Frying as a method of cooking is not particularly healthy. However, it can be if you are using extra-virgin olive oil. It has compounds that prevent cancer, heart diseases and neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s. Olive oil is a healthy kind of fat called monounsaturated (MUFAS). While olive oil itself is proven to be healthy, there are some arguments about using it for cooking. Let us qualify the different points and determine exactly how healthy this option is.
Is it healthy to deep fry?
Yes. Deep frying enables the compound phenols from the extra-virgin olive oil to transfer to the food being fried. Based on the experiment, vegetables deep-fried in extra-virgin olive oil became enriched with phenols from the cooking oil, and improved in quality.
The qualities of olive oil degenerates the least when deep-fried as compared with other kinds of oil. The experiment fried different kinds of cooking oil for six hours, and after such length of time, only olive oil was ‘resistant to degeneration’.
Is it healthy to pan-fry?
When you pan-fry extra-virgin olive oil, there is actually faster degeneration compared to deep frying. Experts explain this is due to higher exposure to oxygen in the atmosphere. However, if compared with other kinds of cooking oil, when you pan fry, olive oil still retains its anti-oxidants, and is therefore still the healthier option.
Is it healthy to boil in plain water?
The experiment conducted 60-minute boiling of carrots, potatoes and onions with extra-virgin olive oil. Boiling does not cause oxidation. However, if you put olive oil 15 minutes before the end of the boiling, the elements which help fight off cancer are increased in the vegetables.
Is it healthy to roast?
This experiment was conducted using different kinds of oil, meat and vegetables that were all placed inside an oven. Again, olive oil did not oxidize during the process. It means it does not promote free radicals which cause damage on cells, which may lead to cancer.
Know your olive oil
Olive oil comes from olives that are extracted when olives are pressed. Not all olive oil are created equal. There are variations in the processes. For instance, for extra-virgin and virgin oils, there is no further processing after the extraction. As a result of these variations, there are three grades of olive oil and under each grade are several types.
Extra virgin olive oil
- Premium extra-virgin
- Fine virgin oil
- Virgin oil
- Semi-fine virgin oil
- Pure olive oil
- Refined oil
Tips when cooking with olive oil
So now we have established that any method of cooking, when done with olive oil, is still the healthiest way to cook. Here are more tips to heighten the experience:
- Cook with olive oil plus spices to bring out more complimentary flavors;
- Extra-virgin olive oil is best used uncooked or cooked at low temperatures;
- While olive oil is healthy, it still has fats in it so use with discretion if you are trying to lose weight;
- Do not re-use oils. Old oil breeds free radicals which are harmful on our bodies;
- Use olive oil as vinaigrette on your salads. It is healthy and its taste compliments with the vegetables, enhancing their delicious flavors;
- Drizzle it on anything – on pasta dishes or on crackers for appetizers;
- Use it as alternative to butter – even when baking.
Tips in storing olive oil
Olive oil actually stores and stays longer than other kinds of oils, mainly because of its MUFAS. Olive oil has to be preserved correctly to maintain its healthful properties. Otherwise, stored the wrong way, it will instead be a health hazard with its free radicals.
In choosing a location to store it, remember these tips:
- Keep away from air, light and heat, not only will it breed free radicals, it will cause your olive oil to be rancid;
- Store in tinted glass or stainless steel with lids. It has to keep light out and not react to oil;
- Avoid storage containers made from plastic or iron or copper;
- For long term storage, keep refrigerated, except for the premium extra-virgin olive oil;
- If the refrigerated olive oil solidifies, return to room temperature when ready to use;
- Keep smaller amount of olive oil in room temperature for everyday use, in sealed glass or porcelain container.
Is cooking with olive oil healthy? Yes, it is. Among the methods of cooking, deep frying in high heat does change the properties of the oil used, regardless what kind it is. This results to oxidation, hydrolysis, and other chemical changes. However, among all kinds of oils, olive oil remains to be the more resistant against oxidation and production of free radicals. So if you are going to use cooking oil, use olive oil instead. If you are going to cook using olive oil, try other methods like roasting instead of deep frying. The best way to enjoy its health benefits though is to consume olive oil in its purest form – raw and unprocessed as a salad dressing or as a drizzled bit on your crackers.