Top 10 Olive Oil Myths
There are many myths surrounding extra virgin olive oil and there’s a huge deal of misinformation out there, so we thought it was time to set the record straight.
1. You can’t cook with extra virgin olive oil.
One of the most widespread myths regarding extra virgin olive oil is that you can’t cook with it, however this is false. You can and should cook with extra virgin olive oil – it is one of the safest and most stable oils to cook with. While many believe that the smoke point of an oil indicates its safety for cooking, research has shown this to be false. Instead, the concentration of antioxidants and the fat profile of an oil are more likely to predict its stability when heated. Extra virgin olive oil is high in stable monounsaturated fats and is also full of antioxidants making it suitable for all domestic cooking including deep frying, roasting, sautéing and baking.
2. ‘Light’ extra virgin olive oil is lower in calories.
All types of oil have the same number of calories – around 681kJ (163 calories) per 20mL tablespoon. ‘Light’ refers to the flavour profile of the oil and indicates that the flavour will be mild or delicate rather than robust and peppery. Due to its milder flavour, ‘light’ EVOO works well as a substitute for butter in baking, or for dishes where you want a more neutral flavoured oil.
3. You should only have a small amount of extra virgin olive oil in your diet.
Some people believe the amount of fat in the diet should be minimised; however, this is not the case. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a healthy fat, and research shows that benefits come from consuming around 2-4 tbsp (25-50mL) per day.
4. You can’t use extra virgin olive oil with non-stick pans.
There is a common myth that EVOO can’t be used with non-stick pans, however there is absolutely no evidence to support this.
In 2019, the Modern Olives Laboratory conducted an assessment on the suitability of EVOO and other oils for use on Teflon coated pans. The research found no significant difference between the oils for the volumes of metal released from the pans, suggesting no impact on the pan’s quality or integrity upon cooking with EVOO.
5. Extra virgin olive oil can’t be used in Asian-style cooking.
Extra virgin olive oil is most commonly associated with Mediterranean style cooking; however it is suitable for all types of cuisines, including Asian style dishes. I’m going to go in to this further in the weeks ahead, so watch this space.
6. Heating extra virgin olive oil ruins its health benefits.
Heating extra virgin olive oil does not ruin all its health benefits. Heating any oil will reduce the antioxidant content, as antioxidants are sensitive to high temperatures. However, it’s important to consider the loss relative to other cooking oils. Since EVOO contains much higher quantities of antioxidants than most other cooking oils, even after heating the antioxidant quantity will still be higher than other oils.
7. Extra virgin olive oil doesn’t go off.
Extra virgin olive oil does have a long shelf life when it is stored correctly however all cooking oils oxidise over time, and extra virgin olive oil is no exception Good quality EVOO should last for around 12-18 months unopened, but once the bottle is open it’s best to consume within a couple of months. That’s not to say the oil will be rancid after 6 weeks, but it will lose some of the flavour and health properties after this time.
In order to keep your olive oil fresh, try to keep it away from heat, light and air. Dark glass helps a lot, but you should avoid direct sunlight and temperature fluctuations, so don’t keep it next to your cooker.
8. Heating extra virgin olive oil creates trans fats.
Trans fats are generally created via partial hydrogenation in industrial kitchens. This process doesn’t happen in domestic or commercial cooking, so there no trans fats produced when heating extra virgin olive oil during home cooking.
9. The colour of extra virgin olive oil indicates the quality.
You may be surprised to hear that colour is not an indicator of quality in extra virgin olive oil. EVOO will vary in colour from yellow through to green depending on the variety of olive, the climate and the maturity of the fruit when harvested. This is why we use dark glass when tasting typically, so that the colour doesn’t influence the senses.
10. Pure olive oil and extra virgin olive oil are the same thing.
Olive oil and extra virgin olive oil are often used interchangeably, with many people thinking they are the same thing, but they are truly different. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the highest grade of olive oil and is simply freshly pressed juice of the olive. Pressed mechanically and unrefined, it is high in antioxidants and plant compounds that are highly beneficial for your health.
By contrast, olive oil, including ‘pure olive oil’ is lower in quality and has been refined – during this process most of the antioxidants and plant compounds are stripped out so the resulting oil is quite different.