23 Jun

4 Misconceptions About Extra Virgin Olive Oil

8-Olive-Oil-Tasting Through casual conversations, we realised that many people have misconceptions on Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO), and are confused in the ways in which we can use EVOO.

In this article, we hope to resolve these concerns and to provide a clearer understanding on the benefits and ways we can use EVOO in our daily culinary preparations. What are these concerns?


1) “EVOO is too expensive to be used daily.”

Let us first start with two benefits of extra virgin olive oil.

BENEFIT #1: Healthiest Oil

Being a major component of the healthy Mediterranean Diet, EVOO has been proven healthy for centuries and with hundreds of scientific studies conducted over the last 60 years to back it up. 

The fact is, extra virgin olive oil contains a range of health-promoting phytonutrients. Put simply, it is shown to reduce the risk of the Alzheimer’s Disease, keep our heart young, protect against certain cancer, and help prevent strokes – just to name a few.

Refined olive oil, typically labelled pure olive oil or extra light olive oil, lacks phytonutrients. Use only extra virgin olive oil!

BENEFIT #2: Taste of Olive Oil Enhances the Food Flavour

It pairs excellently with vegetables, especially naturally bitter ones like those from the Brassica family (e.g. broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, etc.)

Using extra virgin olive oil to fry vegetables will greatly improve the taste. Our kids would love it.

Moreover, vegetables from the Brassica family contain cancer-fighting phytonutrients, which are normally lost in the cooking water when you boil or steam them, and these phytonutrients need fat to be absorbed.

Hence, pairing EVOO with these vegetables allow us to get both the health benefits from the EVOO itself and the vegetables – truly the best of both worlds.

Brassica vegetables contain a phytonutrient that has been shown to be cancer protective.

But it is water soluble, so boiling or steaming these vegetables means you will not get the health benefits from this phytonutrient, since it will be lost in the cooking water.

The phytonutrient needs fat to be absorbed. Cooking the brassica family in extra virgin olive oil therefore means that you get both the health benefits of olive oil itself and of the cancer-fighting phytonutrients in the vegetables.

Plus using olive oil will make them taste so much better than boiling or steaming!

— Mary Flynn (2013). The science of cooking with olive oil.

Why Roasting Broccoli Is Better Than Steaming It (includes recipe for Broccoli Sandwiches, inspired by No. 7 Sub in New York City.)

Of course, the list is non-exhaustive. There are more health benefits of EVOO.

How much extra virgin olive oil we need in our everyday cooking?

Let’s do our sum!

If we use three tablespoon (about 15ml) of extra virgin olive oil to fry vegetables for our dinner only, we need a bottle of 500ml extra virgin olive oil in every 12 days, or about three bottles a month.

For a bottle of 500ml Mueloliva Clásica, for example, which costs S$8.95 (special introductory price ending June 2015), we will spend S$26.85 per month, or about 90¢ per day.

Mueloliva Clásica is a very versatile extra virgin olive oil.

The taste is delicate and mild, which is superb not only for frying where we don’t want the taste of the oil to overshadow the food we prepare, but also can be used as salad dressing, drizzled over pasta, grilled vegetables and fish.

Let’s look at things this way!

How much do we spend on coffee a day? Coffee at coffee shop/food court costs about S$1.20-1.50 per cup. We normally take two cups at least, don’t we?

How about spending a coffee break at Starbucks or Coffee Bean? It will be at least double the price.

Well, do we go to restaurants for meals at least twice a month? This can easily fetch between S$25-50 per person per visit.

Watch this video and see how much extra virgin olive oil is used to pan fry a salmon.

A simple meal like this would give us the triple health benefits from vegetables, fish, and extra virgin olive oil with a day needs of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory.

Recipe: How to make the best pan-fried salmon using 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.

Yes, without doubt those commonly used vegetable and seed oils cost much less than extra virgin olive oil. But based on these two facts alone, the benefits of EVOO definitely outweigh the difference in cost with the traditional cooking oil.

