Does Heating Olive Oil Make It Unhealthy? (Answered)

olive oil on a cooking pan

Olive oil (especially the extra virgin one) is one of the healthiest vegetable oils out there, and I think everyone should implement it in their daily routine. It’s well-known that olive oil is perfect for salads, but many people claim it’s terrible for cooking because heating olive oil makes it unhealthy. Today, I want to talk about it and show you whether it’s true or not.

Heating olive oil doesn’t make it unhealthy. Olive oil is naturally resistant to heating, and nothing terrible will happen if you cook on olive oil. It’s much healthier than cooking on sunflower oil for instance. However, overheating olive oil may reduce the amount of antioxidants and vitamin E in it and impact its flavor. But that’s all; it won’t go unhealthy on typical cooking temperatures.

I deeply researched this topic, and I want to refute all the unproven claims from people that say that olive oil becomes unhealthy when heated (used for cooking). I will thoroughly answer all the questions on this topic and give you only correct and scientifically proven information.

“Olive Oil Is Unhealthy For Cooking“– A Common Myth

There’s a common myth out there that cooking on olive oil makes it unhealthy because it releases some toxic compounds when heated. That’s all a myth and is actually debunked in many recent kinds of research.

In 2018, Acta Scientific Nutritional Health published research showing that extra virgin olive oil is safe when cooked to high temperatures, and not only that, it’s actually more chemically stable than many other oils that are used for cooking.

In my opinion, people made that claim in order to save some money and reduce the amounts of olive oil spent throughout the year. I know it sounds dumb, but that’s the real truth, in my opinion.

As you know, olive oil is much more expensive than other typical cooking oils. For instance, 1 liter of olive oil can cost up to ten times more than 1 liter of sunflower oil. For restaurants, it’s just not profitable, and for people like you and me, it’s extremely expensive to cook on olive oil compared to sunflower oil.

Olive Oils’ Natural Resistance To High Temperatures Explained

When cooking, it’s essential to choose an oil that is stable when heated. As you may know, all edible oils consist of fatty acids that can be saturated, and monounsaturated or polyunsaturated, but in different proportions.

Saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids are pretty resistant to heat, while polyunsaturated fatty acids are sensitive to heat.

Extra virgin olive oil is rich in thermostable oleic monounsaturated fatty acid, usually anywhere between 55% and 83%. It’s also rich in antioxidants, especially phenolic compounds and vitamin E. All of them naturally protect the oil from oxygen and high temperatures. With that said, extra virgin olive oil is stable even at higher temperatures, which is excellent for frying and baking.

Extra virgin olive oil is the best of all types of olive oils, and you should aim to use it whenever possible. Of course, it’ll cost you more, but it’s much better.

Smoking Points of Different Types of Olive Oil

When talking about oils’ resistance to heat, one thing is crucial – and that’s the smoking point. The smoking point is when oil will start to burn because the temperature is too high. You should avoid heating oils to smoking points because they’ll begin to degrade nutritionally, but more on that later.

I decided to make you a quick table of smoking points of various olive oil types: extra virgin olive oil, virgin olive oil, refined olive oil, and pure olive oil.

Olive Oil TypeSmoking Point
in Fahrenheit
Smoking Point
in Celsius
Extra virgin olive oil374-410 °F190-210 °C
Virgin olive oil392 °F200 °C
Refined olive oil410 °F210 °C
Pure olive oil464 °F240 °C
Olive Oil Smoking Point Temps

High-quality olive oil will have a lower smoking point. So, if a smoking point is lower, the oil is healthier. However, that means that you can’t cook it to extremely high temperatures, so keep that in mind.

As you can see from the table above, the smoking point of olive oils varies between 190 – 240 C, which is lower than other cooking oils such as sunflower oil. However, it’s still at the point that’s perfectly suitable for most modern food preparation styles. That means that by using olive oil as cooking oil, you’ll be able to make almost anything without smoking problems.

What Really Happens When You Heat Olive Oil

Now I want to address some things about what happens when you heat olive oil. It’s nothing dangerous as some people claim, as long as you keep the oil below smoking point temperatures.

When olive oil is overheated, it’ll likely degrade in some nutrients such as antioxidants and vitamin E. That won’t make the olive oil unhealthy, but it will be less rich in some very healthy nutrients.

Some standard olive oil heating (up to smoking points) won’t make anything bad. If you heat it to smoking points, it’ll degrade in nutrients quicker and lose its typical smell. Actually, olive oil won’t degrade in nutrients immediately after reaching the smoking point. It takes some time for it to start degrading.

In a research from 2010 – “Olive oil stability under deep-frying conditions“, researchers came to the conclusion that only after 24 to 27 hours of overheating oils can be harmful. You’ll never do that in your kitchen. They did it by only heating olive oil to its limits.

When cooking with olive oil, you’ll probably never hit the smoke point because you’ll always cook something on olive oil (chicken, vegetables, pork, etc.), which will keep the temperature below smoking points.

Conclusion

Olive oil won’t become unhealthy when you heat it. It can only happen when heated above the smoking point for an extended period (+24 hours). For regular cooking in the kitchen, it’ll probably never happen.

All types of olive oils are incredibly healthy for cooking, and you should implement them in your daily routine. Since I replaced sunflower oil with olive oil when cooking, I feel much better, and the food tastes more delicious. Also, I never reached olive oils’ smoking point, except once when I forgot to turn off the stove after cooking.