One of my favourite vegetables oils is good old Olive oil, especially extra virgin olive oil. I know it’s been around for ages, but let me tell you a bit more about the wonders thereof.
You’ve probably heard of “healthy- and -unhealthy fats” before, right?
But do you know what is considered a healthy fat and how much you are allowed to consume?
Many of us have heard of monounsaturated healthy fats (olives, canola oil, nuts, avocados, nut butter etc.) and polyunsaturated healthy fats (walnuts, seeds, corn oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, salmon, mackerel and herring).
Then there are the saturated fats (animal fats, butter, ghee, coconut oil, full fat cheese, processed meats, ultra-processed biscuits and cakes) and they are considered the unhealthy ones.
The South African Food Based Dietary Guidelines advises us to use these fats sparingly and to choose vegetable oils rather than hard fats (butter, margarine, ghee, etc.) (1)
Benefits of olive oil
- Extra virgin olive oil contains predominantly monounsaturated fat and is also known as a healthy fat (2).
- Olive oil contains Vitamin E and is a source of antioxidants which play a crucial role in protecting against various chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart diseases and cancer (3).
- It is also known for its anti-inflammatory properties, which in combination with antioxidants, may reduce the risk of developing various chronic diseases (4).
The difference between regular- and extra virgin olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil is more expensive than regular olive oil, I know. But, there is at least a good reason for this difference in price! Extra virgin olive oil is made from pure, cold pressed olives (no heat involved in the manufacturing of the oil) (5), whereas regular olive oil is made from a blend of more processed/refined oils and cold pressed olive oil. Thus, extra virgin olive oil contains more nutrients and health benefits compared to regular olive oil (totally worth the high price).
Why portion size matters
- Even though extra virgin olive oil is considered a healthy fat, it is still highly energy dense and it may increase your risk of gaining weight when you use too much of it.
- Per 100g, extra virgin olive oils contain 3700 kJ, 13.5 g of saturated (unhealthy) fat, 73.7 g of monounsaturated (healthy) fat, 8.4 g of polyunsaturated (healthy) fat and 12.4 mg Vitamin E.
- One portion equals approximately 1 tbs or 15 ml and contains around 502 kJ with only 2 g of saturated (unhealthy) fat.
- One or two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (used in cooking or as a drizzle) will be more than enough! We have extra virgin olive oil available on our website that you can use for your home cooking.
How and when to use olive oils
There is great controversy whether extra virgin olive oil is healthy to fry foods with. Compared to other vegetable oils, extra virgin olive oil has a higher smoke point due to the high monounsaturated fat content (6). In general, when oils are heated beyond its smoking point, the oil releases compounds (lipid peroxides and aldehydes) which is harmful to human health. But don’t worry, extra virgin olive oil is suitable for most pan frying (7, 8, 9). This does not apply to deep fried foods! Deep fried foods are not healthy, guys.
If you only need a little bit of oil for frying your food, you can use regular olive oil to save a bit of money.
Extra virgin olive oil is much tastier than regular olive oil and can also be used to enhance the flavour of several dishes such as salad, bread or pasta. Just remember to be mindful of the amount of olive oil you pour over your dishes.
Take home message
Extra virgin olive oil is a healthy fat which may reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases and can be used to pan fry foods (for a short period of time) or to pour over your foods.
Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what is your favourite way of using olive oil.
- Wolmarans P, Kunneke E, Laubscher R. Use of the South African Food Composition Database System (SAFOODS) and its products in assessing dietary intake data: Part II. Taylor & Francis; 2009.
- Prabhu HR. Lipid peroxidation in culinary oils subjected to thermal stress. Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry. 2000;15(1):1-5.
- Tripoli E, Giammanco M, Tabacchi G, Di Majo D, Giammanco S, La Guardia M. The phenolic compounds of olive oil: structure, biological activity and beneficial effects on human health. Nutr Res Rev. 2005 Jun;18(1):98-112. doi: 10.1079/NRR200495. PMID: 19079898.
- Quiles JL, Ramírez-Tortosa MC, Ibáñez S, Alfonso González J, Duthie GG, Huertas JR, Mataix J. Vitamin E supplementation increases the stability and the in vivo antioxidant capacity of refined olive oil. Free Radic Res. 1999 Dec;31 Suppl:S129-35. doi: 10.1080/10715769900301421. PMID: 10694051.
- Tuck KL, Hayball PJ. Major phenolic compounds in olive oil: metabolism and health effects. J Nutr Biochem. 2002 Nov;13(11):636-644. doi: 10.1016/s0955-2863(02)00229-2. PMID: 12550060.
- Bazina N, He J. Analysis of fatty acid profiles of free fatty acids generated in deep-frying process. J Food Sci Technol. 2018 Aug;55(8):3085-3092. doi: 10.1007/s13197-018-3232-9. Epub 2018 May 16. PMID: 30065418; PMCID: PMC6045989.
- Esterbauer H. Cytotoxicity and genotoxicity of lipid-oxidation products. Am J Clin Nutr. 1993 May;57(5 Suppl):779S-785S; discussion 785S-786S. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/57.5.779S. PMID: 8475896.
- Tang MS, Wang HT, Hu Y, Chen WS, Akao M, Feng Z, Hu W. Acrolein induced DNA damage, mutagenicity and effect on DNA repair. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2011 Sep;55(9):1291-300. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201100148. Epub 2011 Jun 29. PMID: 21714128; PMCID: PMC4606864.