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Is It Safe to Cook with Extra Virgin Olive Oil?

Many people believe that it is not a good idea to cook with extra virgin olive oil. Several scientific studies have proven over the years that this myth is simply untrue. Not only is EVOO safe to cook with, but it is the most stable and safest cooking oil available.

A recent Australian study published by Modern Olives Laboratory Services in the ACTA Scientific Nutritional Health Journal found that extra virgin olive oil is the most stable cooking oil. The EVOO was tested against virgin olive oil, refined olive oil, canola oil, grapesed oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, peanut oil, rice bran oil and sunflower oil.

It's not about the smoke point

Despite the fact that the smoke point of extra virgin olive oil exceeds home cooking temperatures, there is a persistent myth that it is unsuitable for cooking.  In fact, extra virgin olive oil was more stable than saturated fats like coconut oils, and oils with high smoke points such as avocado oil. Researchers found that the smoke point of an oil did not correlate to the oil's performance when heated. Oils with low smoke point (such as coconut oil), or moderate smoke points (such as extra virgin olive oil), outperformed oils with higher smoke points.

Dr. Simon Poole, MD, and presenter at the 2018 Olive Oil Conference, in an interview in the Olive Oil Times stated, "This research provides unequivocal and definitive evidence that should finally dispel this myth. It shows that extra virgin olive oil is not only safe during heating at regular cooking temperatures, but is the desirable cooking oil when compared with others. The production of potentially harmful polar compounds and trans fats was markedly lower in EVOO.”

Polyunsaturated fats are more unstable

The study tested exposure of oil to high heat over a short time, and exposure of oil to moderate heat for a long time. To perform their tests, researchers gradually heated the oils to a moderate cooking temperature of 356℉ over 6 hours and to a high cooking temperature of 465℉ over 20 minutes. The researchers determined the rate of degradation of the oils by measuring the polar compounds and oxidative by-products. Polyunsaturated oils were the worst performers. Grapeseed oil and Canola oil produced approximately twice the harmful polar compounds produced by EVOO.

EVOO's antioxidants

Another interesting conclusion of the study is that the antioxidants in extra virgin olive oil contributed to its high stability when heated. This is reason why extra virgin olive oil performed better than virgin olive oil or refined olive oil.

Another commonly held myth is that the anti-oxidants and polyphenols in olive oil are destroyed by heat. This myth was debunked in 2007 in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. A team of researchers found that the extra virgin olive oil retained most of the nutritional benefits after heating it to 356°F (180 °C) for 36 hours. The phenols and antioxidants on EVOO have also been shown to make your food more nutritious.

In conclusion, research now confirms with the world's best chefs have known all along: extra virgin olive oil is the best cooking oil. 

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