Monday, July 30, 2007

Don't cook with olive oil

"Sales of extra-virgin olive oil hit a record £71m last year, which means it now accounts for more than 30% - the largest share - of the UK oil market. These figures have led some people to conclude that we're adopting "a healthier, Mediterranean diet".

There are as many things wrong with that statement as with the over-use of the oil in the first place. Yes, as a mono-unsaturated fat, it is healthier than animal fats, but that's not what we're normally substituting it for: usually, we use it in preference to other oils - predominantly sunflower oil - which is poly-unsaturated and, as such, healthier than both olive oil and butter. In practice, any monounsaturate heated to smoking point turns into a trans fat, which is worse for you than all other fats put together. And since olive oil has a much lower smoking point than, say, groundnut oil, almost any cooking activity beyond the gentlest of sweating will bring about this bad-fat transformation. In any case, except in dishes such as ratatouille, which showcase the oil as much as other ingredients, I would never use olive oil for cooking, but rather for dressings."

The good news: the market is booming
The bad news: dont use it for cooking. in Lebanon, many people in villages still fry egges with olive oil. i personally dislike the taste of cooked olive oil, but it is an acquired taste and some people love it. I only eat it raw, but in large quantities, and only my own olive oil, which I harvest by hand and I take to the mill. The Guardian article forgets something: monounsaturated fats like olive oil raise the good cholesterol (HDL) and lower bad cholesterol (LDL), while polyunsaturates lower both.

Dont badmouth olive oil. And dont cook with it.


Leila said...

Wow, the trans fat issue with heated olive oil is really news to me. I will be using safflower oil to saute from now on (whenever I make a tomato sauce, i start by cooking onions and garlic).

I am impressed that you harvest your own olives. I told my aunt ('ammati) that I wanted to go to our village to harvest olives and she answered "Nobody harvests their own olives anymore. The Syrians or the Sri Lanki do it." Huh. That's Lebanon today, isn't it? Only the American cousin, two generations removed from the soil, has any interest in "hawwash az-zaytun".

Here in California, my late father used to harvest unwanted olives from street trees and cure them himself. Taking them to a mill would be the next step but I doubt there's an olive press within thirty kilometers of me. THere are indeed olive producers in California, some only an hours drive away, but the presses - god knows where they are. Not close by.

Anonymous said...

This is an article from the Gaurdian. A correction gas been posted:

Are we using too much olive oil?

Zoe Williams
Wednesday July 25, 2007
The Guardian

The following correction was printed in the Guardian's Corrections and clarifications column, Wednesday August 8 2007

The article below mistakenly stated that almost any cooking of olive oil beyond the gentlest of sweating would transform it into trans fats. Most trans fats in food are the result of an industrial hydrogenation process. Frying in oils such as sunflower or olive oil has an insignificant effect in producing trans fats

or read it for yourself here:,,2134134,00.html

Olive Oil is fine to cook with!