One of the questions I am asked most often is whether olive oil is suitable for cooking. Olive oil has been used for thousands of years in the kitchen and is one of the cornerstones of the Mediterranean diet and its well-evidenced benefits.
To answer the question, we first need to explain what happens when any oil is heated. Every oil has a temperature at which it gives off smoke and begins to break down and oxidize.This is referred to as the smoking point.
For extra virgin olive oil this point is somewhere between 190-210°C, depending on the impurities and acid content of the olive oil: the better the quality, the higher the smoking point. This is well above the temperature required for sautéing, shallow or even deep-frying.
Another advantage of olive oil is that, being so rich in monounsaturated oils, it oxidises less easily that other vegetable oils, like corn and sunflower oils. It also contains antioxidants which help resist oxidation as the oil is heated.
So, in conclusion, olive oil is a great choice for heart-healthy cooking, provided it is of good quality, like our own extra virgin olive oil! Even though there might be other oils with higher smoking points than olive oil, the combination of its health advantages and resistance to heat still make it a winner.