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Miraculous Misconceptions: Common Myths about Olive Oil

This week alone I received questions from three people about olive oil.  The questions were so interesting that I decided to turn them into a quick blog.  Most of you have probably heard that Olive Oil contains a combination of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.  To keep it simple we’ll call these the ‘good fats.’  ‘Bad fats’ are saturated, hydrogenated, or Trans fats such as shortening, butter, margarine, palm oils, and coconut oils.

Unsaturated fats, or your poly and mono unsaturated fats have proved to decrease blood cholesterol and reduce risk of heart disease and as this research continues to be published, a lot of the general public has moved to olive oil for their cooking source, spritzer, or salad dressing.

As the use of olive oil multiplies, rumbles have spread like wildfire that olive oil is bad to cook with because it can turn to a saturated fat or that olive oil loses its nutrient composition at high heat.  When researching these claims I went to the International Olive Oil Council and publications by Dr. Kiritsakis, a world renowned oil chemist, and this is what I found.

Basically, all food can lose some nutrients during the heating process, but the breaking point for this with oils is the smoke point.  The smoke point varies by the type of oil and is basically the temperature at which oil burns.  Extra Virgin Olive Oil has the highest smoke point at 365-400 degrees Fahrenheit.  With this high smoke point it is thought that during normal cooking processes nutrients will not be lost, only the flavor.

As for olive oil turning into a saturated fat with high heat Dr. Kiritsakis believes hydrogenation occurs least in olive oil and that no home cook will ever experience enough hydrogenation when cooking to create a saturated fat.  The International Olive Oil Council echoes this by labeling Olive oil as the most stable fat when heated.

So, what oil should you use with cooking?  I say, stick with the olive oil.  The health benefits outweigh any myths out there.  Cooking some stir fry’s in high heat? Use the ‘extra virgin’ olive oil as it has the highest smoke point.  Frying with olive oil- ay yi yi, doesn’t that negate the whole purpose?

What oils do you use to cook with?  Do you have a favorite? I just discovered the neatest store Lebherz Oil and Vinegar Emporium in Frederick, MD and cannot believe the selection. If you live in the Frederick area, check it out.  Be well.

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