Just as how you would pop a few vitamin tablets every morning, incorporating the use of EVOO in your cooking is the same kind of investment for your future health.

Although you are unable to see or feel the immediate benefits, you can be rest assured knowing that this tiny step you are taking will go a long way.


2) “EVOO can be easily replaced by cheaper alternatives like seed oils (eg. canola oil, sunflower oil…)”

It is unfair to compare extra virgin olive oil with cheaper alternatives because most of the traditional seed oils are chemically extracted from seeds under extremely high heat, and using toxic chemical such as hexane during the oil extraction process.

These cooking oils are refined, odorless, tasteless, colourless, indigestible, and do not have the nutritional value and health benefits remotely comparable to EVOO, which is physically cold-extracted from the fruit (i.e. Olive) without using chemical nor heat.

Avoid highly processed cooking oils that have high polyunsaturated fat!

Moreover, some of the traditional highly processed cooking oils (e.g. the vegetable and seed oils) that we commonly use for our everyday cooking contains polyunsaturated fatty acid that is of a little bit too high to be consumed simultaneously with meat on a daily basis.

Why? Because it could possibly increase the risk of chronic diseases.

Let’s illustrate with Rice Bran Oil, which has high polyunsaturated fatty acid that stands at about 35%.

Polyunsaturated fat consists of Omega-3, which is anti-inflammatory, and Omega-6, pro-inflammatory.

We need both types of fat in our diet – Omega-3 AND Omega-6.

But when Omega-6 is consumed in excess, it becomes problematic, especially, if we are taking meat at the same time, which is a source of Omega-6.

The best ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 should range from 1:1 to 1:5, and the requirement in the US is 1:10.

The ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 in Rice Bran Oil is 1:35, which is way too high, because it virtually does not have omega-3 in it.

Problems with polyunsaturated fat.

Saturated fat and monounsaturated fat are pretty resistant to heat or heating. On the other hand, polyunsaturated fat is not.

In fact, it is very chemically unstable, and highly susceptible to oxidation and will become rancid in the presence of heat, light or oxygen – so be careful when we heat up these cooking oils.

When the polyunsaturated fats are in our body, it can easily react and bond to proteins and sugars, in particular fructose, to create toxic by-products like advanced glycation end-products, which can then cause damages to our health.

Rice Bran Oil is not cold extracted. Good nutrients have already lost in the chemical refining and high heat extraction process, during which trans fats are introduced.

When we use a seed oil, we also have to be careful that it is not produced from genetic modified seeds, which are loaded with dangerous antigens and herbicides like glyphosate.

When high heat and chemical are used to extract and refine the oil, trans fat produced, which is harmful to our body.

When high heat and chemical are used to extract and refine the oil, trans fat produced, which is harmful to our body.

Thus, we should not think of extra virgin olive oils and seed oils as two interchangeable oils, as we have to take into consideration what we want for our health and future when deciding on what to use for our cooking.


3) “EVOO does not exactly have a low fat content …”

It is undeniable that extra virgin olive oil does not have the lowest fat content amongst all the other cooking oils – it has about 75% of monounsaturated fat.

However, it is important to know that the (monounsaturated) fats in EVOO are healthy fats, just like those present in other high-fat healthy foods such as avocados and nuts.

Research studies have also found that extra virgin olive oil burns brown fats, and speeds up fat burning.

What this means is that using EVOO in our culinary preparation can help with weight management. Moreover, the healthy fats in EVOO will provide greater satisfaction and delay the onset of hunger after meals, so wave goodbye to binge eating and embrace a more controlled intake of food!


4) “EVOO can only be used as a salad dressing, and not actually for frying … right?”

In a study conducted by Dr. Nurhan Dunford (Ph. D., Oil/Oilseed Chemist) of the Oklahoma State University, it was found that the normal temperature range for food service frying is between 160°C and 190°C, where most foods cook rapidly in this temperature range and develop a golden colour, crisp texture, and good flavour.

