Extra virgin olive oil – Why is it the best cooking oil?

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By Dr. Nancy Kashyap , Dietitian/Nutritionist

Olive oil, for long, has been touted as the healthiest oil out there. Among all the healthy fats recommended for a balanced diet, olive oil stands at the very top of the list. And its high rank is justified, since it has benefits such as:

  • Nutrients such as oleic acid, omega-6 fatty acid, omega-3 fatty acid, vitamins E and K, and antioxidants that help enhance cardiovascular functions.
  • Anti-inflammatory substances.
  • Other healthy elements that lower blood pressure and manage your cholesterol levels.

However, besides these widely acclaimed benefits, there seems to be controversy surrounding olive oil and its role in cooking. Here are two major reasons why olive oil is actually safe and best for cooking:

  1. Oxidization: When you heat oil, it gets damaged due to oxygen reacting with the fatty acids, thus oxidizing them. Oils with polyunsaturated fat (multiple double bonds in the fat molecules) are more sensitive to heat and get easily damaged, while monounsaturated fats (single double bond in the fat molecules) are relatively more resistant to heat. Olive oil is mostly comprised of monounsaturated fatty acids, thus making it comparatively heat-resistant. Therefore, olive oil doesn’t lose any of its benefits when you use it for cooking.
  2. High Smoking Point: The highest temperature at which oil starts burning is known as ‘smoking point’. A common misperception about olive oil is that it starts burning too quickly. This is actually untrue—olive oil, in fact, has a higher smoking point than most oils. Olive oil actually starts burning at 210 degrees Celsius, which is far higher than the average temperature you fry food at. This makes olive oil great for both shallow frying and deep frying.