Yes, You Can Totally Fry With Extra Virgin Olive Oil and It Is the Healthiest Oil

September 6, 2018

Let’s put an end to this myth once and for all. Extra virgin olive oil is one of the best oils to fry and cook with.Extra Virgin Olive Oil Smoke Point
I recently came across a silly article telling us that we should not cook or fry with extra virgin olive oil. In fact it said that in many cases we should prefer the standard stuff (regular olive oil).

Why you ask? Well according to the article, extra virgin olive oil may be too strong. I was also surprised to read a quote in the article from the executive director of the North American Olive Oil Association, that said that “If you want a lighter-tasting oil but still want the health benefits then use the bottles marked olive oil or light-tasting olive oil”. But that is not true, in fact regular olive oil does not have all those antioxidants that extra virgin olive oil has, so no you will not get the health benefits of extra virgin by using a regular highly refined olive oil.

The comments below the article were hilarious. Readers were saying that extra virgin olive oil is a scam and anyone who says you should fry in olive oil is clueless.

This is one of the numerous articles (many from big websites and famous chefs, nutritionists etc.) that tell you adamantly, not to fry or cook with olive oil because it is too strong, has a low smoke point, can become carcinogenic etc. All this is fake news. It simply is not true.

What is Plain Olive Oil?

Let us look once more at what plain olive oil is. It is virgin olive oil mixed with refined olive oil. Refined olive oil is basically low quality olive oil that is refined physically and chemically to remove undesirable qualities such a free fatty acids and unpleasant flavor and odor. It contains little to no antioxidants. So all you would be getting is the monounsaturated fats but really no antioxidants which are most responsible for the health benefits of olive oil.

Should I Fry With Extra Virgin Olive Oil?

Yes you should. For how long will this myth continue to spread? Clueless people keep on saying this without looking at the numbers. We keep on hearing this: “Extra Virgin Olive Oil has a low smoke point blah blah blah”. Ok, extra virgin olive oil has an average smoke point of about 400 degrees F (some have higher). When you sauté or fry something you will not be exceeding 375 F. Is that clear?

Is Cooking With Olive Oil Carcinogenic?

No. Many people think that olive oil degrades very quickly when heated and this can be bad for your health. WRONG.  Extra virgin olive oil contains antioxidants (other oils do not) so it is quite resistant to oxidation and there will be a less chance of the formation of harmful substances while cooking compared to other oils. So -no- frying with extra virgin olive oil is not carcinogenic, unless you burn the oil and then consume it.

Now, as with all foods when heated they will lose some of their nutrients, but not as much as you think. In extreme conditions (heating the olive oil for many hours) a decrease of some antioxidants was noted, while others were intact. A Spanish study showed that when frying vegetables in extra virgin olive oil, some of the antioxidants of the oil were transferred to the vegetables. Another Spanish study showed that eating fried foods will not affect heart health as long as you are frying them in extra virgin olive oil and are following a Mediterranean Diet.

The Price

Another reason that is cited is that extra virgin olive oil is too expensive and you should save it for drizzling. OK, yes it is more expensive than corn oil and canola oil for a reason; olives are actually a fruit and olive oil is a fruit juice. But the health benefits by far outweigh any other oil you would be buying, and I can’t help but wonder (as Carrie Bradshaw would say) why are we willing to pay 3$ for a tiny bottle of water but not pay for extra virgin olive oil?

Flavor?

Another reason that is mentioned is that extra virgin olive oil has a strong flavor or is too peppery. Sure, but there are many varieties of olives and they produce different extra virgin olive oils, some are strong tasting and some are not. Taste and decide what works for you, but please stay away from regular olive oil.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, The Basis of the Real Mediterranean Diet

Finally, and this is from personal experience as well, but one that we should take into account. The traditional Greek diet (prototype of the Mediterranean Diet), used mostly extra virgin olive oil (with the exception of special occasions where they used butter or animal fat) and at the time they were among the longest living people (circa 1960). My ancestors cooked, fried and baked with it and they lived very long lives.

Bottom Line

You may think regular olive oil (or canola oil) is good enough but you are missing out on all the benefits (and flavor) of real extra virgin olive oil. Find a reasonable priced extra virgin olive oil and use it for all your cooking needs.

For tips on how to buy a good olive oil read my post:

How to Buy The Best Olive Oil

For tips on how to use olive oil read this post:

How to Use Olive Oil to Get the Most Benefits

References

Food Chemistry. Phenols and the antioxidant capacity of Mediterranean vegetables prepared with extra virgin olive oil using different domestic cooking techniques.

BMJ. Consumption of fried foods and risk of coronary heart disease: Spanish cohort of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study.

International Olive Oil Council. Frying with olive oil. Available at: http://www.
internationaloliveoil.org/estaticos/view/85-frying-with-olive-oil

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15 Comments

  • Reply Eva September 6, 2018 at 1:34 pm

    This is so good to know! I have cooked with ‘original’ extra virgin olive oil for a while now and just ignore all advice about having to cook with lighter (refined) olive oils

  • Reply Eva September 6, 2018 at 2:04 pm

    I forgot to mention this has reminded me of a guy called Michael North who tried to pitch the idea of fresh seasonal olive oil to a panel of business entrepreneurs in a tv show called Dragon’s Den here in the UK, but unfortunately they didn’t ‘get’ it and made him look like a bit of a fool which is unfortunate.

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RDN September 6, 2018 at 4:26 pm

      A yes I am familiar with Michael North, love the idea of seasonal fresh olive oil, too bad the entrepreneurs did not realize this.

  • Reply sara September 7, 2018 at 11:15 am

    What are your thoughts on the craze of avacado oil?

  • Reply Yes, You Can Fry With Extra Virgin Olive Oil and It Is the Healthiest Oil | Everett Chiropractic Center Blog September 7, 2018 at 9:22 pm

    […] Not news, but needed to offset a bunch of fake news…. probably from the Avocado lobby:-) […]

  • Reply Frugan E September 19, 2018 at 3:48 pm

    Love this! I also learned that olive oil is no good to fry in. Well, I live in Tunisia and I use olive oil now in all my cooking, even for frying and it works just fine & it’s delicious. 🙂 Don’t know where this strange myth comes from..

  • Reply Lisa September 28, 2018 at 12:53 pm

    At last! Sense! I get so fed up of chefs saying this. I bet my yiayia cooked with it, and her mum too, as it’s what was from her olive trees in Cyprus. Like everyone! I use it for everything. Baking, sauteing, frying, even skin care.

  • Reply Maria October 1, 2018 at 3:40 pm

    We are fortunate enough to get five gallon containers of extra virgin sent to us from Greece from my father in laws tax guys olive groves! It is truly amazing, you can see and taste ancient history in it!

    I want to fry or sauté using it but it seems somehow too precious for this task-so I started using 1/2 the beautiful olive oil and half high quality expeller pressed sunflower oil.
    This is feel was a compromise I could live with.
    Thank you for your wonderful articles and recipes!

  • Reply Tony October 18, 2018 at 1:07 am

    Hi, love your website. I was wondering whether olive oil used for frying something clean, like potatoes, could be reused in other recipies?

    • Reply Tony October 18, 2018 at 2:25 am

      That is extra virgin olive oil*

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RDN October 21, 2018 at 7:32 am

      Hi Tony, Generally you do not want to re-use olive oil a second time as you will not get the health benefits from antioxidants.

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