Peanut oil is a popular choice for fried foods thanks to its low cost, versatility and high smoke point. Interestingly enough, it’s also been linked to some health benefits, including improved heart health and better blood sugar control.
However, there are several downsides to consider as well, especially when it comes to its ability to oxidize easily and its content of omega-6 fatty acids.
So is peanut oil healthy for frying? How long is peanut oil good for, and how can you add this common cooking oil to your daily diet?
Here’s what you need to know.
What Is Peanut Oil?
Peanut oil is a type of vegetable oil produced from the seeds of the peanut plant. This vegetable oil is commonly used in many parts of the world and considered a staple in Southeast Asian and Chinese cuisines.
What can peanut oil be used for?
In some cases, it is used to boost the flavor of certain dishes and add a nutty aroma, much like sesame oil.
Other potential peanut oil uses include soap-making and biofuel production. It can also be used as a gentle and hydrating massage oil.
The peanut plant originates in South America. It is thought to have been grown in Peru or Brazil thousands of years. The history of the oil itself can be traced back to the 1800s, when the French began experimenting with its production and started using it to make soap.
During World War II, it also skyrocketed in popularity due to the low peanut oil prices and shortages of other cooking oils.
This common cooking oil has also garnered a good amount of attention in recent years after claims emerged that peanut oil in vaccines could contribute to the rise in the prevalence of peanut allergies. However, this myth has been repeatedly debunked as false in the years since.
There are several types of peanut oil available, each of which differs based on the processing methods used to produce it and the taste and aroma that it provides.
- Refined peanut oil: Often considered the best oil for deep-frying, this type of oil undergoes a high level of processing, which removes the proteins that cause allergic reactions in those with an allergy to peanuts.
- Gourmet peanut oil: This type of unrefined oil is usually roasted, giving it an intense, nutty flavor and aroma. It works well in stir-fries along with a variety of other baked goods and cooked dishes.
- Cold-pressed peanut oil: This form of oil is produced by crushing the peanuts rather than exposing them to high temperatures. This helps retain the nutritional value and preserves the nutty flavor of the oil.
- Peanut oil blends: Many manufacturers combine peanut oil with other inexpensive oils, such as soybean oil, to make a blend that’s ideal for frying. This helps keep costs low for consumers on a budget.
Peanut oil is high in calories and fat, with the majority of its fat composition coming from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. It also contains a bit of vitamin E and is rich in omega-6 fatty acids as well.
A one-tablespoon serving of peanut oil (about 13.5 grams) contains approximately:
- Calories: 119
- Total Fat: 13.5 g
- Saturated Fat: 2.3 g
- Polyunsaturated Fat: 4.3 g
- Monounsaturated Fat: 6.4 g
- Trans Fat: 0 g
- Vitamin E: 2.1 mg (14% DV*)
*Daily Value: Percentages are based on a diet of 2,000 calories a day.
1. Good Source of Vitamin E
Peanut oil is a great source of vitamin E, a fat-soluble vitamin that acts as an antioxidant. Promising research also shows that this potent micronutrient could improve immune function and may help protect against heart disease, cancer, eye problems and dementia.
It’s also rich in both mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids, both of which can be beneficial to health.
2. May Help Protect Heart Health
According to the American Heart Association, decreasing your intake of saturated fats and replacing them with polyunsaturated fats could reduce the risk of heart disease by up to 30 percent. Further research notes, “Many studies have revealed that consumption of peanuts or peanut oil is associated with reduced cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk and may improve serum lipid profiles, decrease LDL oxidation, and exert a cardio-protective effect. Frequent intake of peanut and its products may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.”
3. May Help With Insulin Sensitivity
Another study published in PLoS Medicine showed that swapping saturated fats for polyunsaturated fats could significantly reduce blood sugar levels and improve the secretion of insulin, an important hormone involved in blood sugar control. In fact, a study conducted on mice found that “consumption of peanut oil, which is high in oleic acid, was able to reverse the high glucose levels of all type 2 diabetic mice (8 out of 8) and normalize values by 21 day treatment of peanut oil, whereas the blood glucose levels of type 1 diabetic mice remained unaffected.”
4. Cheap and Convenient
Besides the possible health benefits, cooking with peanut oil can also be an affordable and convenient choice over other cooking oils. Not only are there many options for where to buy peanut oil, but it’s also versatile and flavorful as well.
In fact, another potential benefit of this common cooking oil is the peanut oil smoke point. It’s often considered the best oil for frying because it’s cheap, widely available and can withstand relatively high temperatures.
Unrefined oils have a smoke point of 320 degrees Fahrenheit, which is about the same as regular olive oil. Refined oil, on the other hand, typically has a higher smoke point, which is generally about 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Potential Risks and Side Effects
So is it healthy to cook with peanut oil, or is peanut oil bad for you? There are definitely some downsides to consider.
