Forget butter – and discover the benefits of cooking with oils, instead. Often packed with nutrition, such as fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, they are also often high in monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, both far healthier than the saturated fat in butter. Some oils also have deliciously strong flavours, which impart a particular quality to a dish, and other oils simply allow the mouth-watering tastes of the other ingredients to shine through.

Flaxseed oil

Also known as linseed oil, flaxseed oil contains the much-prized omega-3 as well as omega-6 fatty acids. It’s best not to cook with this oil, but instead drizzle onto salads.
related recipes: coconut panacotta, raspberry and rosewater cupcakes

Hemp seed oil

Classed as a superfood, hemp seed oil is jam-packed with a huge amount of vitamins, minerals, all eight essential amino acids and both omega-6 and omega-3. Use this on salads or when using it cold.
related recipes: coconut panacotta

Olive oil

There’s no doubt this oil earns its status as the king of oils. Relatively inexpensive to buy and widely available, it is packed with nutrients and great to cook with. The cold-pressed, virgin oliver oil is unrefined and high in omega 9 and monounsaturated fats, antioxidants such as carotenoids and chlorophyll and vitamins E and K. In addition, it is considered a stable oil and therefore good for frying or cooking at fairly high temperatures. Use this when you would generally use oil – in salad dressings, Mediterranean recipes and Asian ones, too – but you can often also use it instead of butter – cooking vegetables, meat and fish, for example, and in some baking recipes.
related recipes: thai prawn curry
related ingredients: olive oil margarine

Rapeseed oil

This oil is wonderfully cheap to buy and good for cooking at high temperatures. Use this instead of olive oil when making dishes which need a lot of oil, such as tempura or thai fishcakes.

Safflower oil

This delicious oil is rich in omega-6 fatty acids, as well as extremely high in vitamin E when unrefined and cold-pressed. A polyunsatured oil, this shouldn’t be used when cooking at high temperatures.

Sesame seed oil

An excellent source of zinc, magnesium, calcium and selenium, sesame seed oil also contains B-vitamins, vitamin E and omega-6 fatty acids. Well known for using in stir-fries and Asian curries, it is considered important not to heat this oil too highly. Try to buy the unrefined, untoasted and cold-pressed versions as these are purer.

Soya bean oil

High in essential fatty acids and nutrients but, again, a polyunsaturated oil so it’s best not to use this for cooking at high temperatures. Use unrefined, cold-pressed versions.
related recipes: christmas pudding
related ingredients: soya milk, tofu, soya margarines, soya flour

Sunflower oil

While sunflower seeds are packed with nutrients, especially B-vitamins and omega-6 fatty acids, some of the mass-produced oils are of a low-grade quality. Best to use unrefined, cold-pressed varieties.

Walnut oil

Walnuts are packed full of nutrients, especially the hard-to-obtain omega-3 fatty acids, the minerals zinc, magnesium, copper and potassium and B-vitamins and vitamin E as long as they are unrefined and cold-pressed. Generally used in salad dressings, it is considered a good idea not to heat this oil to high heats.
contains: gluten

Wheatgerm oil

Many people who are sensitive to wheat find they can tolerate wheatgerm oil, so it is worth testing if you are wheat-intolerant. Packed full of vitamin E, it makes a delicious addition to a salad dressing.
contains: gluten, wheat