Is it Safe to Cook with Olive Oil?
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Is it Safe to Cook with Olive Oil?

by Chris Kresser

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Olive oil is known for its health benefits, yet many Paleo experts say we shouldn't be cooking with it. Does olive oil stand up to the heat?

This is a guest post written by staff nutritionist Kelsey Marksteiner, RD. Click here to read her blog or join her newsletter!

Olive oil has always been a nutrition saint. Its health benefits have been touted for ages – high in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer…the list goes on. (1, 2) Heck, even the USDA agrees the stuff is great for our health!

Yet there’s a popular myth circulating in the Paleo community that it’s unsafe to cook with olive oil; that it isn’t stable and oxidizes when heated, forming harmful by-products in the process. While this is true for other oils like canola and vegetable oil, I’m here to tell you that it’s okay to cook with olive oil. It has some unique qualities that make it stable under cooking conditions, and provided you’re buying high quality olive oil to begin with, you can sauté to your heart’s content.

Do you avoid cooking with olive oil? Here’s why you shouldn’t worry.

What is fat oxidation?

There are three types of fatty acids: saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. What defines them is their structure; a saturated fat has zero double bonds (thus it is “saturated” with hydrogen), while a monounsaturated fatty acid has one double bond, and a polyunsaturated fatty acid has more than one. Check out the diagrams below and notice that the saturated fatty acid (left) has no double bonds, while monounsaturated fatty acid (center) and polyunsaturated fatty acid (right) have one and two, respectively. The double bonds are the “kinks” in the chain.

Double bonds are unstable when they come in contact with a number of elements, such as light, heat, and oxygen. While we call certain fats “saturated” or “monounsaturated,” the truth is that the fats we cook with are made up of many different types of fatty acids and we refer to them by their majority. For example, coconut oil (what we call a saturated fat) is made of 90% saturated fat. This differs from butter (another saturated fat), which has only 60% saturated fatty acids, the rest of it being monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. Soybean oil, on the other hand, is about 60% polyunsaturated fats. All of these differ from olive oil, which is made up of 70% oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat.

Because polyunsaturated fats have the most double bonds of all the fatty acids, they are more susceptible to oxidation. When polyunsaturated fatty acids oxidize they form unhealthy molecules called advanced lipid oxidation end products (ALEs). These ALEs cause an inflammatory reaction in the circulatory system, as well as the liver, kidney, lungs, and gut, and are thought to have negative impacts on human health. (3) This is why a Paleo diet excludes dietary fats with high percentages of polyunsaturated fats.

Why olive oil is less prone to oxidation

There are two reasons why olive oil outperforms other vegetable oils when it’s heated.  First, it contains polyphenols and tocopherols which act to protect the oil from oxidation. Second, it’s made up of mostly monounsaturated fat – remember, that’s the one with only one double bond, which makes it more stable in heat than fats with high amounts of polyunsaturated fats which have more double bonds. Between these two properties, olive oil can fry with the best of them.

It is thought that the phenolic compounds in olive oil – polyphenols and tocopherols – may influence olive oil’s stability in heat even more than its monounsaturated fat content. The phenolic compounds donate a radical hydrogen to alkylperoxyl radicals to form a stabilized radical. (4) For the chemistry buffs out there, this reaction works like this: ROO• + AH → ROOH + A•

One study fried olive oil varieties to see how they stood up to high heat, and only after 24-27 hours of frying (depending on the type) were they considered to be harmful. Vegetable oil, on the other hand, was only able to go for 15 hours. Despite lower amounts of vitamin E, olive oil still ended up less oxidized than the vegetable oil. The researchers also found that the polyphenol content of olive oil predicted its susceptibility to oxidation; varieties with more polyphenols were less prone to oxidation while those with less became more oxidized. (5)

Other researchers heated extra virgin olive oil to 350°F for 36 hours (yes, you read that correctly. 36 hours!) and found that while there was some degradation in the phenolic compounds content, the oil kept most of its nutritional value. Considering that the average home cook will never cook anything for 36 hours straight, I think we’re pretty safe here. (6)

Another study compared insulin sensitivity in obese, insulin-resistant women when they consumed foods fried in extra virgin olive oil to meals that contained uncooked oil. This one surprised me as it compared the cooked vs. uncooked olive oil, and cooked won out. There was no difference in insulin sensitivity when the oils were eaten by lean subjects, however. This was a small study, but it’s intriguing to hear that perhaps the cooked olive oil may have some benefits over uncooked oil for some people. (7)

Being able to heat olive oil opens up cooking options, especially for those who are very sensitive to the effects of saturated fat on their cholesterol levels. If you’ve been hanging around ChrisKresser.com for a while, you probably know that your cholesterol levels aren’t the end-all-be-all. However, those with familial hypercholesterolemia (and even those without!) will be happy to hear that they can cook with a fat that has been shown to reduce LDL oxidation, thus improving their heart health. (8)

How to buy and store olive oil

While the fact that olive oil contains mostly monounsaturated fatty acids is important, researchers believe that it is actually the phenolic compounds that stabilize the oil as it’s heated. This is why it’s vital that you purchase extra-virgin olive oil versus pure olive oil. Extra-virgin olive oil goes through less processing – it’s simply pressed and does not go under any heat or chemical treatment. Olive oil is one of the only oils that Americans still consume relatively unprocessed; most of the oils we buy are refined. Pressing the olives retains many more nutrients, including phenolic compounds, which we know serve to protect olive oil from heat. Even better is extra-virgin olive oil that hasn’t been filtered – the particles that cause the oil to be cloudy also act as antioxidants and buffers against acidity, thus protecting the oil from oxidation. (4)

That said, much of the extra-virgin olive oil bought in the United States is adulterated with other oils like soybean or rapeseed. That’s a bummer considering that many of us like to purchase our olive oil when we go to the grocery store. Thankfully, olive oil expert Tom Mueller has a list of extra-virgin olive oils you can buy at your local grocery store (including the real deal from chains like Costco, Trader Joes and Whole Foods). Make sure to check that out and if you’d like to learn more about this issue, read Mueller’s book Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil.

