This popular Mediterranean cooking oil has long been considered healthy due to its fatty acid content and beneficial antioxidants that can help reverse and prevent free radical damage. Many health enthusiasts use olive oil for cooking, frying, sautéing, and salad dressings. In recent years, however, there has been a rumor circulating that using olive oil for cooking is harmful and can cause severe health risks.
It is true that some oils and fats get damaged when subjected to high heat. Overheating can cause foods to form toxic compounds. Including aldehydes and lipid peroxides which can aggravate cancer. But these oils are rich in polyunsaturated fats (hydrogenated vegetable oils), thus making them prone to oxidation. Olive oil, however, is loaded with monounsaturated fats, making it a stable oil even when subjected to high heat.
Olive oil and high-heat cooking
Researchers believe that the phenolic compounds found in olive oil, namely polyphenols and tocopherols, contribute more to its stability in heat than its monounsaturated fats. According to holistic medicine practitioner Chris Kresser, it will take around 24 to 27 hours of frying before olive oil can be considered harmful.
Olive oil has lower amounts of vitamin E compared to vegetable oil, but it takes longer to oxidize. Also, researchers have found that olive oils with higher polyphenol content are less prone to oxidation. In fact, according to the International Olive Oil Council, olive oil has a smoke point of 210°C, which is way above the ideal temperature for frying which is 180°C. Accordingly, its digestibility is not affected when heated, even after reusing it a few times.
Refined olive oil for high-heat cooking
Just as with coconut oil, refined doesn’t necessarily mean a bad thing when it comes to olive oil. Richard Gawel – a blender, consultant taster, and internationally renowned olive oil expert – has said that refined olive oil can be reused if it is labeled as “pure” or “light.”
He adds that refined olive oils, compared to most extra-virgin olive oils, begin to smoke at a higher temperature, thus making them an ideal and cost-effective alternative for deep-frying and other cooking methods apart from shallow frying.
Gawel recommends checking the free fatty acidity or FFA content of olive oils. If a certain brand has an FFA content of less than 0.2%, then it will only start to smoke and oxidize at a temperature that is 20°C higher than the average kind of extra-virgin olive oil you would normally find in groceries and supermarkets. In other words: The less FFA content, the healthier the olive oil is.
ALSO READ: Refined Coconut Oil vs Virgin Coconut Oil
FYI: Refined vs Extra-virgin vs Light
Olive oil comes from olives. True that. However, there are different ways of obtaining the oil from the olives. Different varieties of olive oil are set apart by the process used to extract the oil, as well as the additives added in the process. Also, the oil’s level of free oleic acid is an important factor to classify olive oil.
Extra-virgin olive oil has a darker, deeper color than refined olive oil. Although this can differ from brand to brand depending on which kind of olive they used. Extra-virgin olive oil is an unrefined oil and is considered the highest-quality available. It’s not treated with chemicals or altered by temperature. It still has the real olive taste and has lower levels of oleic acid than refined olive oil. Furthermore, extra-virgin contains more of the natural vitamins and minerals found in olives.
Extra-virgin olive oil is more expensive and sometimes harder to find. It is ideal for dressings, dips, cold dishes, and shallow frying.
What about refined or normal/regular/pure olive oil?
Normal, pure or regular olive oil is usually a blend of virgin and refined olive oil. Heat and/or chemicals are used in the extracting process. Thanks to its higher smoking point it is more suitable for high-heat cooking, and it has a more neutral flavor. It is a great all-purpose cooking oil. However, note that these oils have been treated with either heat or chemicals, or both. So make sure to buy high-quality olive oil to avoid chemical residues or other additives.
And then there’s light olive oil. Light, in this case, doesn’t mean fewer calories, it is just a marketing term used to describe the lighter, less intense flavor of the oil. It is also a refined oil, similar to regular olive oil, with a neutral taste and higher smoke point. Light olive oil can be used for baking, sautéing, grilling, and frying.
Clearly, olive oil for cooking is the best and healthiest choice as compared to other vegetable and plant oils. No matter what method is used since it is highly resistant to oxidation and production of free radicals.
It only proves that olive oil is suitable for cooking even under high temperatures. Next to coconut oil, it is your best choice for cooking, especially when you are trying to avoid toxic, unhealthy GMOs or genetically modified cooking oils such as canola, soybean, and corn.
Looking for a way to live a healthy lifestyle while eating delicious, colorful meals and losing or maintaining weight the healthy way, CLICK HERE!
Thanks for reading. I hope this information was helpful. Until next time!
Crazy cat lady, life and food lover, certified biologist, and holistic health coach.