Fats and oils can be complicated. I am going to keep it simple. Here are four oils we use in our kitchen and why we use them. (Oh and why we steer clear of Canola Oil)
Organic Virgin Coconut Oil: The more I read and research about coconut oil the more I am replacing the use of general oils (like safflower oil) in our kitchen with coconut oil. Here is what The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook had to say: Virgin coconut oil contains the medium-chain triglyceride, lauric acid. Interestingly, lauric acid is the main fat found in human milk. This fat helps to destroy unwanted pathogens in the digestive tract, while promoting the growth of friendly flora. Lauric acid is readily sent to the liver to be burned for energy rather then being stored as fat in the body. Virgin coconut oil is also a rich source of disease-preventing polyphenols. This fat remains relatively stable at higher temperatures and can be used for most of your cooking needs!
Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil: We use olive oil strictly for salad dressings or for a dipping sauce. Olive oil does not stand up to high heat for an extended period of time. Instead of risking creating free radicals we just avoid baking or cooking with Olive Oil all together. When buying Olive Oil we purchase extra virgin olive oil (organic if I can get a good deal). Another nice salad dressing or dipping sauce oil would be Sesame Oil.
Here is a nice definition out of Evelyn Roehl's book titled, "Whole Food Facts": " ... the fruits (tree-ripened olives) are crushed and the liquid is extracted. The oil that is skimmed off after the pulp settles is called virgin olive oil; it is one of the few true cold-pressed oils. Virgin olive oils are available in four different grades. In descending order of quality, they are extra, fine, unnamed grade (the most common grade sold in the US) and Lampante."
One important note: Watch out for olive oil that is only labeled "pure" olive oil. (One of the most sold form of olive oils in the US) It is extracted from pulp residues and ground up pits by solvent method (bathed in a solution of hexane or other petroleum solvent and then heated, I know gross) and is further refined by bleaching or deodorizing.
Organic Unrefined Safflower Oil: Safflower is a good all-purpose oil. It can stand up to high heat (even suitable for frying). Safflower oil has one of the lowest saturation levels of all commercial vegetable oils (this is good). It is extracted from the seeds of safflower, a plant in the thistle family. Look for unrefined safflower oil (organic if possible). Other good all-purpose oils would include: Unrefined Peanut Oil or Unrefined Sunflower Oil. We typically stick with safflower.
Butter: I can't lie. We love real cows milk made butter. Sometimes nothing cooks the same as good old fashion milk churned butter. I use butter in moderation for baking and some cooking. Do I even need to explain butter?! Yes, high in saturated fat so we use it were most needed (like plain white flour, white sugar chocolate chip cookies!) (Also, butter falls into the "Whole Food" category!)
Why we DO NOT use Canola Oil: Canola oil is Rapeseed oil. Again, I am going to quote out of the book "Whole Food Facts": "Rapeseeds contain two antinutritional factors. One is a fatty acid called erucic acid; the other is glucosinolate. Erucic acid oxidizes at a slower rate then other fatty acids, which can cause undesirable accumulations of triglycerides. Glucosinolate has been known to promote goiter, the enlargement of the thyroid gland."
Ok so not all "Whole Foods" should be consumed just because they fall into the "Whole Food" category. As we see with Rapeseed certain "Whole Foods" can also provide us with poor nutritional benefits.