What Are the Benefits of Edible Oils?

Edible oils offer many benefits in the food and beverage industry for taste, appearance, quality, and nutrition. Oils can be used to improve the consistency of a product or ensure its stability on the shelf. Neutral edible oils can serve as a base for dressings and sauces, while flavored edible oils can be used to alter the taste profile of a food or drink. Some edible oils boast various health benefits and can be used to produce more nutritious and heart-healthy food and beverage products.

Types of Edible Oils

Edible oils are available in numerous types that each offer their own unique benefits. Some oils can create a more healthy or consumer-friendly product, while others provide stability for effective frying or a long shelf life. When considering incorporating edible oils in your food or beverage product, weigh the benefits of each type to choose the right edible oil for your needs.

Apricot kernel oil is a mild and sweet-smelling oil that is high in monounsaturated fat and rich in vitamins E and A. This oil can be derived from sweet or bitter apricot kernels, but sweet kernels are preferred for their lower acidity. Apricot kernel oil is available as cold-pressed or refined, with refined apricot kernel oil offering a lighter taste and smell. Pale yellow in color, this edible oil can be incorporated into foods and beverages without altering their appearance or scent.

Apricot kernel oil is commonly used in the production of marzipan, in desserts and pastries, and as a base for salad dressing. Because of its higher smoke point, apricot kernel oil can be used as a general cooking oil for frying and sauteing. Rich in monounsaturated fat, apricot kernel oil benefits cardiovascular health by helping to lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Manufacturers seeking to reduce the saturated fat content of their products may choose apricot kernel oil in place of shortening or butter.

Apricot kernel oil is also a popular substitute for sweet almond oil because it provides the same consistency, texture, and mild nutty flavor. Using apricot kernel oil instead of almond oil allows manufacturers to offer products that are safe for consumers with nut allergies. Another benefit of apricot kernel oil is its long shelf-life, which makes it an excellent base for any oil-based product.

Made from pressed coconut meat, coconut oil is popular for its sweet scent, distinct tropical flavor, and various health benefits. Although coconut oil is high in saturated fat — about 84 percent of its calories come from saturated fat — these fats are primarily medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are processed differently in the body than other saturated fats. Compared to long-chain triglycerides (LCTs) which are broken down slowly, medium-chain triglycerides go directly to the liver to be used as fast energy and are less likely to be stored as body fat.

Because coconut oil is high in MCT saturated fats, it can reduce body fat accumulation and help prevent obesity. The MCTs in coconut oil contain fewer calories than LCTs in other oils and fats, yet increase the feeling of fullness and reduce appetite. Coconut oil may also be able to boost beneficial high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. These benefits of coconut oil make it a valuable ingredient for nutritional bars, energy bites, and other products intended for weight regulation or weight loss. Its sweet and tropical flavor also makes coconut oil an excellent choice for salad dressings and sauces.

Grapeseed oil is a light-tasting oil that is extracted from grape seeds after they have been pressed for winemaking. High in polyunsaturated fatty acids, grapeseed oil benefits heart health by reducing the risk of heart disease and lowering LDL cholesterol. The omega-6 fatty acids in grapeseed oil may also increase energy and boost fat-burning. Grapeseed oil is rich in vitamin E which serves as a fat-soluble antioxidant that protects cells from damaging free radicals. Vitamin E may also support a healthy immune system and reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, and other chronic illnesses.

Because of its health benefits, grapeseed oil can be used as a healthier alternative to vegetable oil in a variety of products. Grapeseed oil has a neutral taste and holds flavor well, making it a popular base for dressings or sauces. Grapeseed oil contains more vitamin E than olive oil and can be used as a substitute for virgin olive oil in baking, frying, and sauteing.

Hemp seed oil is a nutrient-rich oil that contains vitamin D, vitamin E, B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and calcium. Hemp seed oil contains primarily polyunsaturated fatty acids and just five to seven percent saturated fat. Hemp seed oil is full of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and with a ratio of three to one omega-6 to omega-3, hemp seed oil mirrors the ideal ratio of these healthy fatty acids in our diet.

