They say olive oil is healthy and useful food. What about cooking with olive oil? Pure olive oil added to salads is a source of unsaturated fatty acids, polyphenols, vitamin E and iron. It helps our heart, lowers cholesterol and what not. However, oils are continuously changing their chemical content. Storage and cooking process influence their characteristics and benefits. When we open a bottle with olive oil it inevitably loses its flavor and healthy constituents. The process of cooking with olive oil presupposes its heating to a certain temperature. When heated olive oil obtains new characteristics different from the initial ones.
Frying with olive oil
During the frying process the chemical changes in oil constituents take place. Heat speeds up chemical processes. When cooking with olive oil the oil benefits and safety will depend on the temperature at which this frying with olive oil occur. Oleic acid responsible for antioxidant qualities of olive oil is reduced when olive oil is heated above 200-250 degrees F. 320 degrees F heat damages olive oil’s phenols and vitamin E.
Olive oil starts smoking if it is heated to a defined temperature. This is called the smoke point. When we start cooking with olive oil and heat the oil above the smoke point unsaturated fats turn into trans fats. They may clog arteries and develop obesity. Heated above the smoke point temperature oil acquires taste of that smoke. It starts breaking down and emits free radicals, which may cause cancer.
Smoke points of various types of olive oils differ. Firstly, it depends on the kind of oil. Extra virgin oil has the smoke point of 375°F, virgin oil smokes at 391°F, extra light oil’s smoke point is 486°F (read more about different types of olive oil here – Types of Olive Oil. Which One to Choose?). The higher smoke point is the better this type of oil is for frying with. Secondly, the smoke point depends on oil’s storage conditions and how many times you fry with the same oil. Old olive oil or reused one has low smoke point and becomes very harmful. So we should be careful not to overheat olive oil and check the oil type and quality if we prefer cooking with olive oil.
Moreover, when heated olive oil may lose some other benefits. When cooking with olive oil at high temperatures you diminish olive oil’s flavor and smell. Heat evaporates esters. They are not only pleasant fragrance. One of the esters called oleuropein has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and possible anti-cancer effect. If these esters evaporate in the process of frying with olive oil, the benefits of oil are reduced considerably.
SEE ALSO: 6 Substitutes for Olive Oil
If you keep healthy diet, control blood pressure level, try to lower cholesterol or reduce risk of heart disease you’d better avoid frying with olive oil. It’s more useful to eat steamed food than fried one. International Olive Council warns, that if you start frying with olive oil, it is important to choose the right kind of olive oil, for example extra light one. Frying with the wrong olive oil can do you more harm than good. Olive oil is the best choice for salad dressings, sauces and dipping. You’d better fry with vegetable oil, for example canola, coconut or safflower one.