With so many cooking oils on the market, it's hard to know which ones are best to use and boast the most benefits. Peanut oil and canola oil are two light-tasting oils that are high in monounsaturated fat and are versatile in the kitchen.
Oils with higher amounts of monounsaturated fats, like canola and peanut oil, tend to be more nutritious choices as those fats are linked to lower levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or bad cholesterol, in the body, per the American Heart Association.
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Understanding the composition, smoke point and flavors of these oils can help you determine which is the best to use in any given situation and which is the better choice for your health.
Peanut Oil vs. Canola Oil Nutrition Facts
Canola oil is one of the oils highest in monounsaturated fat, making up 62 percent of the total fat in the oil. It also includes 7 percent saturated fat and 31 percent polyunsaturated fat. Omega-3 fats are a type of polyunsaturated fat, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Peanut oil is higher in saturated fat, which makes up 18 percent of the total fat content, making it slightly less nutritious than canola oil — but it still contains 48 percent monounsaturated fat and 34 percent polyunsaturated fat.
Diets high in monounsaturated fats are linked to increased insulin sensitivity, reduced total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol and lower body weight compared to diets high in saturated fats, per a July 2017 review in Missouri Medicine.
Oils shouldn't be used at temperatures higher than their smoke point temperature. When the oil reaches temperatures higher than its smoke point, it can produce dangerous fumes and free radicals that may cause damage at a cellular level, per the Cleveland Clinic.
Both canola and refined peanut oil can be safely used for grilling, sauteing and deep frying.
Canola oil has a smoke point of 460 degrees Fahrenheit, per a May 2010 article in Food Chemistry. Refined peanut oil can be safely used at temperatures of up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, per the Oklahoma State University Extension.
Unrefined peanut oil is best used without heat as a finishing oil as it's much less stable when exposed to heat. The flavor is also much nuttier, making it a great oil to drizzle on pasta and salad for a light savory taste.
Both cooking oils are very versatile, and many of their uses overlap. Here's a breakdown of how to use each type of oil.
Peanut oil is a good option for:
- deep frying
- dipping sauces
- oven cooking
- salad dressings
Unrefined peanut oil is especially good in Asian-inspired dishes, salad dressings, and sauces as it has a subtle nutty flavor and works best at low temperatures. Refined peanut oil is much lighter in taste and can be used in any dish or baked good that calls for a light cooking oil.
Canola oil has a light flavor and can be used to:
- replace butter or margarine in cooking or baking
- oil pans or your grill
- stir-fry or saute
- bake cookies or bread
- coat foods that will be baked or broiled in the oven
Potential Health Risks
Peanut Oil and Allergies
Most people with a peanut allergy can safely eat highly refined peanut oil, although you want to check with your doctor first, according to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE).
People with a peanut allergy should always avoid cold-pressed peanut oils, also sometimes known as gourmet peanut oils, because they may still contain some peanut proteins.
Omega-6 in Canola Oil
Canola oil is higher in omega-6 fatty acids, a polyunsaturated fatty acid that some claim is pro-inflammatory and can increase the risk of heart disease. Replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fats (like omega-6) is heart-protective, but more research is needed to prove any ill effects of eating plants and plant oils with omega-6 fatty acids, per the Mayo Clinic.
Which Is More Nutritious: Peanut Oil or Canola Oil?
Both oils are similar in calories and grams of fat. The fatty acid composition and vitamin content of canola oil give it a slight advantage over peanut oil.
With more monounsaturated fat, less saturated fat and more vitamin E and vitamin K than peanut oil, canola oil is a bit more nutritious than peanut oil.
- USDA: "Peanut Oil"
- USDA: "Canola Oil"
- American Heart Association: "Monounsaturated Fat"
- Missouri Medicine: "Good Fats versus Bad Fats: A Comparison of Fatty Acids in the Promotion of Insulin Resistance, Inflammation, and Obesity"
- Food Chemistry: "Emissions of volatile aldehydes from heated cooking oils"
- Oklahoma State University Extension: "Why Peanut Oil is Good for Frying Food"
- FARE: "Peanut Allergy"
- Mayo Clinic: "Omega-6 fatty acids: Can they cause heart disease?"