The other option, of course, is to source your own olive oil from a company you trust. If you live in a climate that supports olive growing, you might even be able to find a local company to buy from. If not, there are a plethora of options online, and it simply becomes a question of researching the company and preferably talking to a representative to see how they process the oil. A popular one in the Paleo community is Kasadrino’s olive oil – you can learn more about their company and values by heading to their website.

Once you’ve got your hands on a quality extra-virgin olive oil, take care to store it properly. Remember that heat is only one of the elements that causes fatty acid oxidation, the others being light and oxygen. You should store your olive oil in a cool, dark place in a dark airtight container. (Don’t buy olive oil that comes in a clear container, especially if you suspect it’s been sitting on the shelf for a while.) If you purchase large tins of olive oil, pour out what you’ll use in a few weeks into another dark bottle so that you can avoid opening the tin often and exposing the oil to oxygen.

Here’s the bottom line: extra-virgin olive oil is perfectly safe to cook with. It stands up well to heat due to its monunsaturated fatty acid and phenolic compounds content and fares much better than other vegetable oils. It’s a great oil to eat both in taste and health and shouldn’t be avoided. However, it’s not the only healthy fat out there! You should always consume a variety of healthy foods, fats included.

So what do you thinkwill you start cooking with olive oil?

Kelsey MarksteinerThis is a guest post written by Kelsey Marksteiner, RD. Kelsey is a Registered Dietitian with a Bachelors degree in Nutrition from NYU and a Master’s in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine. She works in private practice and recommends individualized dietary therapy focusing on biologically appropriate diet principles to aid her clients in losing weight, gaining energy, and pursuing continued health. She is a firm believer that everyone is different, and she tailors her plan for each and every individual. Through her work, she aims to meld the dietary wisdom of traditional cultures with the latest science in integrative and functional medicine to create plans for her clients that work in the modern world. You can learn more about Kelsey on her staff bio page, or by visiting her private practice website. Join her newsletter here!

204 Comments

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  1. If someone states that olive oil is healthy or that they are a Paleo expert I move to another article.
    Opinions are great if I do not know what time it is but my daily nutrition is based on studies that apply science.

  2. Cook with olive oil, don’t cook with OO, die from using OO, live to 105 using OO, fry with OO, don’t fry with OO, get extra virgin, organic cold pressed, don’t waste your money, use tallow, lard or duck fat, saturated fat will kill you, saturated fat is good for you, mono is the best, no poly is says vegans, drink 12 glasses of water, don’t drink except when you’re thirsty, eat meat, don’t eat meat, drink milk, don’t drink milk, eat only organic but even organic is often not organic but when it is it often has some pesticides, eat veggies but hardly any, eat many like bowls and bowls, eat white rice, don’t eat white rice. I could write 1000 plus pages on the controversy, the opinions, they science, the results, etc., and when I got done I’d go jump off a bridge without a parachute.

    • Agreed!! Pull up a Google search on any of those things & there will be those who say it’s good & those that say it’s bad. And the people that recommend olive oil or fresh fruits & vegetables say we can’t get just any kind of these but organic, grass fed, non GMO from these upscale grocery stores that most of us can’t afford to go into much less buy the stuff in there. We can barely afford the food in the regular grocery stores & still pay everything else. And the authors of these articles just happen to have an online store selling these things at huge prices. The stress of trying to eat “right” & afford it will cause increased stress in a person which they also say causes disease. Seems like defeating the purpose to me. I’ve decided to just eat the best I can with what I can afford & not worry about it. Maybe us fearing & worrying about something happening to us might just bring it to us. What we fear we create.

    • Yes, the myth of the benefits of olive oil has been around for generations. Did you ever read a study of what happens when you cook with an oil, be it EVO or any other oil????

      Have you read the studies of what proves happens to your arteries after you consume olive oil even without cooking it?

      Ohhh you rather follow the myths…ok with me, good luck!

      Amazing how many people insist that EVO is not a refined oil. Does it make any sense to you that maybe consuming whole olives would provide the benefits you claim for EVO????

  3. Hi Chris Kresser community. Chris’s book and the paleo lifestyle has completely healed my body from illness at the age of 26+. I would like to have someone confirm whether olive oil extra light is safe to use for frying and cooking with? It’s been difficult to find a correct answer on this one as it has a high smoke point but is not extra virgin olive oil. I’m from the UK (not in mainstream paleo US.. Haha) so if you could offer comments and any help/advice would be much appreciated. Thanks

  4. Great article! My mother has hereditary cholesterol issues, and I’m helping her change her diet the Mediterranean Paleo diet suggested by Chris Kresser. Do you have cooking oil suggestions other than olive oil that would fit the more monounsaturated, less saturated prescription? My mom likes olive oil, but she is Japanese, and she’s going to want something with a more bland taste for most of her cooking. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  5. Thank you for this article, it cleared up so many of my misunderstandings about olive oil and my husband will be thrilled to know he can cook with olive oil again!

      • Have you looked at the Ikarians, who swim in olive oil. Fry like madpeople and eat grains. They have far more over 100s than even the okinawans–in fact than any other group in the world. They are top of the blue zones. It’s not genetic either since those who move away get cancer and sick. There are ikarians who have acquired disease, moved back and recovered and lived until over 100. If you spend 10 years reading paleo, then everything that spins off from it, from all the ancestral health bloggers and then also cutting edge scientists, you will eventually realise we know absolutely ZERO. Everything you thought was true and certain is not. We can’t rely on scientists to give us a culture of food and therefore health, based on them working it out as they go along. The ONLY thing we can do intelligently is to look to people groups that are not agonising over their every last morsel and doing very well, considering everything against them. Then imitate those peoples to the best of our ability, without guilt or fear.

        • The 10,000 Ikarians do well but that does not prove the olive oil is a factor. You omitted the fact that they eat six tmes as many beans as the average US consumer and far less meat and processed foods.
          You follow your opinions and I will go with the best science of the day.

  6. Always have and always will cook with olive oil. My family are Portuguese and this is a staple. It never made sense to not cook with it. I agree with the quality being important and storing it properly. If I am however cooking something on very hight heat…which is so rare, then I use coconut oil 🙂

  7. Question: what about ROASTING with extra virgin olive oil at 425 degrees Fahrenheit and over? That is significantly higher than the smoke point of olive oil and commonly used to roast many vegetables like sweet potatoes, asparagus, peppers (500 degrees). Is this safe?

