What do you know about Rice Bran Oil?
      I love the way it cooks and how I can bake with it. And due to it high smoke point I can even deep or stir fry with it. It also is very high in antioxidents.

      Mitra wrote on March 26th, 2012
      • Rice Bran Oil is not good.

        Helen wrote on December 15th, 2012
    • Cotton is one of the most pesticide laden crops. Since cotton is not used for human consumption they feel they can use some pretty harsh chemicals on it. Another reason to avoid cottonseed oil altogether.

      Kate wrote on August 29th, 2013
      • It is true that most cotton grown in the US is genetically modified and treated with some amount of pesticides. However, pesticide use is minimal (those who believe it is a heavily pesticide laden crop are living in the 1970s when pesticides were used to eradicate the boll weevil) and in fact fewer pesticides are used to grow cotton than to grow corn or soybeans in the US. Cotton has also been grown and regulated as a food crop in the US for more than 100 years.
        I don’t work for the cottons industry, but my company does sell wonderful flavor-infused cottonseed oils that are CERTIFIED pesticide-free, are gluten-free, Kosher, Vegan and contain zero cholesterol and zero trans fat. Wake up and learn a little about cotton in the 21st century. It might just surprise you. Visit to learn more.

        sarah wrote on January 6th, 2014
    • I actually use old bottles of corn oil in my chain saw for bar oil. During cold weather it flows a lot better than regular bar oil.

      CT paul wrote on December 2nd, 2013
    • Use it to season cast iron, can use it on tools as was mentioned. You can add a little bit to your newspaper when using a chimney starter to get charcoal going… this will speed things up.

      You can use a little on your whet stone when sharpening your knives….

      I’m sure I could think of other things

      nick wrote on January 21st, 2014
    • Never throw out oil, no matter what. Oil has so many uses. You can make bio fuels out of it. Use it as a lubricant. All oils are concentrated forms of energy. If youre a survivalist, try taking the oil and putting it into jars full of cotton balls to use as emergency fire starters. If youre throwing away oil, youre throwing away energy.

      Shansen wrote on January 4th, 2015
  2. Nice post.

    One oil I have used extensively in the past but have never found a mention of on MDA is Carotino oil….. thoughts?

    Steve wrote on January 20th, 2010
    • As I understand, carotino oil is a blend of red palm oil and canola oil. See Canola Oil above…

      Mark Sisson wrote on January 20th, 2010
      • I can’t seem to find coconut oil anywhere around here, so I’ve been cooking with butter, but I keep reading bacon grease/fat. How long is this stuff good when kept in the back of the fridge?

        Cindi wrote on August 29th, 2011
        • Not sure about how long bacon fat keeps, though I know people use/used duck fat to preserve cooked duck for quite a while. But you should be able to find coconut oil on the shelf at any health food or grocery store. I have even seen it on the shelf at walmart, in the baking section. It isnt an actual “oil” that is clear and in a bottle. It will most likely be in a jar of some sort.

          Emily wrote on September 13th, 2012

          nick wrote on January 21st, 2014
  3. Until I started using coconut oil last year, I used corn oil in just about all my cooking, thinking I was making a good choice! I figure that has to be the biggest dietary change for the better since coming to this forum. (Tied with giving up wheat.)

    dragonmamma wrote on January 20th, 2010
    • I use corn oil when I make corn muffins because corn oil tastes heavily of corn. I make them about once a year.

      Kenny wrote on August 5th, 2010
  4. What about almond oil? I haven’t tried it yet, but was curious if anyone here uses it, or has thoughts on whether its healthy or not.

    Becky wrote on January 20th, 2010
    • I use it almost everyday in my smoothees, or when I’m craving a bit of fatty goodness! Hmmm….

      Sham wrote on January 20th, 2010
    • I mix it with olive oil, balsamic, cumin and oregano for salad dressing…

      Dennis wrote on September 9th, 2010
  5. Thanks for this, Mark. Very helpful! My mother and I were debating the use of Palm Oil just the other day. We use a host of these good oils in our home – with the exception of Walnut oil. Going to have to try that!