1. Prone to Oxidation
Although refined varieties of the oil do have a relatively high smoke point, they may not be the best choice for high-heat cooking. This is because they are high in unsaturated fatty acids, which are more susceptible to oxidation when exposed to heat.
This leads to the buildup of harmful free radicals in the body and an increase in oxidative stress, which can have detrimental effects on several aspects of health.
Oxidative stress can trigger inflammation and contribute to a number of chronic health issues, including cancer, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and neurological conditions.
2. High in Omega-6
This common cooking oil is also high in omega-6 fatty acids, which can increase levels of inflammation in the body. Sustaining high levels of inflammation can also be harmful to health and could increase the risk of chronic disease.
Another common question is: Is peanut oil keto? While it definitely can fit into a healthy ketogenic diet, it’s best to pick minimally processed, unrefined forms whenever possible to maximize the potential health benefits.
And keto or not, it should also be paired with a variety of other healthy fats as part of a well-rounded diet, such as olive oil, coconut oil or avocados.
3. Could Trigger Allergies
Additionally, while refined peanut oil is considered non-allergenic, unrefined peanut oil can trigger food allergy symptoms in those with an allergy to peanuts and should be avoided.
Many people wonder about the connection between peanut allergy and peanut oil consumption.
While refined varieties are considered safe for those with a peanut oil allergy, unrefined types are not. Therefore, it’s important to opt for refined varieties or choose other healthy cooking oils instead if you have an allergy to peanuts.
Does peanut oil go bad? How long does peanut oil last, and how can you tell if peanut oil has gone bad?
If left unopened, most types can stay fresh for up to one to two years. If the oil becomes cloudy, changes color or takes on an unpleasant smell, it’s best to discard.
Another common question is: Can you reuse peanut oil after frying? While you can reuse the oil, it’s important to remove any food particles first.
Additionally, keep in mind that the oil does break down with each use, so reusing it multiple times can cause the quality to quickly deteriorate.
Finally, although this oil is associated with several health benefits, it also oxidizes easily and is high in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. Therefore, it’s important to round out your diet with a variety of other healthy fats, including nuts, seeds, coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil, MCT oil or avocados.
Peanut Oil Substitutes
Wondering what is the healthiest oil to cook with and what you can use as a suitable substitute for peanut oil?
Olive oil is one of the most well-known and popular oils available, and it is often considered one of the healthiest oils to cook with.
Is peanut oil better than olive oil?
Both are low in saturated fat and high in unsaturated fatty acids. Additionally, extra-virgin olive oil and unrefined peanut oil also have a similar smoke point of around 320 degrees Fahrenheit.
The main difference between peanut oil vs. olive oil, however, is that olive oil is made up almost entirely of monounsaturated fats whereas peanut oil contains both mono- and polyunsaturated fats.
Coconut oil is a great alternative for a high-heat cooking oil. It has a high smoke point and is rich in medium-chain triglycerides, which are a beneficial type of fatty acid.
Avocado oil is another healthy option for a peanut oil substitute. With a smoke point of 520 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s ideal for sautéeing, baking, frying and roasting.
Like olive oil, it’s composed almost entirely of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.
Is peanut oil better for you than vegetable oil? What are the differences between peanut oil vs. vegetable oil?
Most products labeled “vegetable oil” are actually a blend of several different types of oil, including canola, soybean, corn or safflower oil. Vegetable oils generally have a comparable nutrition profile, with high amounts of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids, lots of unsaturated fats and minimal saturated fat in each serving.
The main difference between peanut oil vs. canola oil and other types of vegetable oils, however, is that organic peanut oil tends to have a longer shelf life.
If you do decide to give it a try, be sure to select unrefined, cold-pressed varieties whenever possible to maximize the nutritional value.
- Peanut oil is a type of cooking oil made from the peanut plant, which is commonly used in Southeast Asian and Chinese cuisines.
- There are several different types available, including refined, gourmet, cold-pressed and blended varieties.
- Is peanut oil good for you? Each serving contains a good amount of vitamin E and mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids, which can be useful for heart health and blood sugar control.
- The peanut oil price, versatility and widespread availability may also be beneficial for consumers.
- Despite the relatively high smoke point of peanut oil, it’s also high in unsaturated fatty acids, which are more susceptible to oxidation when exposed to heat. It also contains a high amount of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids.
- For this reason, it’s not the best frying oil compared to other varieties like coconut oil or avocado oil.
- Because of the downsides associated with this popular cooking oil, it’s best to balance your diet with a variety of other healthy fats as well, including avocados, nuts, seeds and coconut oil.