The high omega-3 fatty acid content of hemp seed oil makes it a perfect ingredient for heart-healthy products and a great alternative to fish oil for vegan and vegetarian consumers. Hemp seed oil offers an earthy and nutty flavor, making it well-suited for savory products like salad dressing, as well as protein bars and energy bites.

Hemp seed oil also has anti-inflammatory properties and has been shown to improve the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) when used over time. Hemp seed oil has the potential for use in beverages or other food products intended to relieve inflammation or ease the symptoms of PMS.

Macadamia nut oil contains a high percentage of monounsaturated fat and is rich in oleic acid, making it another beneficial edible oil for cardiovascular health. Oleic acid lowers LDL cholesterol, reduces the risk of heart disease, and is a powerful antioxidant. Because of its high oleic acid content, macadamia nut oil may protect against the damaging effects of oxidative stress, support healthy cells, and help reduce inflammation. Macadamia nut oil is also high in zinc and selenium.

Macadamia nut oil is a popular ingredient in skin care and beauty products, but consuming macadamia nut oil can also provide beauty benefits. Consuming food and beverage products made with macadamia nut oil may help reduce dry skin, dandruff, brittle nails, and dry hair.

The smooth and buttery taste of macadamia nut oil can add flavor to pastries, baked goods, granola, and nutritional bars. Because macadamia nut oil has a high smoke point, it can also be used in marinades for baking or grilling or as a cooking oil.

Derived from the nut of the native African karite shea tree, shea butter is known for its creamy color, smooth texture, and distinct nutty and smoky scent. The health benefits of shea butter oil come from its fatty acid content and vitamins E and A.

Available as refined shea butter or unrefined shea butter, shea butter has various uses in the food and beverage industry. Shea butter can be used as a substitute for lard in vegan baked goods and pastries or used as an ingredient in vegan butter alternatives. As a substitute for cocoa butter, shea butter can be used in the production of chocolate, ice cream, cookies, and other desserts. Organic shea butter is also available to make these healthy or vegan products even more appealing to consumers.

Palm oil is an affordable and globally popular oil that offers numerous health benefits. Palm oil contains 50 percent saturated fat and 40 percent monounsaturated fat, as well as omega-6, omega-7 and omega-9 fatty acids which benefit cardiovascular health and protect against heart disease. Due to its high vitamin A content, palm oil is sometimes used to treat or prevent vitamin A deficiency.

The high vitamin A content of palm oil also has benefits for brain health. Both human and animal studies with palm oil have shown that the α-tocotrienol in palm oil — which is a vitamin E analog — may protect against neurodegeneration, reduce stroke risk, slow the progression of dementia, and prevent brain lesion growth. Palm oil is one of the richest sources of α-tocotrienol, making it a valuable ingredient for improving brain health.

Palm oil is a popular stabilizer in nut butters to prevent the oil from separating and is also a common ingredient in baked goods, energy bars, diet bars, cereals, and some chocolate products. With a high smoke point, palm oil is effective for frying and sauteing. Palm oil can also be used in the production of margarine. Palm oil shortening can be used as a replacement for lard in a variety of products.

Sunflower oil is low in saturated fatty acids and high in healthy fats that can lower LDL cholesterol and improve heart health. Sunflower oil contains higher vitamin E concentrations than most nuts and many other edible oils, including olive, canola, soybean, and corn oil. The vitamin E in sunflower oil supports immune health and reduces heart disease risk. Sunflower oil also contains the antioxidant α-tocotrienol, with 5.6 milligrams in each tablespoon. Enriched sunflower oil with higher α-tocotrienol levels is also available for even greater health benefits.

