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Should you eat food cooked in olive oil?

Should you eat food cooked in olive oil?

A Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil is known for reducing the risk of heart disease. Yet we are told that we shouldn't cook with olive oil as the heating process toxifies it. 

Is this true? We took a look at the research to try and cut through the confusion. 

What’s the problem with cooking in olive oil?

When you cook in olive oil, chemicals called aldehydes are produced which are believed to be toxic. Do these aldehydes pose a health risk and should we therefore avoid cooking in olive oil altogether and save it only for drizzling on salads?

In fact, all vegetable oils produce aldehydes during the heating process.

Researchers from the University of the Basque Country analysed olive, sunflower and flaxseed oils and found that olive oil produced the least aldehydes, making it a better cooking choice than other vegetable oils.

This is because olive oil is a monounsaturated oil and behaves differently to polyunsaturated oils such as sunflower and flaxseed oils. In fact, it contains no more aldehydes when heated than butter or goose fat. All monounsaturated fats produced relatively low levels of aldehydes when compared with polyunsaturated fats.

This makes olive oil one of the healthier options for frying foods.

What is a safe level of aldehydes?

Very little is known as to what constitutes a safe level of aldehydes for humans.

 Our bodies produce aldehydes naturally as a by-product of normal fructose and alcohol metabolism.

The research suggests that cooking in olive oil is unlikely to expose you to a higher level of aldehydes than you would normally be exposed to naturally as part of your body’s normal metabolic process.

Therefore, it seems that cooking in olive oil is unlikely to pose a significant risk to health, particularly if used sparingly.

As always, everything in moderation!

the author

Jessica Ambrose

Jessica is a fitness writer who loves long distance running, yoga, strength training and healthy eating.