Pros and cons of using olive oil

This is in response to the comment re: my post on coconut oil, asking whether or not olive oil is healthy and if it is heat stable.

Here is what Sally Fallon has to say about olive oil in the book “Nourishing Traditions:”

“Oleic acid is an 18-carbon monounsaturated fat which is the chief component of olive oil.  Olive oil contains 75 percent oleic acid, the stable monounsatured fat, along with 13 percent saturated fat, 10 percent omega-6 oleic acid, and 2 percent omega-3 linoleic acid.  The high percentage of oleic acid makes olive oil ideal for salads and for cooking at moderate temperatures.”  If it smokes or leaves a sticky or gummy residue you are overheating the oil.  ” Extra virgin olive oil is also rich in antioxidants.  It should be cloudy, indicating that is has not been filtered, and have a golden yellow color, indicating that it is made from fully ripened olives.  Olive oil has withstood the test of time;  it is the safest vegetable oil you can use, but don’t overdo.  The longer-chain fatty acids found in olive oil are more likely to contribute to the buildup of body fat than the short- and medium-chain fatty acids found in butter and coconut oil.” (pages 9, 18)  Olive oil is rich in omega 9 fatty acids, rather than the omega 6 that tends to be overconsumed in the American diet.

In addition to antioxidants such as vitamin E, olive oil contains natural enzymes which can facilitate digestion.  Be sure to use a good quality extra virgin olive oil as this is the first pressing and has not subjected to heat.  Therefore it is healthy to consume small amounts of olive oil with other foods.  Remember that enzymes are destroyed by heating, so you would need to use olive oil in salad dressing or otherwise unheated.  Try mixing with raw vinegar or fresh lemon juice.  Add some fresh herbs, garlic or other ingredients. 

On a personal note, when I use olive oil on my unglazed stoneware it tends to leave a sticky, gummy residue.  This residue is a result of the oil being damaged by heat.  Butter, coconut oil, lard, and beef tallow do not leave this type of residue on my stoneware.  Perhaps the baking temperature I am using is too high for olive oil.  I mostly use the stoneware to bake homemade french fries with a little oil coating them.  I bake those at 425F.  I also bake homemade chicken nuggets, but I do not need to oil the stoneware for that as it is already seasoned.

To assist you in selecting an oil for cooking or baking, please consult the following chart:

Below 212 F
–Cooking Methods
Boil, steam, scald, stew, simmer, steep, parboil, salad dressings
–Oils You Should Use
Unrefined canola oil (smoke point is below 225 F)
Unrefined flaxseed oil (smoke point is below 225 F)
Unrefined safflower oil (smoke point 225 F)
Unrefined sunflower oil (smoke point is below 225 F)
Below 320 F–Cooking Methods
Low-heat baking, light sauté, pressure cooking
–Oils You Should Use
Unrefined corn oil (smoke point is below 32 F)
Unrefined peanut oil (smoke point is below 320 F)
Semirefined safflower oil (smoke point is below 320 F)
Unrefined soy oil (smoke point is below 320 F)
Unrefined high-Oleic sunflower oil (smoke point is below 320 F)
Unrefined walnut oil (smoke point is below 320 F)

Below 375 F

–Unrefined coconut oil – (smoke point is 350 F)

–Cooking Methods Baking sauté, stir-fry, wok cooking
–Oils You Should Use

Semirefined canola oil (smoke point is below 350 F)
Refined canola oil (smoke point is below 400 F)
Refined corn oil (smoke point is below 450 F)
Unrefined olive oil (smoke point is below 320)
Refined peanut oil (smoke point is below 450 F)
Refined safflower oil (smoke point is below blow 450 F)
Unrefined sesame oil (smoke point is below 350 F)
Semirefined sesame oil (smoke point is below 450 F)
Semirefined soy oil (smoke point is below 350 F)
Refined soy oil (smoke point is below blow 450 F)
Semirefined sunflower oil (smoke point is below 450 F)
Refined high-oleic sunflower oil (smoke point is below 450 F)
Semirefined walnut oil (smoke point is below 400 F)

Below 500 F

–Cooking Methods
Sear, brown, deep-fry.
–Oils You Should Use

Refined avocado oil has a smoke point of below 520 F, the highest temperature of all the plant oils.Unrefined Red Palm Oil – VERY high smoke point of 437F

While some undesirable oils such as canola, corn, or soy oil are listed in the chart, I would recommend avoiding these because they are usually derived from genetically modified plants.

 

 I hope this helps answer the question about olive oil.

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1 Comment

  1. February 25, 2009 at 11:06 pm

    Very helpful! Thank you for taking the time to do this.


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