When I learned that vegetable oils are actually not good for us as they are highly oxidising and inflammatory, I researched which oils I should be using instead. The consensus seems to be that coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, butter, ghee, lard, beef dripping, duck fat and goose fat are all healthy fats and I now use these instead of vegetable and seed oils. Nearly all sources of information mentioned that although olive oil is incredibly healthy, it should not be used for cooking and frying, as this will make it oxidative (thus inflammatory). So I have been using olive oil only to drizzle on salads and foods after they have been cooked.
Then, to my delight, last week I was told by an organic olive oil producer that there is no harm in using extra virgin olive oil for cooking and frying. To me, this is good news as I love the taste of olive oil and as much as I like coconut oil in curries and stir-fries, I’m not a big fan of eggs or plain meat fried in it and some of the other healthy cooking fats leave the kitchen smelling for days.
The aforementioned olive oil producer, Juan Ignacio De Valdes, was in Tunbridge Wells to talk at an olive oil tasting event I had the pleasure to be invited to. It was organised by Perfect Tree, distributor of Dehesa de la Sabina extra virgin olive oil in the UK. This is an award winning organic extra virgin olive oil that is produced by a small cooperative in the Sierra de Cazorla Natural Park in Southern Spain.
I did some more research on cooking with olive oil and found there is no scientific base for the myth that olive oil becomes oxidative when heated. Extra virgin olive oil is very high in antioxidants, which actually ensures its stability when heated (1). For the highest levels of poyphenols (antioxidants) and optiimum health benefits choose first cold extraction extra virging olive oil. Non-virgin olive oil is refined and contains the smallest amount of polyphenols. Information about the maximum temperature that can be used when cooking with virgin olive oil is provided by the International Olive Oil Council (IOOC): “When heated, olive oil is the most stable fat, which means it stands up well to high frying temperatures. Its high smoke point (410ºF) 210ºC is well above the ideal temperature for frying food (356ºF) 180ºC. The digestibility of olive oil is not affected when it is heated, even when it is re-used several times for frying.”(2)
I wonder how and why the myth about the risk of cooking with olive oil arose. Let me know if you can shed any light on this. In the meantime I will be enjoying delicious olive oil in my dishes.
1.”The antioxidants in oils heated at frying temperature, whether natural or added, could protect against postprandial oxidative stress in obese people.” Perez-Herrera A, Food Chem. 2013 Jun 15;138(4):2250-9
2.“Frying with Olive Oil,” International Olive Oil Council,http://www.internationaloliveoil.org/estaticos/view/85-frying-with-olive-oil,”