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From celebrity television chefs to culinary food blogs, well-meaning grandmothers to supermarket lifestyle magazines, and everywhere in between, the world continues to dispel unproven facts and dangerous lies about extra virgin olive oil with reckless abandon. For decades, we believed that cooking with extra virgin olive oil at high heat overheats it, resulting in bitter flavouring, toxic fumes, and the creation of carcinogenic compounds. While flavour profiles and preferences remain a subjective and individual assessment, the scientific data exploring claims that overheated extra virgin olive oil can result in dangerous toxins has proven this myth demonstrably wrong.
Driving the misconception surrounding the safety and flavour profile of extra virgin olive oil is the elusive “smoking point.” Commonly, an oil’s smoking point is often confused and conflated with the stability of the oil. The natural assumption is that when an oil starts to smoke, it is also breaking down. However, the point at which an oil smokes has little bearing on the stability of the oil. The truth is, genuine Extra Virgin Olive Oil is proven to be the most stable oil when heated, followed by coconut oil and other virgin oils. A 2018 peer-reviewed study conducted by the Australian Oil Specialist Laboratory, Modern Olives Laboratory, found that natural, pure extra virgin olive oil is significantly more stable than other common “high-heat” cooking oils such as Canola and Grapeseed. While it is true that oils that are super-heated for extended periods can become harmful, the smoking point is not a direct correlation to its stability. According to the data, oils that smoke faster do not become toxic sooner. Simply put, the smoking point of oil does not increase the potential risk of ingesting harmful chemicals.
Stability, however, is impacted by one other common (and often overlooked) oil-related factor: Overuse. While prolonged heat and the smoking point have been scientifically proven not to affect oil stability, overuse of oil has. Overuse of oil can break down the bonds and chemicals within the oil to create harmful, toxic, and dangerous chemicals. Reused oils frequently and extensively deliver the highest risk for carcinogenic chemicals, bringing us back to extra virgin olive oil.
Unlike canola oil or peanut oil, extra virgin olive oil is safe to be reused several times with proper cleaning and storage. It is filled with robust, healthy, and supremely stable antioxidants and is primarily a monosaturated fat. Unrefined, fully certified extra virgin olive oil doesn’t have any additives, and polyunsaturated fats than other cooking oils are subjected to and stripped of their antioxidants. In contrast, extra virgin olive oil retains all of that natural, oxidation-fighting goodness that allows it to cook safely and deliciously at extremely high heat.
The time has come to push back against the negativity, fearmongering, and misconceptions surrounding Extra Virgin Olive Oil, smoke points, and stability. Not only is your extra virgin olive oil perfectly safe at high cooking temperatures up to 215°C/419°F, but it is also supremely nutritious and endlessly delicious – and we have the scientific data to back it up.
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