I have often heard in my store, “this olive oil is delicious, but I’m not supposed to cook with it – right?” This urban myth espouses the belief that high heat somehow makes olive oil unhealthy. Much of this belief can be dispelled in just considering the historic use of olive oil for thousands of years in Mediterranean cooking. But for those who prefer a more scientific explanation, continue reading!
When considering the healthfulness of cooking with any oil there are two main factors to be considered: smoke point and oxidative stability. Smoke point is the temperature that fats began to break down and cause smoke. It’s why you should use a temperature gauge when frying chicken or anything else. Because smoking oil is carcinogenic, (and none of us like that word) you want to avoid over-heating. Oxidative stability is how resistant the fat is to reacting with oxygen. Oxidized fats have been linked to inflammation and a variety of diseases and are most commonly derived from polyunsaturated oils such as corn and soybean.
In extra virgin olive oil, the polyphenols (which are the vitamins and antioxidants) ensure heat stability. If you have been in the store, you may remember seeing the polyphenol counts on all of our Ultra Premium EVOOs. As I might have explained to you during your visit, the higher the polyphenol count, the more pungency and pepperiness you will notice during your tasting. High polyphenol counts are why you want to choose the “Extra Virgin” variety to cook with so that you are getting the most health benefit and the most heat stability.
Multiple studies have busted the myth of not cooking with olive oil in the last several years. As a matter of fact, the studies show not only is it safe to cook with olive oil, it’s actually preferred for healthy cooking! One of the latest studies reported in Food Chemistry in 2015 studied the effect of four different cooking processes with EVOO on potatoes, tomatoes, pumpkin, and eggplant - deep frying (356°F), sautéing (176-212°F), boiling (plain water 212°F), boiling (water+EVOO mixture – both boiling at 212°F). Not only were all of these cooking methods found to be safe, the study showed that cooking with EVOO transferred its phenol compounds to the vegetables – making them a higher nutritional content than just the vegetable alone. Another recent study from the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry looked at the effects of continuously heating EVOO for 36 hours to measure how it degraded. The scientists concluded that even under these conditions the EVOO maintained most of its nutritional properties.
But don't just take my word for it. Check out these links as well: http://www.healthline.com/nutrition/is-olive-oil-good-for-cooking#section1