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  • Writer's pictureKathy Ozakovic

Can I Cook With Extra Virgin Olive Oil?

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) has had some bad press in the past with claims that it is not suitable for cooking at high temperatures. If anybody tells you this, set the record straight by telling them its a myth! Keep reading to learn why.


There is a common misconception that you cannot cook with EVOO due to its smoke point, this has NO scientific backup. A 2018 Australian study conducted in an Australian oil specialist laboratory, Modern Olives Laboratory, has shown that Australian EVOO is the safest and most stable oil to cook with, including at high temperatures such as for deep frying (1).


Ten most commonly used cooking oils in Australian supermarkets were tested for their safety and stability when heated. Scientists specifically assessed the correlation between smoke point and other key chemical parameters related to an oils stability and likelihood to break down and form harmful polar compounds.


FACT: Polar Compounds - a major breakdown byproduct of an oil when heated - have been consistently linked to negative health outcomes such as the development of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease.

The oils tested were: EVOO, Refined Olive Oil, Virgin Olive Oil, Canola Oil, Rice Bran Oil, Grapeseed Oil, Coconut Oil, Peanut Oil, Sunflower Oil and Avocado Oil. Each oil was subjected to two different heating trials:

1) Heat trial: gradually heating oil to 240'C (approx 20min)

2) Time trial: Deep frying oil at 180'C for 6 hours

All oils were tested before, during and at the end of each trial for common quality parameters related to an oils stability and breakdown.


These heating conditions are well above regular cooking conditions at home. 180'C is the standard deep frying temperature.


Key Findings:

  • EVOO was found to be the safest and most stable oil to cook with

  • Of all the oils tested, EVOO was shown to be the oil that produced the lowest level of harmful polar compounds, followed by Coconut Oil

  • Percentage of polar compounds produced after heating: EVVO at 8.47% followed by Coconut Oil at 9.3%, Virgin Olive Oil and Peanut Oil at 10.71%, Avocado Oil 11.6%, Refined Olive Oil 11.65%, rice Bran Oil 14.35%, Sunflower Oil 15.57%, Grapeseed Oil 19.79% and Canola Oil 22.43%

  • Production of polar compounds was more pronounced for refined oils which are higher in polyunsaturated fats such as Canola Oil, Grapeseed Oil and Rice Bran Oil

  • An oil's smoke point correlated poorly with the likelihood of the oil to break down and form harmful compounds when heated


So, if not smoke point then what determines whether an oil will break down and form harmful compounds when heated?

- How refined (processed) the oil is: Refined oils already contain secondary products of oxidation prior to cooking. Therefore, look to cook with minimally processed/refined oils to minimise exposure to harmful compounds

- Level of natural antioxidants in the oil: The less antioxidants an oil contained, the more likely it is to break down and form harmful compounds. Therefore, cook with oils that have high levels of antioxidants, as this increases the oils resistance to break down.

- Level of polyunsaturated fat in the oil: The more polyunsaturated fat in the oil, the more Riley it is to break down and form harmful compounds (oxidation occurs more readily with multiple double bonds present in the fatty acids). Therefore, cook with oils that have a lower level of polyunsaturated fat to reduce the level of breakdown when heated.


And what oil fits these criteria? Unrefined, High in Antioxidants, Lower in Polyunsaturated bFats (and higher in Monounsaturated fats) ... EVOO!



Key Take Aways:

  • Smoke point is not a relevant factor in determining how suitable an oil is to cook with

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil is suitable for all home cooking, including high temperature cooking (eg. sautéing, pan frying, deep frying, oven baking)


And whilst we are busting myths

A plant-based Mediterranean style diet, with Extra Virgin Olive Oil as the principle fat, has been shown to be more affordable than an individual’s usual eating pattern, especially when compared to a highly processed Western Diet. A 6-week intervention study in the US in 2013 found that individuals who followed a plant-based Mediterranean style eating pattern, with an emphasis on cooking with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, reduced their usual grocery spend by approximately 30 USD each week (40AUD). This was the first study to show a decrease in food insecurity as the result of a dietary intervention. Additional improvements included a reduction in body weight and total grocery purchases including unhealthy products such as carbonated beverages (2).


A detailed analysis on 20 participants involved in a 2017 Randomised Control Trial in Australia found that following a Mediterranean Diet was more affordable compared with the participants’ baseline diet, and reduced total grocery spend by approximately 26 AUD per week (3).


Now we know to always cook with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, below are a few extra ideas on how to incorporate EVOO into your everyday diet:

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REFERENCES:

(1) De Alzaa F, Guillaume C and Ravetti L. Evaluation of Chemical and Physical Changes in Different Commercial Oils during Heating. ACTA Scientific Nutritional Health 2018; 2: 2-11.

(2) Opie R, Segal L, Jacka FN, et al. Assessing healthy diet affordability in a cohort with major depressive disorder. J Publ Health Epidemiol. 2015;7(5):159–69.

(3) Flynn MM, Schiff AR. Economical Healthy Diets (2012): Including Lean Animal Protein Costs More Than Using Extra Virgin Olive Oil. J Hunger Environ Nutr. 201;00:1-16.

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Did you find this blog helpful and informative? Tag & Share with your friends who would love it too! Sign up for my Free NuFit Wellness Newsletter to stay in the loop. Attend my Wellness Workshops. Promoting consciousness in food choices helping people heal. Dietitian & Wellness Coach, Health Presenter, Gut Health Specialist - Kathy Ozakovic.

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KEYWORDS: Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Cooking, High Temperature, Stability, Healthy, Deep Fry, Baking, Oven, Best Oil

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