Cooking with oils || Why you need to be cooking with olive oil today.
There is large speculation in regards to olive oil and the notion that it becomes “bad for you” once heated. Cook with coconut oil, it has a higher smoke point, don’t use butter, it’s a saturated fat, it will give you high cholesterol. No wonder we are so confused.
Olive oil has been an integral component of the Mediterranean diet for millennia and has been associated with positive health outcomes time and time again (1). It is well established that these beneficial effects are partly due to the phenolic components of EVOO, which are known for thir remarkable antioxidant activity (2). The polyphenols present within olive oil are important, not only at a biological level, but also for their intracellular involvement down regulating inflammatory mediators and modulating the activation of kinases involved in the onset of inflammatory processes. Polyphenols have also been researched and known for their anti-cancer properties and their interactions with proteins controlling cell cycle progression and gene expression (3).
The major players of olive oil;
EVOO is primarily comprised of triacylglycerols (98%); monoacylglycerols & diacylgycerols (mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids), free fatty acids and other lipophilic components such as plant serols, tocopherols, pigments (chlorophylls), carotenoids and polyphenols. These words basically just describe their chemical, molecular structure (1). Fatty acids are utilized in our bodies as energy, they form the lipid bilayer of our cell membrane surfaces, transporter molecules, form chemical signaling mediators providing inflammatory & anti-inflammatory mediators - mediating or modulating inflammation. Furthermore they provide substrates for hormone production, among other things (2).
The other 2% of olive oil is comprised of hydrophilic compounds, and although only a small portion, they pack a punch. The phenolic compounds contribute to the sensory properties of EVOO, they produce a bitter, pungent taste and strong flavor indicating high quality. Fats are subject to beta-oxidation when exposed to heat, light & air. The polyphenol levels contribute to the high stability of EVOO due to the extremely high antioxidant capacity, preventing oxidation resulting in a long shelf life (2).
The main classes of polyphenols are listed below and are known for their antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and antioxidant properties:
o Phenolic acids
These phenolic compounds are also responsible for protecting the fatty acids from oxidation when being heated therefore having a higher smoke point due to the antioxidant activity, and found to have a smoke point between 190 °C and 210 °C, which is well above the suggested temperature of 180 °C for frying food (1), whilst unrefined coconut oil is 177 °C (4).
Something else I learnt, that when frying your foods, either deep or pan frying, the fat molecule you are cooking with replaces the water molecules within the food therefore essentially, consuming dehydrated foods. The benefit of cooking with olive oil is that you are displacing water with a beneficial fatty acid profile and health promoting microconsitiuents (1).
Olive oil enhances absorption, and bio-avaliablity of phytochemicals and nutrients from foods. Another fabulous reason you need it in your diet ASAP!
1. Velasco, J., & Dobarganes, C. (2002). Oxidative stability of virgin olive oil. European Journal of Lipid Science and Technology, 104(9‐10), 661-676.
2. Serreli, G., & Deiana, M. (2018). Biological relevance of extra virgin olive oil polyphenols metabolites. Antioxidants, 7(12), 170.
Fabiani, R. Anti-cancer properties of olive oil secoiridoid phenols: A systematic review of in vivo studies. Food Funct. 2016, 7, 4145–4159.
4. Boateng, L., Ansong, R., Owusu, W. B., & Steiner-Asiedu, M. (2016). Coconut oil and palm oil's role in nutrition, health and national development: A review. Ghana medical journal, 50(3), 189–196.