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Is Olive Oil a Good Cooking Oil? A Critical Look: 6 Health Benefits

Is Olive Oil a Good Cooking Oil?
Heating olive oil does not harm its health advantages or make it unhealthy.

For thousands of years, people have used olive oil in their cuisine. It is an essential component of the Mediterranean diet.

Olive oil is widely regarded as one of the best oils because it is rich in antioxidants and other health benefits. It is used in cooking, baking, and salads.

It has a high concentration of monounsaturated fatty acids.

  • In 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized a health claim for olive oil because when consumed in moderation the monounsaturated fat in olive oil may decrease the risk of coronary heart disease and help with blood pressure reduction.
  • It contains nutrients that aid in the cellular regeneration and maintenance of the body’s cell activity.

Why is olive oil not good for cooking?

Some people consider heating olive oil for cooking is a bad idea because:

  • Low smoke point
    • The phrase smoke point is widely used while evaluating olive oils and refers to the temperature at which an oil begins to continuously produce visible smoke when heated. The smoke point of olive oil varies based on its quality and freshness.
    • Lower quality olive oil with a high free fatty acid content or aged or refined oil with fewer natural antioxidants (polyphenols) have a lower smoke point. However, when evaluating a cooking oil, the smoke point is not the only criterion to determine if it is good or bad for cooking.
    • Recent research has revealed that smoke point is not related to changes in an oil's chemical composition after heating. Chemical changes are significantly more complicated and are dependent on the oil's wetness, acidity, and antioxidant qualities.
  • Taste changes
    • Olive oil's taste components are sensitive and will evaporate when heated. Heating olive oil does not reduce its health advantages, but it does reduce its flavor. This is a good thing for dishes that do not need dominating olive oil flavor.
    • If you have expensive olive oil with rich tastes, reserve it for finishing and cold applications.
  • Reduces antioxidants and phenols
    • Some people believe that cooking with olive oil destroys the phenols, but this is not true. Phenols in olive oil are heat sensitive. However, a startling discovery was revealed in a 2015 study.
      • As you cook with extra virgin oil, the oil seeps into the food.
      • Extra virgin olive oil fried potatoes contained higher phenols and antioxidants than water-boiled potatoes.
    • Furthermore, a 2020 study published in the journal Antioxidants by the University of Barcelona demonstrated that extra virgin olive oil retains high levels of these healthful components throughout cooking.

Finally, olive oil is safe to use in cooking. Heating olive oil does not harm its health advantages or make it unhealthy. You may use olive oil in any of your recipes with confidence.

6 health benefits of olive oil

  1. Relieves pain and inflammation: C-reactive protein is the most common cause of inflammation in the body. These protein levels rise with illnesses, such as arthritis. Olive oil contains polyphenol oleocanthal, which has anti-inflammatory qualities and functions similarly to ibuprofen.
  2. Promotes heart health: Olive oil has anti-inflammatory properties. It lowers low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol) oxidation and enhances the function of the endothelium (the lining of the blood vessels). It regulates blood coagulation and decreases blood pressure.
  3. Reduces risk of cancer: Olive oil is abundant in oleic acid, which is resistant to oxidation. It has anticancer actions on cancer-related genes. Furthermore, olive oil has chemicals that can help fight cancer at the molecular level.
  4. Prevents stroke: Stroke is the second leading cause of death. Olive oil is a heart-healthy fat that lowers the risk of stroke.
  5. Boosts bone health: Olive oil is good for the bones if you consume it regularly. It contains calcium and vitamin D, which help develop bones. Regular olive oil use promotes bone growth and inhibits bone degradation.
  6. Balances blood sugar levels: It contains good fats, which are essential for type II diabetes management. The beneficial fats in olive oil aid to decrease the absorption of glucose into the circulation. As a result, blood sugar levels are kept under control.

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How is olive oil used in cooking?

When to use olive oil

Olive oil is a wonderful choice for salad dressing or sauteing vegetables over medium heat. 

  • Because it has a unique flavor, use it in recipes where you want to taste it, such as drizzling it over steamed vegetables, soup, or toast.
  • Because olive oil contains more monounsaturated fat than other oils, it is an excellent choice for heart-healthy cooking.

When to not use olive oil

Avoid using olive oil while cooking over high heat. Olive oil has a lower smoke point (between 365 and 420°F), the temperature at which an oil physically begins to smoke, than certain other oils. When olive oil is heated to its smoke point, the beneficial chemicals begin to break down and possibly harmful ones arise.

Bottom line

  • Purchase authentic extra virgin olive oil. Look for unrefined, 100 percent extra virgin oil in a dark container with a recent harvest date. Organic is preferable although it is more expensive.
  • Extra virgin olive oil is the most stable cooking oil and may be heated to 400°F (deep frying happens at 350 to 375°F).
  • Because of its strong antioxidant concentration, virgin olive oils release minimal quantities of hazardous chemicals even when heated past the smoke point.
  • After heating, polyphenol antioxidants are still present. It is best to start with a high-polyphenol oil (more than 250 mg/L) so that even more remains after heating.

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