    • Why not just use something you know is safe? Like real butter (preferably from unpasteurized milk), or home-rendered lard or bacon grease? Why keep fussing around with any of the “oils” when you ALL keep questioning if they’re safe to cook/bake with? To me, that just doesn’t make good sense.

      • Some of us have food allergies to dairy and additives (I haven’t used butter in six months), and others want a more healthy, cleaner fat/oil because of issues like high cholesterol (even at 102 lbs I struggle with it due to genetics). And if you find a substance that has potential additional health benefits, you want to find out more about it.

      • JD. Smith,

        Just out of curiosity, if you’re going to use butter at temps of up to 500° why would it matter whether the butter itself was raw or not?

        I agree with you though, at high temps, animals fats are always best and (Karen) they are certainly “clean” when the animal is pastured and raised organically– and do not worsen serum cholesterol.

    • If you buy “genuine” EVOO which has 0.3% or below acidity etc…. 425 should not a big problem. no smoke whatsoever.

      I rarely bake my food with 500F or 260c… I cannot answer you for that…

  8. This is one topic that generates a lot of confusion and I wonder if anyone can clear this up. Doctors such as Ornish and Essentyn swear that ALL oil is heart damaging and the med’ diet is healthy despite olive oil and not because of it. In other words if we cut the oil out the med diet would be even better. We then get people like Dr Sintra saying Olive oil is wonderful and we should consume it by the spoonful. Somebody has to be way off the mark here but who ?

      • That article is full of shameful information meant to push what sounds to me like a total vegetarian WOE (way of eating). What we are finding nowadays is that saturated fats like butter and real, home-rendered lard made from the leaf-lard, ghee and some of those things are so much better for us than bottled oils of any kind. Personally, I’ve been a believer in the high-fat/saturated fat WOE for my whole life. I think we’d all be healthier if we stopped believing everything that comes down the pike from these so-called “nutritionist comment sections” (you know, like the one you’re reading now).

        Cholesterol is good for people, especially as they age. Keeping some meat on your bones is more important than current BMI trends, which are usually so bogus as not to mean a thing in reality. The plain fact is, people with higher cholesterol live the longest. PERIOD. Stay away from doctors who are constantly wanting you to believe that cholesterol blood tests are actually worth something in terms of your health – they aren’t.

        Read at Dr. Malcolm Kendrick’s blog. Read at the THINCS.org web site. Read at Weston A. Price.org web site. Those are the places you will find TRUE information about how to become and stay healthy. Sometimes you do everything you can and your health still goes south. It happens. We simply must learn we are not in control all the time. Just do the best you can, but learn from the right people.

        That’s my advice, take it or leave it.

        But reading junk like that pritikin article is inexcuseable, much less believing what’s in it. The program that has it the closest to being correct is Dr. Atkins.

        • The logical conclusion from the above article would be to consume saturated fats as they are less prone to oxidisation. Coconut oil would therefore seem to be the oil of choice if one is to use an oil and not Olive oil

    • The Pritkin Institute are also behind Ornish and Esseltyn in that they too state that Olive oil is artery damaging and should not be used heated or otherwise.

    • Nothing seems to create a greater silence than this oil topic. I have asked numerous supporters of Olive Oil for a confirmation of their beliefs in light of the opponents and most seem to go quite. Whether they are just careful of being guilty of a huge howler I don’t know. The best I got was from the Dr running the healthy heart summit. He cited as evidence a resent Spanish study but this study seemed to only show that a med diet with oil was better than a low fat diet and a med diet with oil and nuts was better than both. What it did not demonstrate was whether a med diet without oil would trump all three. There is also a tendency to support oil with population evidence or lipid profiles neither of which is very reliable.

      • Ohhh you are on to a dark secret that many companies do not want you to broadcast….no oil is healthy, some are less harmful than others.
        However, if you are one of the many addicted to oils, salt and sugar facts do not matter…

    • never rely on those best selling auther Dr. “WHO” for nutirtion advises… many things they said are usually over-simplified, just treat them as “book sellers”

  9. I have read that the heat of frying “damages” the omega-3 fats in olive oil. Can someone comment on that?

    • According to David Khayat, renowned French oncologist, the omegas can even become unstable when exposed to light, transforming good unsaturated fatty acids into carcinogenic agents. This is true for heating oil to high temperatures as well, as the fats change and become unhealthy.

  10. While I agree with the argument that olive oil is better than other vegetable oils, you make a big citation error. The abstract of the study you cited where you said the oil was heated at 350 degrees for 36 hours actually says it was heated at 180 degrees. BIG difference, especially to our health. It makes me question your other points. The other studies don’t even say what temperature they were heated at in the abstract, and I can’t read the whole study because I’m not a subscriber. It makes me angry when people are so loosey-goosey in their information and it effects people’s health when they are believed and trusted. EVERYONE, do your OWN research! Don’t take people at their word!

    • Please understand metric conversions without jumping to wrong conclusions. The study says 180 celsius, which equals to about 355 degrees F…

    • Lily, please do all of us a favor and just google the conversion of 180 C to Fahrenheit. Also Affect (verb) = to cause harm / Effect (noun) = consecuence . It is a shame that the educational system failed you.

      On the other hand, the article was great, very resourceful. I appreciate that Chris used footnotes to explain each point given.

  11. Hi, can I just ask, if olive oil is protected from oxidation via heat because of its natural composition, why do we need to store it in a cool place? Surely it will be fine storing it in a kitchen cupboard?
    Thanks,
    Mark

  12. Hi Chris,
    You mentioned saturated fats and them having an effect on cholesterol whether one has a fx history or not… The Hearst foundation has always said it does have a considerable effect and steered us to oils like olive and canola yet recently there is info that contradicts this and says oils like in butter and coconut oil and other saturated fats are good for you and have no impact on high cholesterolaemia?
    Could you comment or post a comparative study on a list of ideal/not ideal oils to consume and especially cook with??? It’s all so confusing when u read articles that conflict online

    Also you mention EVO oil can be cooked for upto 36hrs before being denatured… Does that mean oil used fr frying should not be reused time and time again as often ppl do? Instead to use fresh oil every time..