Sunflower oil is most commonly used as a cooking oil but can be used as an ingredient in a variety of products, such as granola, energy bars, and cereal. Sunflower oil may also help to relieve constipation and can be used to boost the benefits of high fiber products. High-oleic sunflower oil is also available, which offers greater stability for improved shelf-life and high-heat cooking. High-oleic sunflower oil is a popular choice for deep frying in the food industry.

This popular edible oil is a staple in many households and an ingredient in a wide variety of food products. Extra virgin olive oil contains 73 percent monounsaturated fats, which are primarily the beneficial oleic acid. Because of its high oleic acid content, olive oil offers many of the same health benefits as macadamia nut oil, including improving cardiovascular health and providing antioxidant properties.

Extra virgin olive oil may also help reduce inflammation due to its antioxidant content and the phenolic compounds it contains. The phenolic compound oleocanthal found in olive oil has been observed to have anti-inflammatory properties similar to those of ibuprofen. Because inflammation is a driving factor in a variety of diseases, consuming olive oil regularly may lower the risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's, and obesity. Olive oil may help with weight management, as is observed in the popularity and success of the Mediterranean diet which incorporates olive oil significantly.

Olive oil is most popular as a cooking oil, as its high smoke point makes it useful for frying, baking, roasting, and sauteing. Olive oil is also used in dressings, sauces, spreads, and dips.

Pomace olive oil shares many of the same qualities as extra virgin olive oil, but is processed differently and is more affordable. While olive oil is extracted directly from the olive fruit, pomace olive oil is extracted after the first press from the olive pulp. Pomace olive oil is hot-pressed, and olive oil is cold-pressed. Pomace olive oil is often extracted using solvents, making it a lesser grade than extra virgin olive oil.

Refined pomace oil can be used as deep frying oil or in food products. When used as an ingredient, pomace olive oil offers many of the same health benefits as extra virgin olive oil.

There are a variety of deep frying oil types, and each offers different flavors and benefits. The qualifying factor for an oil to be used as a deep frying oil is its smoke point. An oil must have a high enough smoke point to withstand temperatures of about 350 to 375 degrees during deep frying, so it is best to choose an oil with a smoke point above 400 degrees for a safer threshold. Oils higher in saturated fats will typically have a higher smoke point as they remain more stable when heated.

One of the healthiest deep frying oils is coconut oil, which contains a high percentage of saturated fat but also offers the benefits of MCTs. Olive oil is another healthier choice for deep frying oil, but its flavor can become harsh when frying for a long period of time. Avocado oil provides a slightly nutty flavor when used for frying, which can work well with certain foods. Avocado oil is also fairly healthy. Coconut oil, olive oil, and avocado oil are well-suited for home frying or a small restaurant but can be expensive when used for larger-scale deep frying.

Peanut oil and palm oil offer a more affordable option for deep frying oils while remaining on the healthier end of the scale. Both have a neutral taste and high smoke point. They can be used for frying for a long period of time without compromising their flavor or stability. If allergies are a concern, palm oil can be used safely for consumers with peanut allergies. Other edible oils that are suitable as deep frying oils include vegetable oil, safflower oil, corn oil, and refined soybean oil.

Moringa oil is derived from the moringa oleifera tree which is native to the Indian subcontinent. Commercially known as ben oil or behen oil, moringa oil can be used as a substitute for olive oil in many applications. Moringa oil has a golden color and is liquid at room temperature. With a smoke point that is slightly higher than olive oil, moringa oil can be used for roasting, baking, sauteing, and deep frying. Moringa oil also boasts a long shelf-life, making it an excellent base for dressings and sauces.

Moringa oil has a high percentage of monounsaturated fatty acids, and oleic acid accounts for nearly 74 percent of these fatty acids. High-oleic moringa oil offers many benefits over oils higher in saturated fats, including lowering LDL cholesterol. Moringa oil also contains vitamin C and antioxidants that can reduce inflammation and protect the cells from damaging free radicals.

Another benefit of moringa oil is that it can be extracted very efficiently. Moringa seed kernels contain up to 40 percent oil which can be extracted almost entirely using a solvent-based extraction method.