    BenevolentForce wrote on January 20th, 2010
  6. What, no entry for “cooking oil?” That mystery meat of oils that costs a buck a gallon? …Actually, I don’t wanna know what goes into that. I figure it’s probably the dregs of the vats they make corn, soybean, and canola oil in all mixed together. Ew…

    Anyways, extra virgin olive oil is my go-to guy whenever I want an oil but don’t want to cook it. (I use butter or coconut oil for that. Don’t wanna risk the EVOO going rancid.) I also take fish oil supplements. Haven’t had sesame oil in a while, but that stuff is mighty tasty as well.

    Darrin wrote on January 20th, 2010
    • If you mean “vegetable oil” that’s usually soybean, sometimes corn.

      Matt wrote on January 20th, 2010
  7. Hello Mark. Great list! I have a queston: is it okay to take olive oil “shots”? I have about 5 tablespoons a day, sometimes in shot form, to up my fat intake.

    Raphael wrote on January 20th, 2010
    • Over here it’s probably something close to blasphemy, but I know that over in Italy some women take a spoonful of olive oil several times a day to help their complexion, if that helps?

      gcb wrote on January 20th, 2010
    • I wouldn’t recommend it. If you have decided that it’s necessary to consume that much oil for some reason, use spoonfuls of coconut oil instead.

      psyte wrote on March 28th, 2010
    • I would highly suggest to use Virgin Coconut oil (unrefined) like Tropical Traditions green or gold label for oral consumption. Many other brands out there as well. Great for complexion and anti-viral properties. Not only that Coconut oil is a medium chained fat as such is not processed by the liver, as such no bile is needed to break it down. Coconut oil is by far superior to Olive oil in for this purpose. In fact a topical mixture of honey, coconut oil and cinnamon is great for clearing up acne. depending on your skin type you may have to experiment with these combination’s and or eliminate one.

      nezzy wrote on December 16th, 2010
  8. Great overview! Your efforts are appreciated.

    Kurt Hessenbruch wrote on January 20th, 2010
  9. Olive oil is my basic “go to” oil in the kitchen, but for anything more than medium heat it’s coconut oil or animal fat.

    I also have a daily shot of cod liver oil.

    Geoff wrote on January 20th, 2010
  10. I have to back up the merits of Fish Oil. As I have stated before, I’m prone to sinus infections (at least 4/year) and end up taking antibiotics each time only for it to take up to 3 weeks to dissipate.
    Once I started taking Fish Oil about 2 weeks ago, I safely averted an impending infection and I hope to say that record holds true. Please say it’s so! Omega 3’s – I Love You!

    Jeff P (P stands for Primal) wrote on January 20th, 2010
    • For best quality and high concentration fish oil liquid, use Nordic Naturals. Since fish oil is prone to oxidation, you need to make sure you consume adequate anti-oxidants and Vitamin-E.
      This shouldn’t be a problem if you eat primal.

      Kishore wrote on January 20th, 2010
      • Nordic looks good. I can speak for Mark’s fish oils as well. His Vital Omegas have been doing me right for years now.

        BenevolentForce wrote on January 20th, 2010
        • Also keep in mind that it’s nice to rotate the fish oil sources. There is some adaptation that develops from obtaining Omega-3s from the same source day in day out.

          Kishore wrote on January 21st, 2010
      • Green Pastures makes a wonderful fermented cod liver oil and also CLO blended with high vitamin butter oil. IMO it is even better than NN. They are VERY committed to having the purest, best oil around. Wonderfully ethical company.

        chasmyn wrote on January 22nd, 2012
        • Did you say fermented cod liver oil? Are you kidding? They’re actually selling rancid oils?

          Ronald wrote on May 9th, 2012
        • Fermented =/= oxidized. In fact, it’s the opposite.
          Fermentation, like yogurt and pickles, is an anaerobic process (i.e. no oxygen). Going rancid requires oxygen. Plus, it helps protect the oil from going rancid.

          Wafaa wrote on May 25th, 2012
        • From Wikipedia: Fermentation in food processing typically is the conversion of carbohydrates to alcohols and carbon dioxide or organic acids using yeasts, bacteria, or a combination thereof, under anaerobic conditions.

          I think that the concept of “fermented” oil is impossible since, by definition,(see above) fermentation requires carbohydrates and oil is not carbohydrate.

          However, there may be some non-scientific use of the word “fermented” that makes some kind of sense in some context that is not obvious to us.


          Roger wrote on January 1st, 2013
        • Yogurt and pickles can be fermented because they are carbohydrates. That would not be possible if they were oils.

