10 Spices, Spreads and Oils for Your Healthy Kitchen

Olive Oil

You could make the argument that olive oil isn't quite as good for you as canola oil. After all, it contains more saturated fat than canola oil (approximately 15 percent saturated fat compared to canola's 7 percent) [source: WebMD]. However, olive oil has one thing that makes it infinitely more versatile than its canola cousin: taste.

Canola oil's bland flavor limits it exclusively to cooking, whereas olive oil's unique taste allows it to stand in as a replacement for butter, margarine or any other butter alternative. You can even use olive oil in place of a fattening salad dressing. Of course, olive oil is also great for cooking and enhances the flavor of many recipes, though it loses some of its beneficial properties when it's heated.

Like canola oil, olive oil contains monosaturated fat, which lowers your low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or "bad" cholesterol. Lower cholesterol levels reduce your risk of heart disease, which remains the leading cause of death in the United States [source: Heron et al]. It's also believed that olive oil can help lower blood pressure and increase the number of natural enzymes that block some cancer cells and carcinogens [sources: Collins, DeNoon].