Quality extra virgin olive oil is a super healthy fat that retains its beneficial qualities during cooking. The main reason you may not want to use it, is that heating it too much can have adverse effects on the flavor.
The belief that olive oil oxidizes and goes rancid during cooking is a harmful myth that scares people from using this incredibly healthy fat.
Here are 5 reasons you should include olive oil in your cooking.
Olive Oil is High in Monounsaturated Fats, Which Are Stable When Heated
Each fat molecule (triglyceride) consists of a glycerol molecule linked to three fatty acids. All glycerol molecules are the same… but there are hundreds of different fatty acids in nature and the health effects vary between them.
Fatty acids can be either saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. Saturated fatty acids have no double bonds, monounsaturated have one (mono = one) and polyunsaturated fatty acids have many double bonds (poly = many).
Here’s the important part… the double bonds are unstable when heated and they tend to react with oxygen. Therefore, the more double bonds a fatty acid molecule has, the more unstable it will be when used for cooking. This is the reason saturated fats (zero double bonds) like coconut oil are very resistant to heat.
Although most vegetable oils contain polyunsaturated fatty acids with many double bonds, olive oil contains mostly monounsaturated fatty acids with one double bond. As it turns out… having one double bond in the fatty acid molecule is not a bad thing. It’s only the polyunsaturated fatty acids (like those in soybean and canola oils) that are harmful.
Of course… oils are usually a mix of different types of fatty acids. Olive oil, for example, is 73% monounsaturated, 11% polyunsaturated and 14% saturated. In other words, the heat resistant monounsaturated and saturated fats make up 87% of olive oil.