          Roger wrote on January 1st, 2013
        • Try Green Pastures 75% Coconut Oil and 25% Ghee from grass-fed cows mixture for cooking. It is so tasty. You are right about them being a wonderfully ethical company…I work right next door to their calling and administration center (owners work there). Amazed at the stories that employees tell about how they source their products and how careful they are that they are producing the best possible products.

          Sherry wrote on January 18th, 2014
      • Eating the fish is best :)

        Selenium Binds to Mercury if your worried about that issue…its not a big issue in most fish unless they have lower Selenium to Mercury ratios like Swordfish and other exotics.

        Jonathan Swaringen wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • Flushing your nasal passages with warm saline solution (with a pinch of baking soda as well) with a neti pot will go a long way to preventing and relieving sinus infections and other upper-respiratory problems. Neti pots, which look like little Aladdin’s lamps, are typically found at a health food store or yoga studio. The salty water both kills germs, flushes out allergens, and soothes nasal passages.

      Jeanmarie wrote on January 21st, 2010
      • Neti pots are wonderful. Interestingly, Ayurvedic medicine recommends oiling your nostrals after flushing to keep them moist. And I use coconut oil as a face moisturizer since I went all natural-thanks to Gill Deacon’s book There’s Lead in Your Lipstick.

        I also use Nordic Naturals strawberry DHA. Love that it doesn’t repeat & I notice a huge difference if I don’t take it (migraines & moodiness). 😉 Thanks to Kishore for the rotating your fish oil advice. I’ll have to try that.

        Thanks so much for a fabulous round up of oily goodness. :O)

        mel mccarthy wrote on September 12th, 2011
      • Just make sure to always use filtered water or distilled with the Neti Pot.

        chasmyn wrote on January 22nd, 2012
    • You’re using a saline rinse for your sinuses like I do, right?

      I used to snort water in the shower, but straight tap water has too low of gravity and is actually damaging to already injured sinus passages.

      Kenny wrote on August 5th, 2010
  11. Imagine how different life would be in the US if we put all the canola, corn, soybean, and other bad-guys in our cars instead of our bodies.

    Geoff wrote on January 20th, 2010
    • I’d rather we used all that land to grow healthy foods. The energy profile to use cropland to grow fuel to replace petroleum products is dreadful – it takes more energy to produce than you get out of it.

      Darcy wrote on January 20th, 2010
      • Total truth Darcy. They will use far more petroleum planting, harvesting, processing and transporting the ‘green’ fuel than they will ever recover in energy. Not to mention all the toxic pesticides they are allowed to use because it’s not a crop grown for human consumption.

        States that grow corn sure love the pork barrel subsidy from government taxation of our wages.

        Kenny wrote on August 5th, 2010
        • From a technical standpoint, using crops as fuel is about a 60% energy gain. It isn’t a loss, thermodynamically speaking, but it is horrible. When you take into account externalities such as pesticide exposure, loss of biodiversity, and soil erosion… When you take that into account is when it becomes an obvious loss. Although, I do know of people who grow oil crops in ways that are high management, high yield, low environmental impact. But then you’re talking about max size of mechanized equipment being a 10 hp walk behind tractor, and the highest input fertilizer being manure. There’s ways of doing it, just not within industrial ag.

          Blakery wrote on November 30th, 2011
    • Or stopped using all that land to grow it and grew real food instead.

      chasmyn wrote on January 22nd, 2012
  12. Hey Mark,

    Great post. I just came across an interesting article and wanted to get your thoughts as it’s based on fats.


    Kaycee wrote on January 20th, 2010
    • Yes, the connection between a high fat, low carb diet and epileptic seizures has been known for quite a while, though the precise mechanism remains unclear. See here:

      Mark Sisson wrote on January 20th, 2010
      • I’ve had epilepsy since I was 15 and a ketogenic diet is supposed to help. I recall asking my doc about it many years ago, but it was never presented as an option. I was told (ready for this?) that I would gain a tremendous amount of weight and be at very high risk for a heart attack! Besides that, once I stabilized on a med (depakote) I did well, and I’ve been seizure free for over 20years.
        All that being said, I’m considering taper off the med. I think a primal diet full of good fats will facilitate this. I’m still unsure though. One seizure at the wrong time can pretty much ruin your life, and I’ve never had any side effects from the med. I could be the Depakote poster boy, since I’ve been on it since it’s been legal in the US.

