Is Your Olive Oil Really Healthy?
Years ago, we learned that olive oil is one of the healthiest cooking oils around. However, over the years we’ve learned that olive oil isn’t always best for our bodies. The problem is that when oil is heated, it can become carcinogenic – that is, it can cause cancer. The point at which this happens is called “the smoke point,” and it’s different for different types of oil.
Types of Olive Oil
There are three basic types of olive oil.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra Virgin Olive Oil is made by pressing olives. It has 1% acidity and has a smoke point of 406 degrees F.
Virgin Olive Oil
Virgin Olive Oil comes from later pressings of the olives, but has about 3% acidity and a smoke point of 420 degrees F.
Pure Olive Oil
Pure Olive Oil is a blend of extra virgin or virgin olive oil and refined olive oil. It is of the lowest quality and is the most processed (i.e., the least healthy).
Which Type of Olive Oil for What Type of Cooking?
Extra virgin olive oil is rich in healthy phenols and is perfect for salad dressings or other applications where it won’t be heated. (Above 200 degrees F., extra virgin olive oil looses it’s phenols.) Virgin olive oil is less expensive, and has a higher smoke point – and is therefore better for most cooking applications, like sautéing and roasting.
Which Oil is Healthiest for Frying?
What Cooking Oils Should You Avoid?
There are several oils that are popular, but have questionable health qualities. For example, one might think vegetable oil should be healthy. It’s made from vegetables, after all. But those vegetables must be highly processed in order to make the oil – and the more processed a food is, the less healthy it is. In addition, vegetable oil contains Genetically Modified (GMO) corn; some studies show that GMO foods may have serious health risks.
Other oils to avoid include:
Canola, Safflower, Sesame, Sunflower, and Soybean. In addition, it should be noted that good old butter (not margarine, which is vegetable oil) is healthier to cook with than any of these oils, as long as you’re cooking at low temperatures.