4 Times You Should Never Use Extra Virgin Olive Oil

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Extra virgin olive oil is beautiful, delicious and incredibly heart-healthy, so people use it to cook everything. In fact, years ago when I first started my transition to a healthier diet, extra virgin olive oil was one of the first items I added to my repertoire of "good for me" foods. I had learned that extra virgin olive oil was full of antioxidants called polyphenols, vitamin E and monounsaturated fats (as opposed to animal fats that are full of saturated fat) that help raise good cholesterol (HDL) and lower bad cholesterol (LDL). As a foodie, I watched Rachael Ray add “EVOO” to nearly everything she cooked, so if I also wanted to be a rock star in the kitchen, no dish of mine would be deprived of EVOO! I’ve since learned that extra virgin olive oil is not always the best choice. Yes it’s healthy, but the truth is, you shouldn’t be using it to cook everything.

Heat harms extra virgin olive oil

The word “oil” refers to a lipid (fat) that is liquid at room temperature. This includes olive oil, as well as other health-promoting plant oils like canola, sunflower, safflower, and almond. Oils have a property known as a “smoke point”, which is the temperature at which the oil starts to break down chemically to glycerol and free fatty acids. The smoke point is also the temperature at which the oil starts to produce smoke, burn and possibly catch fire. Refining oils, which is a process to remove the impurities, tends to increase the smoke point. For example, a refined olive oil has a higher smoke point than an unrefined extra virgin olive oil.

Plant oils heated above their smoke point not only taste bad, but can be bad for you. When oils start to smoke and burn, they essentially become rancid and disease-causing carcinogens and free radicals are released. Additionally, when extra virgin olive oil is exposed to temperatures above the smoke point, it loses its key health-promoting antioxidants and vitamin E, which is probably why you started using olive oil in the first place.

When not to use extra virgin olive oil

All plant oils are susceptible to heat damage, but olive oil in particular should be treated delicately. Olive oil has a low smoke point (200 - 250°F), so when used to prepare dishes at temperatures above 250°F, bad things can start to happen. There are four times when you should never use extra virgin olive oil. When roasting, searing meat, wok cooking, or deep-frying resist the urge to use extra virgin olive oil. These cooking methods require high heat and are best reserved for oils that have a high smoke point like organic canola, peanut, and safflower oil.

Like olive oil, canola oil is full of heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids and low in saturated fat which makes it a good alternative to olive oil. Canola oil can withstand high temperatures (smoke point up to 475°F) so it is an excellent alternative to extra virgin olive oil for high-heat cooking. Canola oil typically costs less than extra virgin olive oil, which is an added bonus if you are trying to shrink your grocery bill! When to use olive oil

Extra virgin olive oil has a low smoke point, so enjoy its health benefits it’s best used over medium heat or no heat at all. When you want a nice dressing for a salad - think extra virgin olive oil. When you are sautéing over low-medium heat, think extra virgin olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil is a perfect choice for uncooked items like salad dressings, pesto, and hummus. It’s also quite tasty on warm bread, previously steamed or baked potatoes and veggies.

As delicious as it is beautiful, extra virgin olive oil is widely used for its heart-health, anti-cancer and longevity benefits. Although it bears the title of “superfood”, extra virgin olive oil must be used sensibly and handled delicately to protect its vital nutrients.