What do you really know about cooking with EVOO

July 02, 2014

By Vitina Feo Myths abound on the Internet about the use of extra virgin olive oil. Some say it cannot be used for cooking without decomposing and losing its beneficial properties. Others state that it is healthy and good for cooking as well as other uses. In this article, we will take apart three of the common myths about extra virgin olive oil and replace the incorrect data with true, easy to understand data, borne out by scientific research. Most people agree that there are numerous health benefits of extra virgin olive oil, including helping with weight loss, improving heart health and lowering cancer risk.


Myth #1: All olive oils have the same health benefits.

This is FALSE. Science says:  From an excerpt taken from “The Science of Cooking with Olive Oil” by Mary Flynn, PhD, RD, an associate professor of Clinical Medicine at Brown University’s Albert Medical School in Providence, Rhode Island, she stated, 1
 “Extra virgin olive oil is the juice of the olive fruit.  Like most unprocessed plant products, it contains a range of health-promoting phytonutrients.  The phytonutrients in olive oil have been shown to decrease the oxidation of LDL (2) (which would lower heart disease risk) and DNA (3) (which would lower cancer risk).  Other phytonutrients in olive oil have been shown to decrease blood levels of glucose and insulin (4); decrease blood pressure (5, 6); decrease blood coagulation (7); and decrease inflammation (8).  This makes extra virgin olive oil very different from seed oils, like soybean, safflower, corn, and canola oil, which have undergone a refining process that destroys phytonutrients.  Refined olive oil, typically labeled “olive oil” in stores, also lacks phytonutrients.  (Take-away point:  buy only extra virgin olive oil!)”

(See the numbered references documented below.)  


Myth #2: You can’t cook with extra virgin olive oil as the high heat used in cooking or frying makes olive oil unhealthy.

This myth is also FALSE. Science says: Olive oil is not only safe for cooking, but is recommended by scientists and olive oil experts for high temperature frying! The notion that one should never heat extra virgin olive oil or use it for cooking is not supported by research. Dr. Mary Enig, author of Know Your Fats, is one of America’s foremost experts on healthy fats and oils. In her book, she says that for sautéing or light frying, one should use a unique blend of oils that contains a third coconut oil, a third sesame oil and a third extra virgin olive oil. A wide body of peer-reviewed published research supports Dr. Enig’s recommendations. The truth is that high levels of antioxidants that are found in the best quality olive oils, usually classified as extra virgin olive oils, are what make olive oil heat-stable, and thus an excellent choice for frying. Other researchers reported in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry on continuously heating virgin olive oil for 36 hours to a temperature of 356 degrees F. They found that despite heating, virgin olive oil maintained most of its minor compounds and, therefore, most of its nutritional properties.8 Dr. Flynn touched on this point in her article too, stating,
High quality extra virgin olive oil can be heated to 420°F before it reaches smoke-point (i.e., begins to smoke and starts to form unhealthy compounds), which is higher than nearly every other vegetable oil.  Olive oil is much more stable when heated compared to most vegetable oil (16, 17).”

Most foods are sautéed or fried at a much lower temperature than that tested, by the way. These and many other researchers support the recommendation that it is not only safe to cook with virgin olive oil but it is beneficial.


Myth #3: Heating Olive Oil produces Trans fats

You guessed it: FALSE again. Science says: Here again, the answer is No. Trans fats are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogens to the liquid oil (partial hydrogenation), making it semi-solid.  This is how margarine is made (or at least was made, before Trans fats were recognized as a health issue).  Ordinary cooking, even at high heat, never produces Trans fats.



You can read much more on this topic, some of it highly scientific and some much easier reading, but if you dig, you  will find that the truth is you should use extra virgin olive oil for cooking as well as for making that delicious garlic bread and for your favorite salad dressing.   References: 1. Dr. Mary Flynn, Ph.D., R.D., in The Science of Cooking with Olive Oil, cited inhttp://www.truthinoliveoil.com/2013/10/science-cooking-olive-oil 2. Covas MI, Nyyssonen K, Poulsen HE, et al. The effect of polyphenols in olive oil on heart disease risk factors: a randomized trial. Ann Intern Med 2006;145:333-41. 3. Salvini S, Sera F, Caruso D, et al. Daily consumption of a high-phenol extra-virgin olive oil reduces oxidative DNA damage in postmenopausal women. Br J Nutr 2006;95:742-51. 4. Madigan C, Ryan M, Owens D, Collins P, Tomkin GH. Dietary unsaturated fatty acids in type 2 diabetes: higher levels of postprandial lipoprotein on a linoleic acid-rich sunflower oil diet compared with an oleic acid-rich olive oil diet. Diabetes Care 2000;23:1472-7. 5. Ferrara LA, Raimondi AS, d'Episcopo L, Guida L, Dello Russo A, Marotta T. Olive oil and reduced need for antihypertensive medications. Arch Intern Med 2000;160:837-42. 6. Fito M, Cladellas M, de la Torre R, et al. Antioxidant effect of virgin olive oil in patients with stable coronary heart disease: a randomized, crossover, controlled, clinical trial. Atherosclerosis 2005;181:149-58. 7. Ruano J, Lopez-Miranda J, de la Torre R, et al. Intake of phenol-rich virgin olive oil improves the postprandial prothrombotic profile in hypercholesterolemic patients. Am J Clin Nutr 2007;86:341-6. 8. Beauchamp GK, Keast RS, Morel D, et al. Phytochemistry: ibuprofen-like activity in extra-virgin olive oil. Nature 2005;437:45-6. 9. Allouche, A. Jiménez, J. J. Gaforio, M. Uceda, G. Beltrán, “How heating affects extra virgin olive oil quality indexes and chemical composition,” J Agric Food Chem, 2007 Nov 14;55(23):9646-54. Epub 2007 Oct 13, PMID: 17935291 10.”The antioxidants in oils heated at frying temperature, whether natural or added, could protect against postprandial oxidative stress in obese people.” Perez-Herrera A, Food Chem. 2013 Jun 15; 138 (4):2250-9 11.”Influence of simulated deep- frying on the antioxidant fraction of vegetable oils after enrichment with extracts from olive oil pomace.” Orozco-Solano MI, Priego-Capote F, Luque de Castro MD. J Agric Food Chem. 2011 Sep 28; 59(18):9806-14 12. “Frying with Olive Oil,” International Olive Oil Council, http://www.internationaloliveoil.org/estaticos/view/85-frying-with-olive-oil,” 13. “Extra Virgin Olive Oil Frequently Asked Questions,” Richard Gawel, 2009. http://www.aromadictionary.com/oliveoilfaq.html 14. John P. Thomas, “Myth Buster: Olive Oil is One of the Safest Oils for Frying and Cooking,” Health Impact  News Daily. May 26, 2014. (see link: http://healthimpactnews.com/2014/myth-buster-olive-oil-is-one-of-the-safest-oils-for-frying-and-cooking/). 15. Know Your Fats, Mary Enig, Ph.D., 2010, p. 197 ff. 16. Bastida SS-M, FJ. Thermal oxidation of olive oil, sunflower oil and a mix of both oils during forty continuous domestic fryings of different foods. Food Sci Tech Int 2001;7:15-21. 17. Gennaro L, Piccioli Bocca, A, Modesti, D, Masella, R, Coni, E. Effect of biophenols on olive oil stability evaluated by thermogravimetric analysis. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 1998; 46:4465-4469