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Putting olive oil to test! 4 reasons why cooking with it is actually unhealthy

Updated on:22 May 2020, 17:25pm IST
Extra virgin olive oil is known for its phenomenal health benefits but it might not be safe to use when sizzled. These 4 reasons tell us about when not to use it.
Aishwarya Chopra
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Get ready to be surprised about olive oil! Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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We have all raved about the healthy extra-virgin olive oil. And why shouldn’t we? After all, it’s a scrumptious health jackpot! It’s high in heart-healthy antioxidants called polyphenols and monounsaturated fats. These help us lower ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and raise ‘good’ HDL cholesterol levels. But, is olive oil the best choice when consumed in every form?

Well, maybe not! These 4 reasons shall make you re-examine olive oil’s ‘choose for everything’ status:

1. Olive oil’s heart-healthy polyphenols might not sustain extreme heat
The phenolic compounds are a powerhouse of antioxidants. Although these antioxidant-rich phenols help sustain heart health, sustaining heat is not something they do as well.

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Heated olive oil is not heart-healthy. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Studies indicate that phenols and polyphenols in olive oil such as hydroxytyrosol or luteolin are unstable in heat and degrade into smoke relatively quickly. It’s lower smoke point (the point at which an oil literally begins to smoke) shall lead to breaking down of beneficial compounds and formation of potentially health-harming compounds. So, using olive oil for making french fries doesn’t sound great now, does it?

2. Heating up olive oil shall destroy the healthy omega fatty acids
Olive oil is a rich source of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. What are omega 3 fatty acids? According to the US National Library of Medicine, they are “significant structural components of the cell membranes of tissues throughout the body found mainly in the retina, brain, and sperm.”

The research further states that fatty acids are extremely sensitive to heat, these essential acids are destroyed when the olive oil is heated. So, heating olive oil doesn’t sound like a wise choice since the process shall break down its phenomenal nutritional value.

omega 3 fatty acids foods
Heating olive oil kills omega fats. Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

3. Olive oil shall emit toxic smoke when it’s high in temperature
The splattering visual oil often seems so satisfying. With olive oil though, it might not feel that way. Olive oil has a low smoking point as we established earlier.

So after olive oil is heated beyond its smoke point, it gives off toxic smoke. Cooking with it creates the risk of emitting compounds that are toxic to human health. Research shows that once the smoke point has been exceeded, excessive glycerol molecules get converted into acrolein. This substance shall bring along with it unwanted health risks with overexposure. Worst part? You might not even notice that you’re breathing in toxic smoke while you’re busy looking at it sizzle.

4. The olive oil you’re using might not be real
Cutting oils with other oils reduced its concentrated authenticity. Multiple brands cut their olive oil with cheap oils like soybean oil, canola oil, hazelnut oil, and low-grade olive oils. So the expensive price tag might not sometimes match the expensive taste.

Surprisingly, a 2011 study found that a whopping 73% of the 5 best selling imported brands of olive oil couldn’t meet the international sensory standards for extra virgin olive set by European regulators.

They could actually be adulterated or blended with other vegetable oils such as soy, corn, cottonseed, hazelnut, or canola oil. The study suggests that the adulterated olive oil may contain heavily processed vegetable oils that contribute to inflammation in the body. Well, it’s time to re-examine the ingredients of your chosen virgin olive oil.

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Just drizzle a little olive oil on your salad for better results. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

What must you do then?
Olive oil is a scrumptious healthy oil, but you must avoid cooking with it. Enjoy this heart-healthy delicacy by drizzling it over steamed vegetables, soup, or bread.   

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Aishwarya Chopra Aishwarya Chopra

Analysing the intricacies of life is my forte, from the matrix of books to anonymous stories of people's expressions and signatures. Everything is a mystery waiting to be uncovered.