Is Peanut Oil Good for Health?

Peanut oil contains natural antioxidants and good fats that protect cells and lower cholesterol levels, making it a very healthy cooking choice. However, don't go overboard when you're cooking with it -- the high caloric content of peanut oil can make your otherwise low-cal dish very high in calories if you're heavy-handed with your drizzle.

Peanut oil. (Image: thegiffary/iStock/Getty Images)

Vitamin E Benefits

Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects every cell in your body by neutralizing free radicals that damage cells and contribute to your risk of certain cancers and heart disease. Aim to get 15 milligrams of vitamin E daily, says the Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine. One tablespoon of peanut oil has more than 2 milligrams, which is roughly 15 percent of your daily recommendation.

Beneficial for Cholesterol Levels

Peanut oil is rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, often called MUFAs and PUFAs for short. Nearly 85 percent of the fats in peanut oil are mono- and polyunsaturated. When you regularly consume MUFAs and PUFAs, your cholesterol levels can improve, as these fats are known to lower your low-density lipoprotein, the kind of cholesterol that jams your arteries. These beneficial fats could even slightly increase your high-density lipoprotein. This is the type of cholesterol that helps your system get rid of some of the excess LDL, lowering your total cholesterol.

Lower Risk of Atherosclerosis

In 2010, researchers at the North Carolina State University evaluated peanut oil, peanuts and fat-free peanut flour and their benefits for reducing atherosclerosis. The study, published in the "Journal of Food Science," was conducted on hamsters that were being fed high-fat, high-cholesterol diets. By the end of the 24-week study and after gathering multiple samples from the hamsters, researchers found that those being fed peanut products had lower total cholesterol levels than the control group that was not fed the extra peanut-based foods. Because high cholesterol often leads to atherosclerosis, the researchers concluded that peanut oil, as well as peanuts and peanut flour, can delay the development of atherosclerosis. This benefit might stem from the antioxidants, in addition to the good fats, in these peanut products.

Consume Moderate Amounts

While peanut oil is rich in antioxidants and good fats, it is still a fat and therefore high in calories. If you pour directly from the bottle, you could quickly add more fat and calories to your dish than you think. One tablespoon has approximately 13.5 grams of total fat and 120 calories. Always measure out peanut oil beforehand to prevent an overabundance of fat and calories in your entrees.

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