        Dave, RN wrote on January 20th, 2010
        • More on this:

          “An obvious question the Irvines had was whether the cholesterol would create a new problem for Max’s health”.

          “We monitor the children very carefully,” Wirrell said. “We monitor their blood for cholesterol problems. And in truth very few children actually end up with cholesterol or lipid problems on the diet.”

          I like that! We feed the kids large amounts of fat and they still end up with no arterycloggingsaturatedfat issues!

          Dave, RN wrote on January 20th, 2010
        • Hear the Jimmy Moore podcast of his interview with Dr. Deborah Snyder on the ketogenic diet for epilepsy, link here:

          Jeanmarie wrote on January 21st, 2010
        • Is it the sort of med that needs to be taken consistently for it to work? Or is it a sort of when it’s on it’s on? If it is the former, then if you aren’t experiencing any side effects (and the med doesn’t exert an overly large load on thee liver or kidneys or anything), why tinker with it? There’s no point in risking harm to yourself if it’s working.

          Also, not *everything* is cured by good living. Sometimes things wouldn’t have any evolutionary pressure to weed out the traits in a preagrarian society, sometimes genetic factors are set, a lot of the time there are congenital factors that are set early on, and there simply isn’t a whole lot we can do about it. A few examples:

          Bad teeth. Yes, you can avoid cavities by not eating sugar. Yes, toothpaste is probably silly and unnecessary. On the other hand, there are other tooth problems that past 5 or 6, or even earlier, you can’t do anything about. Most people in the US have had to have their wisdom teeth out. I have these holes in my teeth (not canaries) where when I was young, I got sick for a couple of weeks, when the enamel was developing there, and it turned out soft. So, the enamel there wears through faster, and I have holes in my teeth. Does that mean I shouldn’t get them filled? Sure I might not get spreading decay or anything, but it still makes my teeth susceptible to damage.

          I have ADHD. It appears at about a 3-6% prevalence in practically every population it’s studied in. There’s nothing linking it to diet. I have noticed it gets worse if I don’t take care of myself, but taking care of myself doesn’t fix it. In a preagrarian setting, there probably wouldn’t be a whole lot of pressure forcing it out of the gene pool. Hunting is exciting and stimulating, and any ADD Grok would probably not have many problems with things like that. ADD Grok sleeping in until noon wouldn’t be so much of a problem if it only takes 20 or so hours a week to provide for basic needs. It might even be a positive thing to have someone who tends to sleep on a different schedule from the rest of the tribe, so there’s someone awake late at night. Sure it might be difficult to get him up if everyone has to move early, and sure he might be kind of impulsively annoying, but it’s likely harmless in that setting. In a modern society (or even an agrarian one) it’s a big problem. So, I take stimulant medication for it. There’s no point in not taking it. I feel better, I function better, I get minimal side effects (a bit of dry mouth if I’m starting after a hiatus, but that’s it), and the safety profile for the meds are fantastic.

          My point being, not that there’s any right or wrong answer, but that while primal living fixes a lot of things, it doesn’t fix everything. If your life is better as a result of this med, and there’s no problem, why tinker with it? There’s worse things than taking a pill every day.

          Blakery wrote on November 30th, 2011
  13. In India, almond oil can be bought freshly cold pressed from vendors which is called ‘sweet almond oil’ as the taste is much sweeter than conventional almond oil. It’s used as a health food and is swallowed directly or stirred in hot milk and given to children before exams! It’s meant to make them more intelligent. It’s also considered a remedy for weak eyesight.

    I’ve also heard of it curing and healing scars from burns and I suggested it to a friend involved in an accident who had thin black line marks on her face from surgery and they cleared up.

    Traditionally in North India everyone used to cook in ghee and you still have restaurants that advertise that all their fried food is fried in ghee for the general population this was replaced by ‘vanaspati’ which is a disgusting hydrogenated oil that is very cheap and used everywhere now there is an explosion of heart and diabetic problems in the country. I have personally noticed in Delhi that women who consume bad oils tend have very dull rough skin.

    Mia wrote on January 20th, 2010
    • Traditionally the most common oil in the north except Punjab and beyond for cooking purposes is the Mustard Oil.

      This oil is pretty pungent and people wouldn’t find the taste of food good without it ;-).

      It is also used in a lot of religious festivals, and marriage ceremonies, as a required item.