  13. I always questioned the advice of the paleo health experts advocating against using olive oil as a cooking oil, simply because those people on that mediterranean diet seem to live the longest and I imagine it’s their go to cooking oil.

    • Hopefully some of the health leaders in the paleo community will revise their recommendations for acceptable cooking oils. I can finally not feel guilty when consuming cooked olive oil, you took some weight off my shoulders, Thanks for the valuable post. This site is a cut above!

      • He cited the study wrong. DON’T heat it above 180, as the study he cited ACTUALLY says. (click on the 6 and you will see the abstract yourself)

        • Lily, learn the difference between degrees Farenheit and degrees Celsius, preferably before you go round the internet, ironically accusing people of being inaccurate.

  14. The hard part is finding any oil besides coconut that doesn’t smell rancid from the get-go. Olive oil is particularly rancid smelling, no matter how many virgins or extra virgins are in the name.

    I don’t use a lot of coconut oil either, but use real butter instead. I don’t fry a lot of foods, but I roast a lot of root vegetables, and brown onions in a roaster in the oven, etc., so it’s nice to have butter as my foremost choice. It would be nice to find a decent oil to use with my homemade, flavored vinegars on salads, though.

    I’ve also recently learned to make cooked mayonnaise rather than the stuff you need the blender for, which always seems to include olive oil in the recipe. Some olive oils I’ve tried in years past had a very strong flavor and didn’t work well.

    Also, if you want the real scoop on eating a REAL Mediterranean diet, you need to check this out:
    http://www.tendergrassfedmeat.com/2010/10/05/call-it-medical-not-mediterranean/

    • Maybe try to get EVOO that has low acidity ( at least 0.4 or below) and K232/K270 ( 1.6 and 0.14 or below) etc. Also, certified destination of origin for the olives that were being used to produce the oil is also important.

      Oils that only have “Product of Italy or Spain” etc written on it instead of a specific region in Italy/Spain as well as the name of the producer are most likely mass production low quality EVOO… some of them do not even reach the EVOO standard… ie acidity way above 0.4% or even above 0.8% US

      Personally, I don’t buy big brands olive oils from supermarkets, they taste bad…..

  15. If Chris Kresser is okay with using Olive Oil out of ANY bottle for cooking and eating ANY fried food at all, I can’t take anything else on this website seriously. How disappointing.

    Do your research!

    • Not all extra virgin olive oil are produced equal, the lower the free fatty acid % contained in the oil, the higher the smoking point tends to be. What she was saying about double bonds etc are right, one thing she could have mentioned is the relationship between free fatty acid content and smoking point.

      The US standard for EVOO is 0.8% but you can get great quality fresh EVOO from reliable manufacturers that has 0.5 or even 0.3% FFA. Good quality EVOO like this is ok for normal “pan fry” at home. I use it for baking as well at 220 degree c, no smoke whatsoever!

      Extreme heat frying or deep fry are always not healthy anyway, I doubt any oil can be healthy if you cook like this!
      maybe you should do some research, too. Peace!

    • I’m with you, he even cited the study wrong. DON’T heat it above 180, as the study he cited ACTUALLY says. (click on the 6 and you will see the abstract yourself)

  16. My husband is Italian. When he heard me first say it’s not healthy to cook-heat up Olive Oil, he fired back- “So people who live well over 100 on the mediterranean diet don’t cook with olive oil?” It made me scratch my head and think, he’s got a point! I cook with olive oil all the time now without guilt. Glad to see this article!

    • There are lots of different coconut oils & I, as a great fan of coconut oil, can’t stand certain brands. I simply keep looking until I find one that smells & tastes so good that I also put it on my skin.

    • Yes, absolutely, but they mostly use it at “sauté” heat level. Which genuinely Italian ( c.f. American influenced) dish is deep fried? Even a real “Italian” pizza (note the name, from piazza) is only ‘al forno’ for a few minutes.

      • “Even a real “Italian” pizza (note the name, from piazza) is only ‘al forno’ for a few minutes.”

        Yes, but that’s at 1,000 degrees F ! A real Italian pizza oven is very different from anything in America.

    • I am Italian, first generation of immigrants of early 1900s. I made it to 97. I use Olive oil freely, in salads, frying, cooking and have done so for years. In the Depression years we ate whatever we had and it wasn’t always what today I call gourmet. In my six years in the Navy (WW2) I ate whatever the Navy could serve shipboard under the circumstances and that wasn’t always pretty.. However, over those years the food ‘experts’ cited Trans fats, Canola oil, Vegetable oil, Peanut oil, etc. as the oil de jour. Since then (for about 70 years) I used mostly olive oil. And currently I also use coconut oil and butter freely. All the above does not explain my longevity (which is probably the basic issue we think about in these forums even though we don’t say so. Frankly, I am tempted to say, “to Hell with it, eat what you want,” with a caveat, “depending on how old you are.” And if you are old enough to hesitate to buy green bananas, I say, go ahead buy them green but make sure you eat them fast (just in case.)
      I do have one rule, notwithstanding my age: Don’ let any cooking oil smoke (either cigarettes or cigars.)

    • The five Blue Zones were the largest number of people that do actually live to be over 100 do not use olive oil.

      Greece, the largest consumer per capita of olive oil in the world, has more heart disease than the dear old USA which everyone knows has a terrible diet and loads of heart disease.

      BTW, take a trip to Italy and you will see many obese and overweight people there…

  17. Really really well written, Kelsey. And such important information for those out there seeking to understand their bodies and optimum health. It answers the question of why, if cooking with olive oil is bad for you, have we touted the Mediterannean diet and it’s benefits for longevity and long health. Again, I applaud your information and writing style.

  18. So true about quality olive oil. I have found it hard to find truly “unadulterated” olive oil in the stores. If anyone is looking for a quality EVOO, from a trustworthy company, I discovered a gem. Etateolive.com, offers the purest olive oil on the market, straight from small farms in California. It is the most amazing olive oil I have ever tasted. The Koroneike is orgasmic! Highly recommended.

