Is Olive Oil a Good Cooking Oil? A Critical Look in 2024?

is olive oil good for cooking

Olive oil is very good for you. Not only is it full of healthy fatty acids and vitamins, but some of the healthiest people in the world eat it every day.

But because it has pure fat, a lot of people think it’s not good for cooking. Some people say it’s a great choice for cooking, even at high temperatures, like when you fry. This article tells you if olive oil is good for cooking.

Why are some people concerned?

Being around extremely hot objects can harm fats and oils.

Most vegetable oils, like canola and soybean, are high in polyunsaturated fats. These oils are especially bad for you.

When they get too hot, they can produce dangerous chemicals like lipid peroxides and aldehydes, which can cause cancer.

Cooking these oils releases cancer-causing chemicals, and breathing them in may increase your risk of developing lung cancer. Being in a kitchen during the use of these oils in the kitchen poses a significant risk.

If you want to avoid exposure to compounds that could be harmful or even cause cancer, avoid cooking with fats that don’t melt at high temperatures.

These two are the most important things about food oils:

  • The smoke point is the point at which fats begin to break down and turn into smoke.
  • Oxidative stability is a measure of how resistant the fats are to oxygen.

In both areas, olive oil does very well.

High in antioxidants and vitamin E

First pressing the olives produces extra-virgin olive oil. It has many beneficial substances, such as vitamin E and powerful antioxidants.

Vitamin E primarily functions as an antioxidant. There are things called free radicals that can hurt your cells and make you sick. Because it has a lot of vitamin E and antioxidants, olive oil naturally protects against environmental damage.

High in heat-stable monounsaturated fats

There are three types of fatty acids: saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated.

Most vegetable oils contain polyunsaturated fats, which are less resistant to heat than saturated fats like coconut oil. However, monounsaturated fats make up the majority of olive oil. These oils are found in wheat and soybeans.

That is, heat-resistant saturated and monounsaturated fats make up 87% of olive oil.

Resistant to oxidative damage

When oil oxidizes, it mixes with oxygen to make a number of harmful chemicals.

This is one way that oils can go bad at room temperature, but it happens much more quickly when they burn.

But because it has a lot of antioxidants and not many polyunsaturated fats, olive oil holds up well when heated.

One study that used different kinds of olive oil for deep-frying found that extra virgin olive oil was the least likely to go rancid.

According to another study, cooking with olive oil doesn’t significantly alter it, whereas using vegetable oils such as sunflower oil does.

That being said, one study found that oxidative markers in the blood were higher after a meal with heated olive oil than after a meal with cold olive oil.

There were some problems with this study, though. They didn’t use extra virgin olive oil and cooked it for eight hours.

Also, the idea that heating olive oil makes trans fats is not true. One study found that frying olive oil eight times in a row only raised the amount of trans fat from 0.045% to 0.082%, which is still very little.

Olive oil stays very steady when heated to very high temperatures, such as when deep-frying.

Moderately high smoke point

The “smoke point” is the temperature at which oil begins to degrade and emit smoke.

In this case, fat molecules break apart into a number of harmful chemicals.

However, vitamins, antioxidants, and other minor nutrients in the oil can catch fire and give off smoke, sometimes at lower temperatures than the oil itself.

Some of the fatty acids in an oil are usually free fatty acids. It’s safer to say that oils with more free fatty acids have lower smoke points.

Processed oils typically have a higher smoke point because they contain fewer trace nutrients and free fatty acids.

Besides that, heat makes more free fatty acids, which means that the smoke point drops as you cook it.

It’s hard to say for sure what an oil’s smoke point is, but a range can give you a good idea.

Some claim that the smoke point of olive oil is between 374 and 405°F (190 and 207°C).

Because of this, it is a safe choice for most cooking methods, even pan-frying.

Cooking may destroy some of its antioxidants

Normal cooking probably won’t burn olive oil or do much damage to it.

However, heat sensitivity may break down some of the antioxidants and vitamin E.

In one study, heating olive oil to 356°F (180°C) for 36 hours resulted in a drop in antioxidant and vitamin E levels. However, most of the trace chemicals stayed the same.

Oleocanthal is one of the main chemicals that make extra virgin olive oil work. This ingredient is what makes olive oil good for reducing inflammation.

A chemistry test showed that heating olive oil at 464°F (240°C) for 90 minutes cut the amount of oleocanthal by 19%, and a taste test showed that it cut it by 31%.

In a different study, simulating frying for 24 hours took away some good chemicals, but heating for 10 minutes or boiling in water had only small effects.

Some of olive oil’s flavor comes from the trace chemicals that are in it. So, heating olive oil too much can make it taste less good. Remember that the conditions used in these tests are pretty harsh.

Is olive oil good for cooking?

Olive oil is an excellent choice for cooking. It not only enhances the flavor of dishes but also provides health benefits. Rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, olive oil can help lower bad cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.

When cooking, opt for low to medium heat methods like sautéing and baking to preserve its nutritional properties. Incorporating olive oil into your cooking routine adds both flavor and health benefits to your meals.

The bottom line

Good quality extra virgin olive oil is a very healthy fat that stays healthy even when it’s cooked. The biggest problem is that it can lose its flavor if it gets too hot.

However, olive oil doesn’t change color or go bad when cooked because it’s very resistant to heat.

It is one of the best oils you can use and also great for cooking.

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