      It has n3:n6 ratio of 1:1.4, very near ideal but contains around 23% total. If we are only looking at n3 and n6 its not a bad oil. Whether the erucic acid is bad is controversial.

      Considering it has been part of Indian diet for a long time, it must have some benefits. Still it would not be better than the favoured oils.

      Anand Srivastava wrote on January 22nd, 2010
  14. One note about flaxseed oil – the flax crops (at least here in Canada, where I live) are currently “at risk” due to invasion by a genetically-modified variant known as “Triffid” that was supposed to be destroyed 10 years ago. Only about 0.01% of the flax is so affected, but that’s enough to keep Canadian flax banned in the EU.

    gcb wrote on January 20th, 2010
  15. So other than lard, what can I roast with at about 425 degrees?

    SLowe wrote on January 20th, 2010
  16. Mark (or anyone else), do you have any thoughts on high heat sunflower and safflower oils such as those offered by Spectrum? They have a much higher MUFA content than the typical stuff that you listed in the article.

    79% MUFA
    14% PUFA
    7% SFA

    Chris wrote on January 20th, 2010
  17. All I can say is: Excellent article!

    Gabe wrote on January 20th, 2010
  18. What’s the take around here on rice bran oil? Decent 3/6, high smoke point? It’s often what I use for high temp cooking, when coconut or lard isn’t quite right.

    oyvey wrote on January 20th, 2010
  19. Great info, I had no idea that sunflower oil was a poor choice. On that vein, what about eating sunflower seeds, are they OK?
    I use butter, coconut oil, several types of EVOO, and I recently received some pecan oil. Does anyone know about pecan oil?

    TexasPrimalSurfWahine wrote on January 20th, 2010
  20. A great lesson in Oil-ology. I made the switch to EVOO and Butter a long time ago and got rid of all forms of other oil. The one I have added since living the PB lifestyle is Extra Virgin Coconut Oil.

    Mike Cheliak wrote on January 20th, 2010
  21. Excellent overview of oils.

    The toughest part for my wife and I is knowing which “good” oil to use in place of the “bad” oil in whatever recipe we are making.

    Thanks, Mark!

    Scott J wrote on January 20th, 2010
    • I use this rule: replace with regular olive oil if its going in the oven, replace with butter or coconut oil if it’s going on the range.

      Matt wrote on January 20th, 2010
  22. I’m looking for a healthy, neutral flavored oil that can handle high heat, but I don’t really see one in that group.

    Paul Turner wrote on January 20th, 2010
    • Define “high heat” – the smoke point of avocado oil, at over 500 degrees F, is the highest of any oil. Coconut oil has the same smoke point as most “household oils” (i.e. peanut or corn oil – 450F).

      gcb wrote on January 20th, 2010
      • Are coconut and avocado oils neutral? I’d imagine not. Looking for a healthy oil that won’t affect the flavour of the cooked food too much.

        Paul Turner wrote on January 20th, 2010
        • The flavours are subtle, at least to me. All oils have some taste to them, even things like corn oil.

          gcb wrote on January 20th, 2010
      • I am looking for the same information – best oil to use for high heat cooking (>450F). I thought I had this straight before stumbling upon MDA, I was using 100% mechanically (expeller) pressed naturally refined organic coconut oil for med-high heat (smoke point 365F) and 100% expeller pressed naturally refined avocado oil for high heat (up to 510F). This post suggests refined oils are not the way to go (although perhaps this did not include what I understand is a healthier expeller pressed method?) But I don’t see a recommendation in this post for a high heat cooking oil. Unrefined coconut oil has a smoke point of 280F (medium heat). Should I be using Macadamia nut oil for high heat cooking? Palm oil? Recommendations would be most appreciated!

        Raechel wrote on September 21st, 2011
    • Lard or similar animal fat. This is only oils. If you’re cooking at high heat, that’s a great way to go. And if rendered properly, it doesn’t taste meaty. Also lard in my experience, does well once the product has been cooled, and doesn’t congeal unless there’s a lot of it or it’s very cold.

