Have you heard the popular advice by heart health advocates to cook your food in heart-healthy extra-virgin olive oil? Unless you enjoy ingesting cancer causing free radicals then I would suggest tossing that bit of advice right out the window.
STOP COOKING WITH IT, NOT STOP EATING IT
You should still be eating extra-virgin olive oil in your diet on a regular basis. Extra-virgin olive oil is a wonderful source of mono-unsaturated fatty acids as well as vitamin E. It is contains high levels of phytonutrients, which are synergistic compounds found in raw plant foods that promote good health (think resveratrol in grapes and red wine or lycopene in tomatoes.). It is hands down one of the best oils for you to be eating.
Cooking with olive oil however is another story altogether. All plant oils have what is called a smoke point. This is the temperature at which the molecules making up the oil start to unravel and break apart. This causes oxygen molecules to separate from the normally stable oil and form a free radical molecule which your body must then detoxify. Free radicals are associated with increased cancer rates. Essentially when you heat olive oil to its smoke point you are causing the oil to go rancid on the pan.
Smoke points exist for all oils, not just olive oil. Olive oil, especially extra-virgin olive oil has a low smoke point. It is not appropriate for stir-frying or using in a pan. Instead you will need to select a cooking oil with a higher smoke point. There are many refined oils that have very high smoke points, however many of these have been chemically refined and are nutritionally worthless. I recommend one of two oils to cook with. The first is the plant based raw coconut oil. This oil has a medium temperature smoke point and most stir-frying and other pan cooking works well with coconut oil. For a delicious and nutritous chicken recipe click here.
The second fat to cook with is grass fed, grass finished butter. Butter is a great cooking fat because it also has a high smoke point and grass fed varieties of butter contain the same nutrients as conventional butter and have a somewhat different (i.e. healthier) fat profile. This is true of grass fed beef as well.
The take away messages here are
1) Use extra-virgin olive oil to “finish” foods. Add as a dressing or mix into foods that are already cooked such as quinoa.
2) Cook with extra-virgin, raw coconut oil or grass fed, grass finished butter for anything like a stir-fry or other cooking technique.
3) Avoid refined oils which have typically been chemically altered and are devoid of nutritional value.
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