Consuming raw extra virgin olive oil had already been shown to have protective health effects. Different beneficial properties are attributed to this food. These include the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, breast cancer and neurodegenerative diseases and a lower incidence of type 2 diabetes.
However, there was little research on whether it is best suited for cooking. Now, a study recently published in the scientific journal Antioxidants brings us out of doubt, concluding that this type of oil maintains the levels of antioxidants considered healthy when used to sauté. What the authors intended is to apply science to the daily life of domestic cooking to evaluate the effect of temperature and time on extra virgin olive oil with stir-fry.
“Cooking with extra virgin olive oil reduces its content of phenolic compounds and antioxidants. But the most relevant aspect of this study is that the oil after cooking, even sautéing at a moderate temperature, has a content of polyphenols that is within the parameters set forth in the health claim of the European Union, ”Rosa Cuídate explains. Mª Lamuela, group leader of the Center for Biomedical Research in the Pathophysiology of Obesity and Nutrition (Ciberobn) and director of the Institute of Research in Nutrition and Food Safety of the University of Barcelona (INSA-UB). His team has worked in collaboration with the University of Sao Paulo (Brazil) to carry out this research.
The European Union health claim claims that the polyphenols in extra virgin olive oil protect LDL cholesterol (“the bad”) from oxidation. This oxidation process leads to the accumulation of cholesterol in the vascular wall, causing cells characteristic of atherosclerosis.
Regarding the widespread idea that extra virgin olive oil is not worth frying, Lamuela recalls that “it has always had many detractors. It is true that it has a lower smoke point than other oils due to its concentration in volatile compounds, but these are the ones that give it its characteristic aroma and flavor. On the other hand, thanks to its high content of antioxidants, such as polyphenols or carotenoids, this oil withstands oxidation well, since it is these that first oxidize, preventing the fat from doing so ".
The benefits of extra virgin olive oil with a Mediterranean diet in a study called Predimed, carried out in Spain with more than 7,000 people, “were observed consuming 40 grams a day, adding the amount of oil in raw and cooked, but each dish and each type of preparation require a specific amount. " This is stated by Lamuela, who also participated in that clinical trial.
“Extra virgin olive oil, as with all oils, should not be heated to very high temperatures, or for too long. However, virgin olive oil, being an oil rich in oleic acid and with antioxidants, is more protected from oxidation than seed oils, "says the Ciberobn researcher.
How can the consumer measure the temperature at which their oil has reached during cooking? “There are special thermometers that allow you to measure the temperature while cooking. The appropriate thing would be not to reach temperatures above 160ºC, but a general recommendation is not to leave it overheating, or smoke to come out, "responds Lamuela.
"Gas fire, ceramic hob, microwave, oven ... The temperature can be reached equally in any of these cooking systems. It will depend on the type of cooking that we are looking for one or another temperature. We can always modulate it regardless of the type of electrical appliance ”, says the director of INSA-UB.
For example, a relatively low temperature is suitable for using extra virgin olive oil in cooking baked fish, since it is a fragile food. This temperature also ensures better maintenance of its sensory and nutritional qualities.