      Blakery wrote on November 30th, 2011
  23. “Wait, what’s wrong with “light” olive oil?” I didn’t see this addressed yet, so Matt, my understanding is that the “light” label means more refined. “In the U.S., flavorless and often low quality (refined) oil is sold as “lite” or “light” oil. ” That’s lifted from, which also says that there’s much oil “of such poor quality that it must be refined to produce an edible product”, and so they put a word that has positive connotations (“light”) on the label and sell it here.

    carol wrote on January 20th, 2010
    • As I noted above a few seconds ago, “light olive oil” can also mean olive oil mixed with something like canola oil.

      gcb wrote on January 20th, 2010
      • What I’m actually referring to is carapelli brand, made in Italy. The make an extra light, a mild, a regular, and evoo. Here’s the website, what do you think? Seems usable to me.

        Matt wrote on January 21st, 2010
    • I’m not easily imepssred. . . but that’s impressing me! :)

      Deandre wrote on May 2nd, 2011
  24. Im glad you mention red palm oil, I just saw it in the health food store the other day and the bottle (of course) was all rah! rah! red palm oil! Good to know it’s good, but has anyone tasted it? A little pricey for me to just jump in and buy a huge jar of it!

    LittleNappingLion wrote on January 20th, 2010
    • I don’t like the taste of it at all. I bought a jar of Jungle brand (if I remember correctly) and it’s supposed to be the good kind, from West Africa, but it tasted and smelled weird to me, almost rancid. I can only use it mixed with ghee and coconut oil (see my post on that below) to dilute the strong flavor and odor. It also colors the food, which can be helpful with some dishes, but it’s not exactly a neutral oil.

      Jeanmarie wrote on January 20th, 2010
    • rpo smells and tastes a bit like violets. i like to use it in stews and thick, meaty dishes.

      i like to fry eggs in it too.

      shel wrote on January 20th, 2010
    • I like it. Don’t use it all the time, but nice for the occasional flavor change.

      I think it give a curry flavor? I dont know? There is a post on MDA. Follow the link above.

      Grok wrote on January 21st, 2010
    • I wouldn’t add palm oil to something where you experience the flavour directly, like a mug of tea. (I’m guilty of dropping in a dallop of VCO to my tea) but for frying eggs in, it’s alright. It gives a distinctive taste, but it’s more subtle when used as a part of something.

      Also, don’t cook with it wearing a shirt you like, it’ll stain everything including your countertop.

      paleo_piper wrote on January 22nd, 2010
      • My husband is west african, and red oil definatly has a distictive taste. they eat it with different types of greens, so i would try it with any leafy greens! If you can find a west indian/african grocery store its not too expensive.

        stephanie vincent wrote on March 31st, 2010
  25. Is anybody concerned about the 3:6 ratio here? None of them seem to really be favorable aside from flax and fish oil!

    Tara tootie wrote on January 20th, 2010
    • Omega-3 from Flax is not the best absorbed form. You need a high quality fish oil. Based on a survey, 44 out of 47 bottles of flax seed oil sold in stores are rancid (oxidized)!

      Kishore wrote on January 21st, 2010
      • Dr Barry Sears does not like flax seed oil.

        Kenny wrote on August 5th, 2010
  26. Mark,

    One caution when asking for foods to be cooked in butter: I’ve been to a lot of restaurants that treat margarine and butter as completely the same! I ask for butter, the waiter brings a glob of hydrogenated corn oil and I can tell just by looking that it isn’t butter.

    I’ve had managers come to the table to ask what I was wanting, and I told them I wanted butter, not margarine. It’s amazing the number of restaurant managers who will look like a deer in the headlights and say “What’s the difference?”

    Well, one comes from cows, one comes from corn.

    And there have been a few restaurants in which I’ve told the manager I won’t eat there again until they have butter. Steak dipped in melted MARGARINE? Good Lord! What an offense to the cow that steak came from!


    Bill Strahan wrote on January 20th, 2010
    • Ha! Great comment, Bill. It’s true. You have to be careful. I usually try to make the distinction very clear.

      Mark Sisson wrote on January 20th, 2010
      • On a similar note, I recently went to a fancy little tea house and got skim milk for “cream.” They didn’t even have half and half! If I hadn’t been with my little girl, I would have walked right out.

        Louise D. wrote on January 21st, 2010
        • The next thing you know they might have only soy milk!

          Kishore wrote on January 21st, 2010
        • This happened to me recently at a cafe! I ordered a hot chocolate and was asked if I wanted some milk in it and I said, “No, but I would love some cream.”

          Cue the blinking and stare. “But we have nonfat milk, soymilk, rice milk.”

          “No, I’ll have cream, please.”