  19. What’s healthier? Cooking with conventional ghee from grain-fed cows or butter from farm cows fed grass? I’ve tried coconut oil, but it tastes nasty. I like olive oil, but I didn’t cook with it, because I thought that was bad.

  20. There are a few valid queries appearing repeatedly in the comment thread that seem to be completely ignored by Ms. Marksteiner. Disappointing.

    Anyhoo.
    Bottom line, when cooking with fats/oils and keeping it healthy, conscientious buying and storage matters, but what matters most, arguably, is the smoke point. That said, I found this article much more useful: http://www.seriouseats.com/2014/05/cooking-fats-101-whats-a-smoke-point-and-why-does-it-matter.html

  21. All sorts of problems w this article, but one I see, glaringly apparent, is the ‘byline’ says “Chris Kresser” then at the end it says it’s written by someone else.

    Change it. It’s not true and lends to the inaccuracies in the article.

    Thanks.

      • No, at the *very* beginning it says “By Chris Kresser.” And I pulled it up because I got the excerpt in my email with Chris Kresser’s photo at the top, Chris Kresser’s signature at the bottom, and no mention of any guest contributor anywhere.

    • This was a recent decision by Chris – it is for SEO purposes so that people can find these articles when they search his name. It is very clearly marked as a guest post, however, so not sure what the issue is.

      • So you mean this is a deliberate bait-and-switch decision? Hah. I’m a fan of this site, but now double disappointed: 1) not impressed with the rigor of this article (not saying that the conclusion is wrong, but I couldn’t draw it based on the sparse, though sciencey-looking, arguments), 2) this “SEO” issue.

  22. I’ve been cooking with it for years without any issues but I just recently purchased lighter olive oil made specifically for cooking. Tastes very good with a bit of butter.

  23. My cholesterol has risen from a great 3.7 to a less great 4.4 over the past year. I think the major change in my diet and lifestyle over this time was swapping from cooking in coconut oil and lard to using mainly refined (light) olive oil because I thought it had been given the thumbs up. Now I’m wondering…

  24. I am not sure about this article. Coconut oil seems like a gift from nature to fry with. It’s almost entirely saturated and very stable in nature to degradation of all kinds (heat, light, and air). Frying a whole lot might not be a great idea anyway, but when I do I will stick with coconut oil. Olive oil seems like perfect salad oil to me.

      • I wonder of it’s worth compiling a list of oils good for cooking (high temps) down to those to avoid. Seems like many out there are still confused – as I am.
        Does coconut oil used in curried or cooking at high temps for a log time warrant high saturated fats and equate to high cholesterol?

  25. Here is an interesting tidbit about olive oil. Disclaimer, I’m a certified diamontologist and this information was learned whilst being certified. Olive oil because of it’s high heat tolerance is used in the diamond cutting process.

  26. please can you clarify about where the smoking/boiling point to oils comes into this.

    Also what about ‘cold extraction’ do we need to take that into consideration?

    I have heard before that while unfiltered extra virgin with all the phenols is great for eating raw that we should use light olive oil for cooking. Is there research for this side of the argument too? Or is that just guesswork that people have come up with?

    Interesting point someone brought up about formation of toxic aldehydes. Would that be through heating all oils? Or are some spared?

    This article is really interesting but needs a little more clarification to be completely integratable.

    I would love to hear back on this.

    • Would be happy to! You don’t want any oil or fat to be smoking – not only does it taste terrible most of the time, but it’s also not good for us.

      Different extra virgin olive oils vary in their smoke point due to a variety of factors, so truly it’s something I just keep an eye on in the pan. Don’t walk away from it only to have it smoking when you come back!

      I do not recommend using light olive oil, as it’s been processed. Real food all the way!

  27. Thank you, Kelsey, for this insightful article on cooking with olive oil. I have continued to, despite the negative press, because I could not find an alternative. Great to know that olive oil is the one to go for!
    I really enjoy your articles and have found your information very helpful, especially this one and your one on FODMAPS.
    Thanks!

  28. Chris, many people exceed the 350 degree point when they fry (searing, stir fry, etc)….up to 400 degrees. Is EVOO safe at 400 degrees?

    • If you worry about smoking point, choose a REAL extra virgin olive oil with lower free fatty acid profile. 350F is not the MAX temp for olive oil if you consider this factor.

    • If you can see that it isn’t smoking, you’re in the clear. With REAL olive oil, it’s a bit hard to know the exact smoke point because different varieties of it have different smoke points. So you will likely need to play around with the kinds you buy to make sure they stand up to the heat.

      I’ve been using some Kasadrinos lately and it stands up to oven heating (400 F) no problem, as well as stove-top cooking.

  29. I’ve been using Extra virgin olive oil for all my cooking purposes for over 50 years. I am 97 now. My advice: don’t use he high output burner in frying. Don’t let your hot oil smoke. And you shouldn’t smoke either.

    • I love this! I think this is key – don’t let the oil smoke. As I’ve mentioned in some other comments, the smoke point varies with different varieties of olive oils, so you may need to experiment a bit to see what kinds of cooking methods you can get away with with your particular brand, variety, etc.

  30. Chris

    This kind of contradicts what you wrote in your book “Personal Paleo Code” about oils and their smoke point. If I remember correctly you said that smoke point of extra virging olive oil was 320degrees. Is this an update to that information?

  31. I see others have raised the question about lite evoo. I too recently read that cooking with lite evoo was better than evoo and so switched doing so in all but baked goods. What is the scoop on lite evoo?

  32. OK! I’ve used EVOO for many years. Answer this: Why does olive oil smoke when heated to high temperatures as in wok cooking? Coconut and palm oils don’t smoke. What does it mean for health when it smokes?

    The Chinese have used peanut oil as their preferred wok oil forever. because it stands up to high heat in woks! What’s wrong with it?
    And – if, as you state above, vegetable oils said to be harmful don’t break down for 15 hours, what’s the problem? You use 36 hours as a huge plus for olive oil. Who fries for 15 hours? Something here is just not right!

