Should You Cook with Extra Virgin Olive Oil?
Olive oil has many health benefits. It is high in antioxidants, has anti-inflammatory properties and is observed to be protective for heart health. But there has been much debate over whether or not extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is good for cooking.
In assessing whether oils are suitable for cooking, the smoke point of the oil (the temperature at which the fats begin to break down and turn into smoke) has usually been the main consideration. The thinking has been that the lower the smoke point, the more susceptible the oil is to high heat, and therefore the less safe it is to cook with.
As olive oil has a moderate smoke point ranging between approximately 190 to 210 degrees C, which is lower than many other oils such as rapeseed oil or sunflower oil, it has been thought that EVOO would be easily oxidised and therefore not suitable for cooking.
However, there is another factor at play.
Olive oil contains mostly monounsaturated and saturated fats, which combined with its numerous bioactive components, such as vitamin E and other antioxidants, helps the oil to keep its stability when heated.
Indeed, in studies, olive oil was subjected to extreme high temperatures that may be obtained during deep frying, and for extended periods. It was observed that EVOO had the lowest level of oxidative by-products compared to other types of oil, which may make it safer for cooking.
It appears that smoke point isn’t the only determinant of what may make an oil good for cooking, and EVOO is unlikely to become significantly damaged or oxidised when heated, making it a suitable oil for normal cooking, including pan-frying.
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