Extra virgin olive oil is the oil produced directly from the olive fruit. It is the most natural oil as it is produced using a method called cold pressing which does not involve the use of chemicals and heat. It is increasingly popular and for good reason.
Olive oil contains monounsaturated fats which are less prone to oxidative damage as well as promotes healthy cholesterol profiles and the antioxidants are protective against cancer and cardiovascular diseases. This is the reason why it is an essential component of the Mediterranean diet.
Olive oil can be added to salads, raw or roasted vegetables or pasta. The suitability of olive oil for cooking is constantly being questioned. However the current evidence suggests that olive oil can be used for regular cooking which does not exceed around 200 degrees as olive oil has a smoke point of 220 degrees and in regular healthy cooking one is unlikely to cook at temperatures higher than that.
Sautéing is done at a temperature of 120 degrees and roasting in the oven may go up to only 180 degrees which is still lower than the smoke point of olive oil.
A study that tested the stability of olive oil in comparison to other oils such as canola oil, rice bran oil, grape seed oil, coconut oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil and avocado oil found that olive oil remained stable right up to 240 degrees while the other oils did not although they have a higher smoke point.
This indicates that the stability of olive oil is not just determined by the smoke point but also by the polyunsaturated fat content level, more prone to oxidative damage, antioxidant content, protective against oxidative damage, and how refined the oil is.
Since olive oil has a lower polyunsaturated fat content and a good amount of antioxidants and not refined, it is not as prone to oxidative damage.
People often worry that olive oil cannot be used for deep frying. However deep frying is not recommended in any case due its impacts on health. The process of deep frying causes food to loose water and take up fat which makes it extremely energy dense and can therefore lead to obesity and cardiovascular diseases.
In addition, the structure of labile nutrients such as proteins, vitamins and antioxidants may change during deep frying and harmful compounds such as trans fats and acrylamide may be produced.
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This article was written by our dietitian and nutritionist Juhi Bhambhaney. If you have questions regarding health and nutrition, make an appointment with one of our dietitians. We‘ll provide you with a simple and effective routine targeted to your concerns. Contact us today!