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Does Cooking Destroy The Health Benefits Of Olive Oil?

Olive oil is abundant in monounsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants, and vit E. These compounds resist thermal degradation, making it extremely heat stable. It, thus, retains it nutritional value and digestibility even on being exposed to high temperatures used in deep frying. This chemical property makes it safer than other cooking oils (canola oil, sunflower oil, etc.) for consumption.

What started as a whiff of the Mediterranean in our kitchens has transformed into a global oil movement. Rated as a healthy oil loaded with beneficial fatty acids and anti-oxidants, olive oil is a crowd pleaser world over. Research reveals new dimensions of this wonder oil – produced by pressing whole olives – nearly every other day.

Benefits Of Olive Oil

With its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant qualities, olive oil contains biologically active substances that not only have powerful health benefits but also help fight serious diseases. It is also rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and is a good source of vitamins E and K. Vitamin K is essential for normal blood clotting and healthy bones, while vitamin E is an anti-oxidant that helps lower the risk for heart disease and cancer. Studies show that a Mediterranean diet which uses olive oil extensively can reduce cardiovascular risk factors such as blood pressure, oxidative stress, lipid imbalance, and endothelial dysfunction.1

Olive Oil And Cooking

Although the idea that olive oil can’t withstand high heat – and tends to be harmful when heated – is widely circulated, scientific evidence to back this is minimal. On the contrary, research findings seem to indicate that olive oil can not only be safely used but may be a better option than some other cooking oils. Here are some reasons why.

Olive Oil Contains A High Amount Of Monounsaturated Fats Which Remain Stable When Heated

Olive oil comprises 73% monounsaturated, 11% polyunsaturated, and 14% saturated fats. It is made mostly of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) when compared to other vegetable oils which contain high levels of polyunsaturated fat.2 MUFAs are less vulnerable to heat and oxidation, making olive oil much more stable when heated.3

Olive Oil Retains Its Nutritional Properties Under Deep-Frying Conditions

Olive oil also has the ability to resist nutritional degradation even at high temperatures.4 Studies show that the chemical composition of olive oil is an important factor which increases the stability of the oil while cooking on high heat.5 Olive oil is high in anti-oxidants and vitamin E, substances that protect the oil from damage during high heat cooking.

According to the International Olive Oil Council, olive oil is a stable fat that “stands up well to high frying temperatures. Its high smoke point (410ºF or 210ºC) is well above the ideal temperature for frying food (356ºF or 180ºC). The digestibility of olive oil is not affected when it is heated, even when it is re-used several times for frying.”6

Note: The smoke point is the temperature at which the fats begin to break down and turn into smoke.

Performs Decently Well When Compared To Other Oils

A study published in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that olive oil was more stable than certain seed oils for frying at temperatures between 320 and 374°F.7 Olive oil was also found to be much better and safer than sunflower oil after long exposure to high heat.8

Olive Oil Fumes Have Fewer Toxic Aldehydes

Research shows that olive oil – whether it is extra virgin or regular – produces fumes with fewer undesirable volatile aldehydes (which has adverse health effects) than other vegetable oils such as canola oil when subjected to high temperatures.9

The Verdict

The smoking point of olive oil is well above the temperature required for cooking. Add to this the fact that it is a healthy fat that retains its beneficial qualities even during cooking, and you have a safe cooking oil at hand.

References   [ + ]

1. López-Miranda, José, Francisco Pérez-Jiménez, Emilio Ros, R. De Caterina, Lina Badimón, María Isabel Covas, Eduard Escrich et al. “Olive oil and health: summary of the II international conference on olive oil and health consensus report, Jaén and Córdoba (Spain) 2008.” Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases 20, no. 4 (2010): 284-294.
2. Monounsaturated Fats, American Heart Association.
3, 5. Casal, Susana, Ricardo Malheiro, Artur Sendas, Beatriz PP Oliveira, and José Alberto Pereira. “Olive oil stability under deep-frying conditions.” Food and chemical toxicology 48, no. 10 (2010): 2972-2979.
4, 7. Olive oil more stable and healthful than seed oils for frying food, American Chemical Society.
6. Frying with olive oil, International Olive Council.
8. Guillén, M. D., and P. S. Uriarte. “Study by 1 H NMR spectroscopy of the evolution of extra virgin olive oil composition submitted to frying temperature in an industrial fryer for a prolonged period of time.” Food Chemistry 134, no. 1 (2012): 162-172.
9. Fullana, Andres, Angel A. Carbonell-Barrachina, and Sukh Sidhu. “Comparison of volatile aldehydes present in the cooking fumes of extra virgin olive, olive, and canola oils.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 52, no. 16 (2004): 5207-5214.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.