  33. This isn’t a very good article. After reading this, two conclusions spring to mind.
    1. Yes, olive oil may be ‘safer’ to cook with as it takes 36 hours at 360 for it to become harmful. But it takes run of the mill vegetable oil 15 hours at the same temp. If you’re cooking for only a few mins and not reusing, what’s the problem with using the veg oil?
    2. Makes no reference to the fact that Chris has been banging on about light oil being better than extra virgin due to the smoke point. Are we to now assume that Chris was wrong?
    Yours sincerely
    Mr V. Confused

    • Veg oils have higher omega 6 content and it’s pro-infammatory.

      To be fair, it’s a guest post, we shouldn’t respect the writers to have differnt opinions. Speaking of olive oil, I only use low free fatty acid content (low acidity) extra virgin olive oil for home cooking because NOT all EVOO are equal, low FFA EVOO can have higher smoking point.

  34. So, I noticed that there’s “lite olive oil” at Costco, either their own brand or Bertoli, both say “Contains refined and extra virgin olive oil.”

    Does the refined part refer to olive oil, or are they being sneaky and using 95% canola/soy/corn and 5% EVOO, or is this is a safe oil? Doesn’t the refining oxidize the oil?

    • Ive heard that the high oleic sunflower is the best when deep frying or making chips in the ovenout of sweet potatoes, green beans, potatoes, etc

  35. Hi Chris, not to change the subject but how does hemp seed oil stack up, both as a dressing and for cooking. It’s the best oil I have ever tasted?

  36. It’s terrible that some brands “water down” their olive oil, especially with soybean oil since it is a top 8 allergen. My son is allergic to soy and there have been a couple of times where he seemed to have a reaction to olive oil, but I found out later it was most likely that the olive oil also contained soy. I need to find a pure olive oil and stick with it!

    • Sorry but I don’t buy what this nutritionist says.

      My understanding so far has been that “olive oil” (not extra-virgin) was better for cooking that the extra-virgin variety.

      You don’t even mention the various types of olive oils. Coming from Italy, I know there is a HUGE difference in olive oil types and their characteristics. The fact you don’t mention this makes me value your article … well, not at all.

      • well,given your knowledge is clearly superior to Kelsey and how you have referenced your criticism with solid science,you must be right and she wrong…

      • The smoke point depends on the initial free fatty acid content of the fat, the lower the FFA, the higher the smoke point.

        in genrally, processed olive oils tend to have higher smoking point but it doesn’t mean EVOO is not suitable for cooking and not all EVOO are equal! US’s national standard for EVOO is 0.8, California’s standard is 0.5 and some brand can have much lower FAA content, which means smoking point can reach higher temperature.

        I have been using California Olive Ranch extra virgin olive oil for over 1 year now because it passed UC davis olive oil tests. It has been tested up to 490 degrees. Of course I have never done this test myself to varify this temperature but so far I don’t see obvious smokes while cooking or even baking with it.

      • Good grief she has devoted a whole paragraph to the issue of varience of olive oil, recommended a book about it…

        But what I find really strange are references to very high temperatures…as long as there is a significant amount of vegetables in a stir fry, the spots in the wok where they are located cannot go above 100 degrees…

  37. A couple of tips:

    1) Don’t buy olive oil that does not disclose the acidity on the bottle. Per definition, extra virgin olive oil must be below 1% but many producers has various tricks to go as close to 1% as possible to save money (e.g using oil from a previous year, mixing lower quality oils in etc). The lower the acidity the better quality.

    2) Try this one: http://www.ojaioliveoil.com/
    Best olive oil I have ever tried – acidity levels are 0.1 – 0.2 % and it is phenomenal.

  38. well, Spectrum Oils disagrees. They have a list of all oils, along with their smoke points (when they start producing trans fats) along with the highest temperature they can be heated before they start producing trans fats. Per Spectrum, unrefined olive oil cannot be exposed to heat higher than 325 degrees.

  39. Great news!!!! I have been looking for the “California Olive Oil Council, Certified Extra Virgin” logo on my olive oils and I was happy to see both brands I buy on Tom Mueller’s list! I am much relieved by this article because one of my heroes, Dr. Terry Wahls, does not recommend heating it and it was causing me stress because I cannot do coconut oil, and I am not sure what I think about the tub of tallow I recently bought. So glad. Thank you.
    P.S.- I am curious about duck fat and its omega 6 content, the few times I have eaten it, it was truly divine and I wonder if it is healthful or inflammation causing?

    • Using ghee (clarified butter) is usually better than butter that still contains the milk solids that tend to burn. It also eliminates the milk protein which causes problems for many people.

    • I cook with butter all the time. Because it contains a lot of moisture, he first warning that its got to 100C (212F) is when that water boils off and it can spit. Turn the heat down straight away and start frying. If it starts to burn, goes brown, stop, bin it and start again.

  40. Cooking with olive oil is a chancy activity. 1. It can change the temperature, the flavor, and ph of many foods. 2. It requires exploration in small quantities. 3. It can change the air quality in the cooking area as well as the type of clean up required. 4. some people are allergic to olive oil. 5. Is the olive oil or the item being cooked that you are trying to enhance. 6. If it is so good for you, why has it taken over two hundred years to become “Popular” in the US. I have yet to locate an adequate number or olive orchards in the US.

    just an observation.

    • #1: True, so we must experiment. I think this article is to remove trepidation to do so. #2: Yep. #3: Hood fans and splatter screens. #4: They obviously shouldn’t be using it then. #5: Great question, I guess requires going back to experimentation. #6: The Standard American Diet consists of mostly “popular” things (i.e. food that is most importantly cheap, and eaten for energy instead of nutrition). I think it would be a horrible choice to base individual dietary choices on what is popular in the United States. How many things, out of everything popular in the US, are “good” for people?

  41. I always recommend for my clients to cook with other oils but now I feel better about allowing them to use olive oil! Thanks for the information, just the right amount of background!

