Liquid Gold: Cooking with Olive Oil
Here at Nest Wellness, we embrace and use only natural, real food ingredients for optimal health. Questions about olive oil are among the most common queries I receive. I want to debunk a common myth about olive oil and set the record straight. Contrary to popular belief, you can indeed cook with olive oil over high heat. So, let’s dive into the science and find out why good quality olive oil is your culinary companion for all your high-temperature cooking needs as well as dressings, marinades and more!
Olive oil, often referred to as liquid gold, has long been a kitchen staple. However, not all olive oils are created equal, and the healthiest choice is extra virgin olive oil, which is particularly rich in polyphenols. In this article, we’ll explore the wonders of high-quality olive oil, shed light on the importance of choosing trustworthy brands, and delve into the incredible health benefits olive oil offers.
There is much confusion that remains about whether or not olive oil should be used for cooking. For years, we have been led to believe that olive oil should not be exposed to high heat. This misconception came about due to low quality olive oils blended with inferior carrier oils. These low quality blended oils do not tolerate high heat and create harmful compounds when heated to high temperatures. Shockingly, a recent UC Davis study revealed that a staggering 89% of olive oils on supermarket shelves are adulterated with canola or other vegetable oils.
The Truth About Smoke Points
One of the main concerns associated with cooking oils is their smoke points. Did you know that smoke point is actually an irrelevant indicator for cooking? Smoke point is the temperature at which “bluish smoke appears after heating a small amount of oil on an aluminum plate constantly”.
According to the North American Olive Oil Association, extra virgin olive oil’s smoke point is 390-410F. Historically, it was believed that a low smoke point meant that the oil easily broke down when heated, resulting in off-flavors, loss of nutrients and the release of potentially harmful compounds.
Now, it’s believed that the stability of the oil is more important. Extra virgin olive oil has been shown to be more stable and less likely to break down and produce harmful byproducts compared to other seed oils. Since extra virgin olive oil is high in monounsaturated fats, it is less prone to oxidation or its breakdown. Also, its polyphenols are thought to be protective against its degradation during cooking. High polypehenol olive oil can be safely heated to 400F. In this UC Davis study, olive oil was found to be the most stable at high heat, followed by coconut oil.
Quality Matters, Choosing the right Olive Oil
The key to safely cooking with olive oil at high temperatures lies in choosing a quality product. Extra virgin olive oil, made from the first cold pressing of olives, is the very best choice. It is crucial to select olive oil from reputable brands that ensure purity. My favorites are Laconiko Olive Oil (use code NEST) from Trinisa, Laconia, Greece, and Gold Ridge Organic Farm Olive Oil (use code NEST10) grown right here in Sonoma County, California.
The Science Behind Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, such as vitamin E and polyphenols. These compounds help stabilize the oil and protect it from breaking down at high temperatures. In fact, research has shown that extra virgin olive oil can maintain its integrity even when used for sautéing, frying, or roasting. Selina Wang, PhD, a professor in the department of food science and technology and research director of the Olive Center at the University of California, Davis says that “extra virgin olive oil is the most stable when heated, and produces the least amount of polar compounds (the harmful by-products that come from heating oils). In fact, all other vegetable oils high in polyunsaturated fats were found to produce more polar compounds when heated despite their high smoke points”.
Flavor and Aroma Enhancement
Cooking with olive oil also brings a delightful depth of flavor and aroma to your dishes. Its fruity, slightly peppery notes can enhance the taste of your meals, adding a touch of Mediterranean magic to your culinary creations. In fact, the peppery finish is the sign of a good quality olive oil, full of healthy polyphenols.
Polyphenols: Nature’s Antioxidants
Polyphenols are natural compounds found in plants that boast impressive antioxidant properties. In the context of olive oil, these polyphenols act as superheroes, defending your body against harmful molecules known as free radicals. High-polyphenol olive oil, such as extra virgin olive oil, is teeming with these antioxidants, making it a potent ally in the battle against oxidative stress and the prevention of chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
The Health Benefits of High-Quality Olive Oil
- Heart Health: Olive oil takes center stage in the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet. Its monounsaturated fats can lower bad cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of heart disease.
- Nutrient Retention: Cooking with olive oil enhances your body’s absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, making your meals even more nutritious.
- Anti-Inflammatory: Olive oil contains compounds with potent anti-inflammatory properties, helping to combat chronic inflammation, a factor in numerous health issues.
- Digestive Health: Olive oil’s gentle laxative effect can benefit your digestive system, promoting smoother digestion and preventing constipation.
- Make sure that you are buying true extra virgin olive oil. Look for unrefined 100 percent extra virgin oil, a recent harvest date, and a dark bottle. Organic is ideal.
- Extra virgin olive oil is the most stable oil to cook with and can be heated as high as 400 F (deep frying occurs at 350-375 F).
- Even when heated past its smoke point, virgin olive oils produce low levels of harmful compounds due to the high polyphenol content in the oil.
- Polyphenols (antioxidants) still remain after heating. Starting with an oil extra high in polyphenols (over 250 mg/kg) is recommended so that even more remain after heating.
A few of our favorite ways to use EVOO
There are so many ways you can incorporate extra virgin olive oil into your diet. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Drizzle over fresh tomatoes, basil and goat cheese.
- Make your own olive oil vinaigrette!
- Top your favorite garlic hummus.
- Drizzle over vegetables or salads.
- As a cooking oil. Use olive oil in place of canola oil or vegetable oil in all forms of cooking, including frying, sauteing, and roasting.
- Tossed with your favorite vegetables to roast in the oven.
- In a stir fry with chicken or beef and vegetables.
- Drizzle over your favorite whole grain or protein for enhanced flavor.
- Use olive oil for baking. Like in this low carb, keto friendly olive oil cake.
- Simply take 1-2 tbsp of olive oil by spoon (like Dr. B does!) to help keep blood sugar stable. This study showed a relationship between olive oil consumption and improved HbA1c and fasting glucose.
In summary, high-quality, high-polyphenol olive oil is a true health elixir in your kitchen. It’s more than just a cooking ingredient; it’s a nutritional powerhouse that contributes to your overall well-being. The next time you reach for the oil in your pantry, remember the many health benefits of good-quality olive oil. Your taste buds and your body will thank you.
Laconiko and Gold Ridge are both offering discounts on their beautiful, healthy, high polyphenol olive oils just for you!
To order Laconiko olive oil, use code NEST to save.
To order Gold Ridge Organic Farm olive oil, use code NEST10 to save.