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Here’s When Not to Use Olive Oil (and What to Use Instead)

December 21, 2020

What’s the oil you reach for the most when cooking? For me, it’s always been olive oil. Not only is it one of the healthiest fats out there, it also adds a ton of flavor to everything from dressings and dips to stews and sauces. It’s also fantastic in baked goods. But it isn’t always the best choice. Here’s when not to use olive oil — and what to use instead.

But, First: Olive Oil at a Glance

Olive oil is made, as you’d expect, from olives. What you might not know is that it’s a seasonal product. Every year, olives are harvested and pressed producing a fresh batch of oil. When buying olive oil, you want to make sure that it’s labeled extra-virgin and that it comes in a dark-hued bottle — this helps protect the oil from going rancid. You’ll also want to look for harvest date. Not all bottles have it, but the highest-quality ones do. This guarantees that you’re buying the freshest oil possible.

In terms of health benefits, olive oil is a rich source of oleic acid and contains a mix of antioxidants, including carotenoids. Specifically, it’s a great source of vitamin E, an antioxidant that may help prevent or delay chronic diseases.

But it has one flaw: a low smoke point.

When Not to Use Olive Oil

“The rich, bold flavor and low smoke point make olive oil excellent to drizzle on cold dishes such as salads or on veggies after they have been roasted, or pasta after it has been cooked,” says says Kylene Bogden, RDN and Love Wellness Advisor. “I actually have a handful of clients who blend it into their morning smoothie.”

However, when used in high-heat cooking, it can lose its flavor and, potentially, some of its health benefits. Specifically, you should avoid using it for stir-frying, pan-frying, or deep frying.

Use Avocado Oil for High-Heat Cooking

Avocado oil is made from the pulp of avocados, which means it contains all the healthy fat that actual avocados do. It’s rich in oleic acid, which has been shown to support heart health and help improve brain function. And it’s rich in antioxidants like carotenoids, which are good for both your skin and eye health.

In other words, it’s nutritionally fairly similar to olive oil. The main difference is that avocado oil has a much higher smoke point. This means it can be heated to a higher temperature — specifically 520°F — before smoking and losing its nutrients.

The takeaway? Keep a bottle of both oils in your pantry. Just be sure to look for unrefined, cold-pressed oil in order to get all their health benefits.





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