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Some of the many different kinds of edible vegetable oils include: olive oil, palm oil, soybean oil, canola oil, pumpkin seed oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, peanut oil, grape seed oil, sesame oil, argan oil and rice bran oil. Many other kinds of vegetable oils are also used for cooking.

The generic term "vegetable oil" when used to label a cooking oil product refers to a blend of a variety of oils often based on palm, corn, soybean or sunflower oils.

The appropriate amount of fat as a component of daily food consumption is the topic of some controversy. Some fat is required in the diet, and fat (in the form of oil) is also essential in many types of cooking. The FDA recommends that 30% or less of calories consumed daily should be from fat. Other nutritionists recommend that no more than 10% of a person's daily calories come from fat. In extremely cold environments, a diet that is up to two-thirds fat is acceptable and can, in fact, be critical to survival in that type of environment.

While consumption of small amounts of saturated fats is essential, excessive amounts of such fats has been shown to be correlated with coronary heart disease. Oils that are particularly high in saturated fats include coconut and palm oil. Oils with lower amounts of saturated fats, and higher amounts of unsaturated (preferably monounsaturated) fats, are generally healthier.

Heating an oil changes its characteristics. Some oils that are healthy at room temperature can become unhealthy when heated above certain temperatures. When choosing a cooking oil, it is therefore important to note the oil's heat tolerance, and to match the oil to its use in cooking.

Oils that are suitable for high temperature frying (above 280°C/500°F) include:
- Almond oil
- Apricot kernel oil
- High-oleic safflower oil or sunflower oil
- Carotino oil
- Peanut oil
- Soybean oil

Oils suitable for medium temperature frying include:
- Carotene oil
- Canola oil
- Walnut oil
- Sunflower oil
- Sesame oil

Unrefined oils should be restricted to temperatures below 105°C/225°F.

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