Do you wanna become a know-it-all, holier-than-thou, food nazi? Start blogging about healthy food. This past week alone I got angry at two people for using olive oil to cook. Really? Olive oil rage?? I admit, a short fuse is one of my defining characteristics, but truth-seeking might be one of my few redeeming ones. You know what’s next: my attempt to validate olive oil rage.
Olive oil is one of the healthiest foods on the planets (and one of the few things conventional food science has gotten right), but my beef had to do with what happens to this ambrosia when you heat it up. What I ended up finding was an overheated myth and a recipe to apologize to my 2 dear friends (if they’re still around…)
Let’s start with why olive oil would be bad at all:
Olive Oil Oxidizes
This must have truth to it. After all, it’s a triple alliteration!
First, a little science. Just a little. When exposed to heat, light, and air, polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) are most unstable, monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) are in the middle, and saturated fatty acids are most stable.
Unstable->oxidizes->produces free radicals.
Most vegetable oils have a much higher relative amount of PUFA than both, so they would by and far be the worst for cooking, yet are the most popular oil used in the standard american diet! This explains so much. Dairy butter, coconut butter, and lard (you know, all that stuff that your doctors tell you cause heart disease), have a very high relative amount of saturated sat so are all great for cooking at high temps. Olive oil has a very high relative amount of MUFA, so that’s where the potential for oxidation comes from.
Some might say that the ratio of omega 6 to 3 (both are PUFA) is just as important as the type of fatty acid. Some have argued olive oil and avocado oil are bad for cooking due to their higher omega 6:3 ratio. Truth is, even with the high ratio, due to the low total PUFA both olive oil and avocado oil have less total grams of omega 6 than lard and poultry fat. Argument Fail.
The proof is in the pudding: “Despite being heated at 180 degrees C (356 degrees F) for 36 hours, two varieties of extra virgin olive oil exhibited strong resistance to oxidative damage and retained most of their “minor [phenolic] compounds.” http://www.marksdailyapple.com/defending-olive-oils-reputation/#ixzz2Dg73iRxj
Do I or Don’t I?
Here’s the bottom line: If you’re gonna use olive oil to cook at high heat, I would use a mid-grade (like Trader Joe’s) olive oil since it stands up better to high heat. But why cook with olive oil at all when it’s safer as a dressing, and your have a better option in saturated fats that enjoy getting flogged by high heat?
What makes cooking with saturated fat far easier on the conscience is a type of high-saturated-fat butter which has the stability of animal fats, but is packed with medium-chain triglycerides (an optimal source of energy) and lauric acid which converts to monolaurin (antiviral, antibacterial, antiprotozoal). This bad boy:
Serious question: is there a more perfect food than coconut? I eat coconut meat (manna) for fat and fiber, cook with the oil and throw even more oil in my coffee for energy and metabolism, all while kicking microbes in their squiggly asses. Then I wash it all down and replenish my electrolytes with coconut water. Tell me we’re never running out of coconuts. ”Like, ever.” – Paleo Taylor Swift
So Olive Oil, I guess you’re not all that bad after all, and clearly you’re doing something right if the peeps that use you as a staple forget to die. I just don’t think you should play with fire.