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Know what you're buying to make the most of this pantry staple and its heart-healthy benefits.

Brierley Horton
February 15, 2018

1. Unfiltered

Solid elements of the original fruit, seed, nut, etc. remain in the oil. For example, with olive oil, bits of pulp and skin might be floating around or have settled at the bottom. This so-called sediment may have additional health properties, but it also can make the oil spoil faster.

2. Organic

Plants that produce the fruits, seeds, and nuts for oil are grown and processed per USDA organic standards— no synthetic fertilizers or other artificial agents are used. Some say this may enhance the oil’s quality, but that’s not guaranteed.

A little chipotle pepper in the dressing lends smoky heat to this dish:

3. First Pressed

As its name implies, it’s the first pressing of the fruit, seed, or nut to extract oil— and sometimes synonymous with the term “extra-virgin.”

4. Expeller Pressed

It’s a mechanical way to extract oil from fruits, nuts, or seeds. Essentially, a big screw-press exerts a lot of pressure to squeeze oil out of the fruits, seeds, or nuts. But because it’s less efficient— as in, less oil is made—chemical or solvent extraction has become more popular. The process of expeller pressing can also heat the oils quite a bit, upping the chances of some oils turning rancid.

5. Cold Pressed

Typically means that an oil is extracted at a cooler temperature (and without any chemicals)—and thus may retain more of its health properties. In Europe, there are regulations that a “cold-pressed” oil must not exceed 27°C, or 80–90°F, but in the U.S. such a regulation doesn’t exist.