Vegetable Oil Substitutes: 5 Healthy Alternatives for Baking, Frying, and More

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coconut oil“Vegetable” seems to be a magic word when it comes to health. Eating more vegetables is one of the best ways to prevent, or substantially reduce, the risk for conditions such as heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, weight gain, and even certain cancers. But do the same benefits extend to vegetable oil? Not exactly.

Vegetable oils are processed oils from various seeds like soybean, rapeseed (canola oil), sunflower, corn, cottonseed, and safflower.

People have been encouraged to use vegetable oils for decades because they are a form of unsaturated fat. But the reality is—and a growing number of organizations are finally jumping on board—saturated fats are generally harmless and better for you. It’s a paradigm shift, which is why most nutritional organizations still maintain and recommend vegetable oils.

But think about it, when’s the last time you picked up an oily vegetable or held a vegetable with any evidence of fat marbled into it? It simply doesn’t happen. The genetic makeup of a processed vegetable oil is unlike anything humans would ever be exposed to naturally.

Vegetable oils alone are not necessarily dangerous. Rather, the problem lies in the rate at which they are consumed—they are used almost all of the time. This can alter natural physiological processes and encourage disease. In large amounts, these oils are dangerous. Here’s why:

  • They contain high levels of omega-6 fatty acids, which are harmful in excess. This is not true for healthy plant oils like olive oil or coconut oil.
  • They greatly disrupt the composition of fatty acid cells in the body by disrupting the omega 6 to omega 3 ratio. This ratio should be in the 4:1 or 1:2 range, yet it is projected to be 16:1 on average these days. This can lead to inflammation, cell oxidation, and the potential for disease.
  • Vegetable oils can contribute to inflammation.
  • Vegetable oils are often hydrogenated, which means they feature trans fats.
  • They can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • They are associated with conditions like depression and cancer.

In This Article:

Healthy Vegetable Oil Substitutes for Baking Cakes or Brownies

1. Yogurt

Yogurt can work as a vegetable oil substitute for cakes, adding a creaminess and richness to many baked goods. It’s also very nutrient dense and is part of a healthy diet. What makes it such a valuable alternative to oil is its fat content: it’s made up largely of naturally saturated fats with some monounsaturated. Basically, it is healthy.

Although there are various forms of yogurt you can get—from low-fat to whole-fat options—you should always choose plain, unsweetened versions for maximum benefit. After all, if they are being used to bake brownies, you won’t need the extra sugar content.

For baking, higher-fat options are probably better. First, they will provide oil to avoid sticking to the pan. Second, they enhance the flavor. And although a whole-fat yogurt may be a little more calorically dense than oil, it should be noted that it’s also far more nutritious. Not all calories are created equal.

Furthermore, 100 grams (g) of plain, whole milk yogurt contains 3.3 g of fat, while the same amount of canola or corn oil contains about 100 g of fat.

To use as an effective substitute, simply use the same amount of yogurt that’s been allocated for oil. A quarter cup of oil can be substituted with a quarter cup of yogurt, for example.

Related: Kefir vs. Yogurt: Which One Is Better?

2. Substitute Applesauce for Vegetable Oils

Applesauce can also be a suitable substitute for vegetable oil. It’s important to remember, however, that although applesauce may have more nutritional value (fiber and vitamin C), less fat, and fewer calories than vegetable oil, it’s not particularly “healthy.”

To maximize health benefits, olive oil or coconut oil and even butter are better options. This is because most commercial applesauce is loaded with sugar and potentially high-fructose corn syrup. If you choose to use it, be sure it is organic and unsweetened, and make adjustments to the amount of sugar you’re adding to the recipe.

Substituting applesauce for vegetable oil would require using two-thirds the required amount. If a recipe calls for 1 ½ cups of oil, use 1 cup applesauce and ½ cup oil.

3. Substitute Butter for Vegetable Oils

Butter takes a lot of criticism, mainly because it’s high in calories. But the reality is that there isn’t any substance in it that is inherently unhealthy. In fact, there’s recently been a push for more butter use as people’s understanding of nutrition has grown.

Again, not all calories are created equal, and the calories in butter are of higher quality than those in most, if not every, processed alternative. Butter is also rich in fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, and E, while also being a good source of monounsaturated fats.

Butter is high in saturated fats, too, but plenty of research indicates that natural saturated fats in animal products do not promote high-cholesterol or atherosclerosis in people.

Butter may deliver a slight difference in taste and texture to your cake, but it shouldn’t be too noticeable. Simply melt some butter in microwave-safe bowl and use the same amount that was called for in vegetable oil. Let it cool for a minute or two before pouring it in.

Have you heard of Ghee (Clarified Butter), a better substitute to butter.

Healthy Vegetable Oil Substitutes for Frying and Other Cooking Purposes

1. Substitute Coconut Oil for Vegetable Oils

Coconut oil is a healthier alternative to vegetable oil. At first glance, it may look scary to those who are still afraid of saturated fats—coconut oil is loaded with them. But the saturated fat content in coconut oil may have a positive impact on your health.

The oil is unique in that it’s very high in medium-chain triglycerides, or MCTs. They are easy for the body to digest, and some reports indicate they are less likely to be stored as fat. This is because the body metabolizes them more like a carbohydrate for energy use.

Coconut oil also features lauric acid, which has antibacterial and antiviral effects.

Coconut oil has a smoke point at around 350 degrees F, so it’s wise to pay attention to the temperature setting as you fry or sauté certain foods. Sometimes, you may be required to mix it with another form of cooking oil, perhaps using half coconut oil and half vegetable oil. You could also opt to use avocado oil, which has a much higher smoke point.

Use coconut oil in its solid form and allow it to melt.

Also, a very similar but different form of coconut is coconut butter. Here is what you should know about coconut butter?

2. Substitute Olive Oil for Vegetable Oils

Olive oil is probably the healthiest cooking oil available. Although saturated fats seem to be neutral for heart health, the high content of monounsaturated fats in olive oil actually provide heart-healthy benefits. Olive oil use has been shown to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. It is also a source of polyphenols, an antioxidant that may improve heart health.

Olive oil has a relatively low smoke compared to vegetable oils like canola. Virgin olive oil has a smoke point of 391 degrees F, and extra-light olive oil’s is much higher at 491 F. What makes olive oil so great is how it tastes on its own. It can be used a salad dressing, to sauté vegetables, and as a base in marinades.

Substituting Vegetable Oil Is Easy

When it comes to cooking, baking, and more, vegetable oils are often used because of their high smoke point, and because of their history in advertising as “cholesterol-lowering alternatives” to animal fats. But modern science is finding that these oils may only be beneficial in small amounts. The chemical processing techniques also often cause more harm than good.

Healthy alternatives for vegetable oil can offer added nutritional benefits—and less danger—when compared to vegetable oil options. It’s easy to assume that vegetable oils are healthy due to the source, but in reality, many are full of additives, pesticides, and chemicals, as well as unnatural levels of omega-6 fatty acids and polyunsaturated fats. And depending on your overall diet, they could lead to health problems.

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