In The Joy of Cooking, one of the world’s most widely read cookbooks, Irma Rombauer recommends frying at 185ºC for best results.

On the other hand, the smoke point of the extra virgin olive oil is between 190-215°C, which depends on its quality – the lower the Free Fatty Acid (FFA), the higher the smoke point.

A smoke point is defined as the oil begins to smoke and starts to form unhealthy compounds when heated over its tolerable limit.

Therefore, extra virgin olive oil is good for low to medium temperature frying with frying temperature not exceeding 190ºC – any food fried beyond this temperature will likely see its nutritional value lowered, if not unhealthy compound formed.

Watch the video to see how Gordon Ramsay cooks steak using extra virgin olive oil.

Recipe: Spicy beef salad.

To put everything in a nutshell – The Little Things That We Do, Count.

When we use cooking oil to cook our meals for our kids and family, have we ever stop and think which cooking oil should we use to prepare the meals?

Another simple fact that perhaps most of us have overlooked is that premium quality extra virgin olive oil is “olive juice”.

Wouldn’t we feel more relieved knowing that our family members are consuming “olive juice” in their daily meal consumption?

Here are our two cents in:

We are refresh when we have enough hours of sleep. We can’t possibly turn back the clock and reverse the damage it has impacted us to make up the lost hours in sleep through sleeping more hours.

We need to balance work and exercise to remain healthy and physically fit. We can’t recuperate our lost health through working out more in the gym.

Small little things make a big difference!

The cooking oil we use everyday to prepare our meals is that small little thing.

Next time when we are eating out or in, and we have not asked this question yet, please pause and wonder:

What will happen to our health when we reach 50, if we are taking in small little doses of cooking oil from the food we consume everyday?

Size doesn’t matter – The small little things, count! Cooking oil is that small little thing.

A gentle reminder and 10 handy tips:

1) A bottle of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) which is tightly capped and stored away from light and heat can be kept for two years. When it is open, try to consume it within a month or two to savour its freshness.

2) Unlike wine, the flavour of EVOO does not improve with time. Buy EVOO that is close to its harvest date.

3) EVOO is an “olive juice”. When we take two tablespoonful directly, we will have had a day needs of anti-inflammatory and antioxidants. Moreover, it facilitates the burning of fats in our body and making us slimmer.

4) “Pure” and “Extra Light” olive oil does not have the nutrients and taste that are even closed to the Extra Virgin Olive Oil. EVOO is the highest grade of olive oil and has the heart healthy nutrients that we need.

5) When we said that “frying food in high temperature”, we often not sure what exactly is “high”, and how “high” is considered high. Lab studies have shown that the ideal frying temperature is about 180ºC, whereas the smoke point of EVOO is between 190-215ºC, depending on its quality – the lower its Free Fatty Acid, the higher the smoke point. EVOO is best for home cooking and can be used for frying.

6) Expensive EVOO does not necessarily mean good quality. On the other hand, cheap EVOO could well be a good indication of an inferior quality olive oil. Buy extra virgin olive oil that has low Free Fatty Acid, 0.3% and below.

7) Premium quality EVOO will give us the bitter and peppery sensation, which is an evidence of strong presence of phytonutrients, i.e. polyphenols and oleocanthal, which are the anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidants that we need.

8) Use cooking oil that does not have trans fat. Read the label and avoid buying partially hydrogenated cooking oils. These oils are not good to our health if consuming it for a long time.

9) There are three levels of intensity of an extra virgin olive oil: (a) intense, (b) medium, and (c) delicate and mild. Use delicate and mild extra virgin olive oil for frying so that the food is not overwhelmed by the flavour of the olive oil.

10) There are three best, simple and healthy ways of using extra virgin olive oil: (a) Dip the crusty rustic bread in olive oil as breakfast, (b) Use three tablespoon of olive oil to fry vegetables and eggs, and (c) Drink two tablespoonful of olive oil, well, … the “olive juice” every morning.

bread & EVOO 2

4 thoughts on “4 Misconceptions About Extra Virgin Olive Oil

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