Which oil is best for eating and cooking?

There’s a lot of talk about the smoke point of oils and carcinogens being created by heating oils to high temperatures. So how can you decide what’s best?

Approx read time: 3 mins
Olive tree

Extra virgin olive oil

The answer is really simple. Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is great for nearly everything. It’s the only oil I buy apart from the extremely occasional bottle of avocado oil.

People say extra virgin olive oil is no good for frying because it has a lower smoke point than, say, sunflower oil. While it’s true that the smoke point for EVOO is lower, that’s not quite the end of the story.

Because EVOO is unrefined and retains more of its natural chemical structure and antioxidants, its bonds are harder to break during heating than an oil that has already been refined. Therefore it’s more stable, and as a result any damaging compounds are more slowly/less easily formed than in its higher-smoke-point counterparts.

Apart from which, unless you’re deep frying or cooking steak, which are things we (hopefully) only do occasionally there’s no need to heat any oil to crazy temperatures. Even for a stir fry you don’t need to get the oil burning high; you do need a decent pan though, with a large surface area that heats up fast. gentle or moderate heat is fine for most things.

Occasionally olive oil, with its beautiful flavour, might not ‘go’ with what you’re cooking, it might flavour the dish too noticeably, that’s when you could try avocado oil. But to be fair I don’t know why I bother with avocado oil at all because 99.99% of the time EVOO is just the job.

Omega 9 and polyphenols

The other great thing about olive oil is its fatty acid profile – lots of Omega 9 and not much Omega 6 as well as its polyphenol content. Polyphenols are naturally occurring compounds found in plants. The plants use them for protection against the weather and predators, and other damage, and they can impart some of those those protections to us too, when we eat them.

This is why it’s worth paying for really good olive oil, whose provenance you know about. Organic is best, if you can get it, as some olive groves are ‘pesticided’ like crazy – same with grapes grown for wine, always get organic.

Anyway, the answer is that extra virgin olive oil is really all you need!

A few comments about rapeseed oil

I don’t use rapeseed oil, even organic, because it has a tiny amount of erucic acid, which is a poison, and even though it IS a tiny amount it’s still an amount and there’s no need to use it. Plus I find it dull. Plus, if it’s not organic the crop will have been dosed in agrochemicals like mad because oilseed rape is an absolute mare to grow and is subject to flea beetles. PLUS, it will most often be desiccated, that’s where the farmer sprays the crop with chemical to dry it out just before harvest. Very few farmers now swath the crop (cut it and leave it to dry before harvest). Rapeseed oil can do one!

The Italian Agromafia have been known to mix other oils with olive oil and sell it as EVOO. So that’s why it’s important to check the source if you can.

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Thank you for reading this article. Please note that while we share a lot of awesome information and research you should be aware our articles are strictly for informational purposes and do not constitute medical advice intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent any disease.

Photo credit: Jose Antonio Alba on Pixabay.