          Then they tried to offer me that “cream” from the aerosol can. x__x

          paleo_piper wrote on January 22nd, 2010
    • Hahahahaha, I liked this one so much that I nearly fell off the chair!

      Keep up the good comments! 😉

      P.S. Hi, Mark,…it’s nice to see ya here!!! ;-))))

      Heffarim wrote on August 8th, 2010
      • I love that here in Portland, there is not only half and half, and all of the lowfat rice/soy/nutmilks, but they are also starting to offer coconut milk in he coffee shops. I’m guessing it’s the stuff in the carton and not in the can, but it’s progress. There are so many food allergies and special ways of eating in this town, pretty much anywhere a foodie would eat is covered. We even have restaurants like “Dick’s Kitchen” that are ALL real food, including game and grassfed meats, and they make their own ferments. They even have more than one “Paleo Bowl” . LOVE that place.

        chasmyn wrote on January 22nd, 2012
  27. Good list, but one big entry was left out that I always recommend, because it’s an exceptional high-heat oil. I never see any of the primal/paleo bloggers mention it, so I will:

    Tea oil

    This is the Asian version of olive oil, having been around for 1000+ years, and like EVOO, it’s full of healthy polyphenols.


    BTW, I never recommend any oil/fat with greater than 12 percent polyunsaturated fatty acids — that’s a great rule of thumb that’s easy to follow.

    Handy chart on good versus bad oils (avoid oils with combined red and green area greater than 12 percent):

    Scott Miller wrote on January 20th, 2010
  28. Hi Mark,
    I loved this post!
    I put this in the wrong place before so am reposting. You asked what edible oils readers prefer, and why.

    I use what I call “coconut ghee.” I make clarified butter from the best quality butter (preferably unsalted) that I can find, and do it ghee-style, that is, cooked longer to develop antioxidant compounds and more flavor. After skimming the whey from the top and pouring the butter oil (ghee) off the casein clumps that have sunk to the bottom of the saucepan, I mix the warm ghee that results with unrefined coconut oil in approximately equal portions (or up to 2/3 to 1/3, either way). Keep stirring or shaking the mixture of ghee and coconut oil in jars so it stays blended as it cools and solidifies. Needs no refrigeration. This is the tastiest cooking fat around, very healthful, with a relatively high smoke point (though I never push the temperatures), and is quite neutral in taste. Neutral but yummy. It’s perfect for those who want to use more coconut oil but don’t like a coconutty taste. You can also mix in a shot or two of unrefined palm oil if you have some but are put off by the strong color and flavor.
    Sometimes I’ll add a little olive oil to this mixture when cooking, depending on the recipe, but more often than not I use it alone. It is THE BEST.

    Jeanmarie wrote on January 20th, 2010
    • Another great comment! Thanks for this, Jeanmarie. I had never heard of this before.

      Mark Sisson wrote on January 20th, 2010
      • I invented it, that’s why!
        Love your book, btw. I’m halfway through. If only I could get my sweetie to read it. He has read a bit of your blog and respects you, fortunately. He loved the marinade recipes.

        Jeanmarie wrote on January 20th, 2010
        • Jeanmarie,
          Green Pasture’s sells a “Blue Breeze Organic Coconut Ghee”. Hope they didn’t steal it from you!

          Art wrote on January 20th, 2010
        • Would you mind if I publish your recipe on Mark’s Daily Apple as a full blog post?

          Mark Sisson wrote on January 20th, 2010
        • This is what I do when I want my dish to have the flavor of ghee but don’t have enough of it to use it exclusively.

          maba wrote on January 20th, 2010
        • Mark, no problem, I was just thinking how I should write this up as a full post for my blog. I’d be happy for you to republish or quote extensively from it. (I’m a very beginning blogger, and it would be an honor to contribute to MDA!)

          Art, I did hear at some point that Green Pasture sells a “coconut ghee” but I swear I made up mine first! At least we came up with it independently. I haven’t even looked closely at theirs so I’m not sure what they do.

          Jeanmarie wrote on January 20th, 2010
    • I hope it’s okay to post this link. I purchased some coconut ghee from here: that is absolutely wonderful!

      livesimply wrote on May 6th, 2010
    • I love this! Thank you for sharing this.

      chasmyn wrote on January 22nd, 2012
  29. Does anyone know about Pumpkin Seed Oil benefits? Is it a good Primal oil?

