The Best and Worst Oils for People With Diabetes

Patient Expert
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Oils for cooking and for making salads contain some of the most important fats in our diets. If you have diabetes, you need to know which ones will help you and which can cause harm. Unfortunately, some of our most common oils are also among the unhealthiest.


First, here are the worst

Studies indicate that inflammation can be the root cause of diabetes. But the oils that most Americans use the most often are high in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats and low in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. Soybean oil, followed by corn oil, canola oil (manufactured from rapeseed), and cottonseed oil make up 96 percent of the vegetable oil sold in the United States.


The best oil?

Macadamia nut oil has the best ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 of any cooking oil—1:1. It has even more healthful oleic acid than olive oil. Its smoke point is 390°F so you can use it for cooking almost anything, aside from grilling and frying at the highest heat. It is shelf-stable and has a mild, pleasant, buttery flavor. This oil has only two drawbacks: it’s expensive and generally available only online.


The most readily available 'good oil'

Olive oil has about 12 times as much omega-6 as omega-3. But studies indicate that a 2:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is what we need for heart health. So while olive oil isn’t ideal, it is still anti-inflammatory because of its polyphenols. Avoid Italian olive oil, much of which is fraudulently produced and marketed. Use only extra virgin olive oil from other countries, because it hasn't been chemically treated. Its smoke point is 405°F.


Another readily available 'good oil'

Coconut oil is high in the saturated fat called lauric acid, which has antibacterial, antioxidant, and antiviral properties. While coconut oil doesn’t have any omega-3 fats, it doesn’t have much omega-6 fats either. Solid at room temperature, its smoke point is 350°F. Coconut oil has a strong flavor that people either like or dislike.


A solid fat to use as an oil

Butter is back. A meta-analysis published in June 2016 found that butter doesn’t seem to raise our risk of heart disease and may in fact protect people from diabetes. While butter isn’t sold as an oil, we can cook with it as long as we don’t heat it above its 350°F smoke point. Its omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is 9:1. And it tastes great to almost everyone.



Ghee is butter stripped of its impurities. Often called clarified butter, the process of making ghee gives it a nuttier flavor than butter. (A flavor that many people, myself included, prefer.) Because of the purification process, ghee doesn’t get rancid as quickly as butter does and it has one of the highest smoke points of any oil: 485°F.


A special oil for salads

Flaxseed oil is the only readily available oil that has less omega-6 than omega-3 fats, a ratio of 1:4. Because it can quickly get rancid, be sure to buy it from a store that keeps it in a refrigerated case, and store it in your fridge. Flaxseed oil has a very low smoke point, 225°F, so don’t cook with it because heating an oil past its smoke point releases free radicals, which are carcinogenic.


Oils for your health

Do your best to avoid the oils from soybeans, corn, rapeseed, and cottonseed in order to cut back on the fats that cause inflammation. None of the six best oils listed here are perfect, but each is good in its own way. When you take advantage of the benefits that each of them offers, you will do your heart a favor, and will help to better manage your diabetes.