    • Hi Kay,

      Yes, Avocado oil is a good choice for high heat cooking, as is Macadamia oil. I’m still sceptical about using Olive oil for cooking, as all the other information I have ever read has been on the contrary to this article. That said, it’s important to remain open minded to new studies as they come out. I think I’ll stick with coconut oil and ghee for now, simply because I prefer the taste 🙂

  42. I use Filippo Berio Olive Oil for general cooking. I have found that if I use the same brand but cook with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, the food takes on a bitter taste. When I use the plain olive oil it does not.
    Also, I have been using Laxmi pure cow Ghee (clarified butter) with outstanding results. The food handles high heat very well and the taste far exceed that of food cooked with olive oil.

  43. This was a great article. As we are still making the switch to completely whole/real foods, this answers several questions as well as providing an option for those rare fried foods our family enjoys…like chicken or eggplant parm!
    Off to share this with friends!

  44. I see NOTHING in this article about the formation of toxic aldehydes. Although this is fairly recent research i’d think someone writing on this site should know. SAD she does not.
    Perhaps she should subscribe to Dr mercola’s artcles…

  45. you say “the average home cook will never cook anything for 36 hours straight” referring to olive oil being heated to 350F.
    Well, stir frying requires heat way above 350degrees (I’d say 400, possibly 425) and degradation occurs at a specific temp (smoke point).
    350 is baking temp for a cake, 375-400 for a pie just as examples

    • The smoke point depends on the initial free fatty acid content of the fat, the lower the FFA, the higher the smoke point. Not all EVOO are equal! US’s national standard for EVOO is 0.8, California’s standard is 0.5 and some brand can have much lower FAA content, which means smoking point can reach higher temperature.

      The one I am using has been tested up to 490 degrees. I bake and cook with it without any problem.

  46. I was wondering the same thing about the temperatures. If you cook something at 350 for days, does the temp go significantly higher than 350? I think many people sauté at higher temps, and roast in the 400s. Not sure how the 350 degrees for a long period of time compares to roasting cauliflower with olive oil at 425 for 30 minutes. Does smoke point not matter? Still unsure about cooking with oils….

    • I would like to know the answer to the same question Carrie and Chris D posted. What about sauteing with extra-virgin olive oil because a pan on a stovetop can reach 600F degrees. I tend to avoid evoo for this reason when sauteing because it’s smells bad and then smokes. I use biodynamic/certified organic evoo and I don’t cook things at super high temps, but I do suspect damage can occur to the oil when cooking stovetop. So my question is, what temp is the max temp evoo is safe? Or should we let our nose tell us? If it smells off and it smokes, it’s safe to assume it’s no good.

      • You shouldn’t heat olive oil to the point where it smokes. Different varieties of olive oil have different smoke points, though, so I can’t tell you the exact temperature it will smoke. I would do some experimentation and see if there is a level you can cook it at without experiencing the smoking effect! You shouldn’t eat it if you noticed it smoking (and it won’t taste good anyway!).

  47. This was exactly what I needed to read today. I’ve been having a problem with coconut oil. It has been setting off supraventricular tachycardia episodes for me lately, so I’ve had to avoid it and cook everything with butter, which is also a problem because dairy products have been bothering me, as well. It’s good to know that I can finally go back to cooking with olive oil.

    • Butter burns VERY easily. French health experts have always warned about NEVER cooking with butter. OLive oil is clearly a better choice in this case.
      Lard from organic pork is another good choice.
      Tachycardia caused by coconut oil?? strange… Take additional magnesium!

      • Ghee (clarified butter, removing milk solids and water) has a higher smoke point than EVO, and less PUFAs (3.7%). I’d say very good for cooking. Anyway, I notice in all the mentions of temperature that no one suggests not to use such high temperatures to begin with. Gentle cooking, better food, better health-wise.

      • Chris, I certainly would like to know how you determined that using coconut oil caused your tachycardia. There is a statistical method to determine that but it takes a long time..

    • I meant warned about cooking with butter not about NOT cooking with butter.
      Butter should never be heated.
      Duck fat is another excellent choice for cooking and it is healthy

    • Regardless of whether or not there’s a connection between coconut oil and cardiac changes, there’s a difference between a fast heart rate (tachycardia) and SVT (much more serious). I’d recommend seeing your practitioner for an ECG and lab work, magnesium and potassium are a good start.

      • I’ve been taking magnesium for a year now, plus CoQ10, and other recommended supplements and digestive enzymes. I am having SVTs with nearly constant nausea, but the doctors don’t know why yet. Coconut milk and dairy also set these episodes off, as does anything with high fat content, like eggs and bacon. I have to eat very small meals to avoid getting sick. As far as I know right now, I do not have any kind of heart disease, but my last ECG was borderline. I just had an echocardiogram done today and have an event monitor to record episodes this month. Still waiting to hear the results.

        • I have just started with coQ10. Initially I supplemented with vit D for my irregular strong heartbeats (which started in the dark month of November). But only when I started balancing D with coQ10 and magnesium did I get relief from episodes.

          Today I make sure to go out in the daylight every single day ( this is the UK so sun is optional).

          My problem now is calcium ratio to magnesium. And Chris K of course recommends that we don’t forget vitamin K2, found in animal fat….which I have been cutting down on these last few years.

    • You are not the only one to get a trembly chest from coconut. Same thing happens to me. I am also dairy intolerant, so this is very good news for me too!

    • Hi Toni – thanks for your comment. This is exactly why I wanted to post this article. Some people have problems with other types of fats, so I just wanted to make sure people aren’t scared to cook with olive oil if they need some other options. Take care to get a good quality oil and make sure it doesn’t burn and you are all set.

  48. Totally agree with PM, an excellent piece of investigative journalism in Canada a few years ago demonstrated that most olive oils are diluted with vegetable oils to lower cost. Personnally I buy the best stuff I can afford and drench all my vegetables in it but never cook with it. I use Ghee and coconut oil for cooking.

  49. At the top of the article you state: “butter (another saturated fat), which has only 60% saturated fatty acids, the rest of it being polyunsaturated fat.” Surely butter is 60% saturated, 26% monounsaturated and only about 4% polyunsaturated?

  50. Have you had any experience with macadamia nut oil? It appears to have all the benefits of olive oil (great omega 6 to omega 3 ratio, high in mono unsaturated, and it has a pleasant light nutty taste, rather than the strong flavor of olive oil, which simply does not lend itself to some foods.