    HMANAZ wrote on January 20th, 2010
  30. What about Hemp Oil? Does anyone know?

    NutriMom wrote on January 20th, 2010
    • There was a post about hempseeds recently. I don’t know about hemp seed oil it’s very high in PUFAs. I’d treat it just the same as I would flax oil. Okay on salads occasionally.

      paleo_piper wrote on January 22nd, 2010
  31. This post reminded me something I saw the other day. Check this out:

    A visual comparison of saturated/polysaturated/monosaturated content of all the cooking oils

    Radek Pilich wrote on January 20th, 2010
  32. I’ve been meaning to try macadamia nut oil for a while now. The guys at Slankers Grass-Fed Meats (google it) are big proponents. Maybe when I’m no so indigent. :)

    Caveman Sam wrote on January 20th, 2010
  33. Mark, what about 03 supplements for meat-eaters who are allergic to fish and seafood? I get varying degrees of allergic reaction to different kinds of fish (from my tongue tingling from salmon to my throat completely swelling up from dolphinfish.) Because of this allergy, I have never experimented with either the consumption of shellfish, or with fish oils? Am I really losing out by not taking fish oil?

    Katarina wrote on January 20th, 2010
    • Maybe try krill oil? It might work.

      And you must tell me of this wondrous dolphinfish.

      Erik Cisler wrote on January 20th, 2010
      • Hmm… I’ve never thought of krill oil.

        And dolphinfish is another name for mahi-mahi. :-)

        Katarina wrote on January 20th, 2010
    • We are only allergic to protein components of any food. A refined fish oil should be free of any protein.

      Rashed wrote on February 9th, 2010
  34. I agonised for ages about my bottle of macadamia oil, so glad I made a good choice!

    wug wrote on January 20th, 2010
  35. I use Olive oil all the time. I know it’s best to pour on meat after cooking, but the meat (without a lot of fat) comes out so much more tender and juicy when I pour it on. Is cooking it at 400 too high? Even if it looses the Omega 3’s (and other benefits), does it harm the Olive Oil? If need be, I could pour some on top after cooking too, just to replenish the benefits of the oil.
    Thanks for clarifying the oils. We are going to buy coconut oil soon to cook some gluten free recipes. Have you tried the book, or know about the “Gluten Free-Almond flour Recipes”, book? They sell it on Amazon, and other places. It looked good, but just how healthy are the recipes? Do anyone know? And if not this book, does anyone know a great recipe book to buy?

    Esther Anders wrote on January 20th, 2010
    • Esther,
      You might want to check out the blog of the author of the gluten free almond flour recipe book to get an idea of her recipes.

      Sharon wrote on January 21st, 2010
    • Her book is good, but she uses way too much agave nectar and grapeseed oil and calls her recipes “healthy” for me to call it a good buy. I’ve ended up having to make modifications of coconut oil, ghee and other fats to all her recipes. She still fears the fats and focuses on lean meats.

      paleo_piper wrote on January 22nd, 2010
  36. I want to mention high-oleic sunflower oil as well. It’s sunflower oil that’s been bred (not genetically engineered) to have a high monounsaturated fat content and low omega-6. It has about as much PUFA as olive oil, or even less. It’s cheap too. It’s my preferred oil when I need something with a mild flavor. You can buy “naturally refined” (whatever that means) HO-sunflower oil that has a very high smoke point.

    The label will say if it’s high-oleic, or you can just look at the nutrient breakdown. It should have 1-1.5 g PUFA per tablespoon.

    Stephan wrote on January 20th, 2010
    • Thanks–great post! I remember in PB reading about high-oleic sunflower and high-oleic safflower oil being okay, and I’ve been happily using the latter. Mark, is this still a good choice or should I d/c using it?
      P.S. I was the one who emailed you about avocado oil and you said you hadn’t heard of it–glad it made the list. :-) I occasionally use it, along with almond oil (a bit lighter tasting than walnut oil).

      livesimply wrote on May 6th, 2010
  37. Nice Job Mark, Thanks for the thought and the time on this “essential” post :)

    dave p wrote on January 20th, 2010
  38. “Comes from cotton. You know, the stuff that shirts are made of?”

    Mary wrote on January 20th, 2010
  39. my best is canola then olive
    good job very useful information

    Kurdistan wrote on January 20th, 2010
    • canola? really? that’s probably the most processed and toxic

      mm wrote on July 25th, 2010

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