  51. In England we have rapeseed oil which is a good alternative to vegetable oil. I have understood that it can be used for frying instead of olive oil because it has a higher smoke point (220C) so that’s what I’ve been using. It’s really nice especially if you get a cold pressed virgin oil but I’m happy to know I can go back to olive oil if I want. I don’t know what rapeseed is called in the US or what it’s omega 6/3 content is, I’ll have to find out.

    • http://www.marksdailyapple.com/healthy-oils

      Canola oil comes from rapeseed, a completely unpalatable seed rich in erucic acid, which is bitter and rather toxic. Canola oil is rapeseed oil stripped of erucic acid, as I detailed in this previous post. It gets a lot of attention from doctors as a “heart healthy” oil (one of the “good” fats) rich in omega-3s, but the fact that canola processing generally uses upwards of 500 degrees means a good portion of the Omega-3s could be rancid on the shelf.

      61% MUFA
      21% Omega-6 PUFA
      9-11% Omega-3 PUFA
      7% SFA

  52. Some people are allergic to olive oil. Can be because of its salicylate content, or phloridzin, chlorogenic acid or gallic acid. I find that regular consumption of olive oil (not heated) makes me ill. I use macadamia oil with its almost zero polyunsaturated fat for salad dressing, and saturated fats for cooking.

  53. ‘Considering that the average home cook will never cook anything for 36 hours straight, I think we’re pretty safe here.’ From the other study, ‘Vegetable oil, on the other hand, was only able to go for 15 hours’. Using the same logic, because people will never cook anything in oil for 15 hours straight, that makes vegetable oil safe as well – we know that is not so.

    • “If you’ve been hanging around ChrisKresser.com for a while, you probably know that your cholesterol levels aren’t the end-all-be-all. However, those with familial hypercholesterolemia (and even those without!) will be happy to hear that they can cook with a fat that has been shown to reduce LDL oxidation, thus improving their heart health. ”

      Yeah the logics in the article are a bit flawed in general. I think the take home point is awesome (i.e. olive oil is resistant to cooking damage), but you can’t say ‘as you know cholesterol levels don’t really matter ‘ and then point out LDL oxidation is reduced. Reduced oxidation is GREAT, everyone will agree on that. It has no further connection with LDL-levels in general, so why even mention familial hypercholesterimia?

      • I wanted to mention familial hypercholesterolemia because this population is especially concerned with heart health as they are more prone to heart disease. Thus, if olive oil is improving their heart health, I assume they’d want to know about it! But you’re right – it’s not specific to those with this condition – anyone will benefit.

    • So-called vegetable oils are already rancid due to high-heat processing. Actually, the whole process is rather disgusting — the separation process results in a gray, smelly oil which must then be chemically bleached, deodorized and coloring added.

  54. Eh. I never stopped cooking with olive oil, but it’s nice to know that I am fine doing it… I guess.

    CA Olive Ranch is a reputable company with good XV olive oil, and easily available at most supermarkets. I buy it at Costco when it’s available (seems to run out quickly)– $15 for a pack of two 1L bottles.

    Definitely spend the money on decent (actual extra virgin) olive oil, though.

  55. Now that we know olive oil is safe – can you look at the other cooking fats in Paleo land – namely lards and tallows?
    I’ve seen cited studies (suppversity blog) that note that, while the saturated fatty acid component of animal fat is stable, the cholesterol part is not and is prone to oxidation when used as a frying fat. Thus raising the question that repeated frying in lard may not actually be very beneficial.

  56. This article promotes cooking with olive oil but fails to advise what type of cooking is ok and up to what temperature. Many people will fry or bake above 350F so is this still ok? Most people can’t really monitor exact temperature while frying or sautéing. It is quite widely reported that the smoke point of extra virgin olive oil is 320F. What about this? No mention of smoke point and the fact that oils with polyunsaturated content can oxidise well before their smoke point anyway. This article is lacking and incomplete and if you plan to write an article advising people it should be thoroughly researched and more complete. Sorry just tired of reading contradicting opinions of people claiming to be experts. If you want more information about cooking with oils check out this article that I have seen. http://www.yogitrition.com/what-you-need-to-know-about-cooking-with-oils/

    • If you read the part where I described the studies that looked at olive oil, you’d note that they fried it for 36 hours (that’s a high temp cooking method) before it became unsafe. So yes, it is okay to cook at high temps, but I would always suggest (no matter what fat you cook with) that you don’t let it start burning.

      • It says 36 hours at 350 degrees – that is not high temp., just a long time. The article does say that they cooked at ” high heat, and only after 24-27 hours of frying (depending on the type) were they considered to be harmful.” but it doesn’t say what “high heat” is. Unfortunately I can’t read the full original source article without paying $35.

      • Kelsie I and many others would definitely not class frying at 350F high temp cooking. This is a poor article and there have been quite a few questions raised here by many which should be addressed.

        • Hi Terri,

          If you’re going to cook it at high temperatures, you’ll need to experiment with the particular oil you have as different olive oil varieties have different smoke points. I bake with mine in the oven at 400 F and have no issues as well as cook with it on the stove and have no smoking problems, but that may differ depending on the brand of olive oil you’re using.

    • I agree, some additional information on smoking points of oils and if they are the danger points would be useful. And deep frying with olive oil?

  57. This would be great news were it not for the additional fact that unadulterated olive oil is so expensive.

    Given that, I think that I will use organic lard, butter and coconut oil instead.

  58. good news! Is it still best to avoid using olive oil at higher temps than 350 F or would it be ok? What are the top fats to cook with in addition to olive oil?

  59. Thanks for that!! It has been distressing to read the many opinions against cooking with olive oil. It’s a lifelong favorite for this Italian girl and I am very happy to see some press in its favor 🙂

    • Me too, Gina. I am an old 97 year old Italian man. A lot of the cooking my mother did during the 20s and 30s was with plain old lard. But we had olive oil too. And I doubted that my parents (immigrants and uneducated) were sophisticated enough to know whether the olive oil was virgin or not. Being very young, .I was too dumb to know. .I’ve been using extra virgin oil (at least the bottle says so) for about 60 years now. I’m still ‘going strong.’

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