When it comes to oils, it can be really confusing to know which ones are the healthiest to use.  Whether the chat is around smoke points, cholesterol or heart disease, how do we make the best choice.  In other words, what oil should I use when I’m cooking?

Is Olive Oil the best?

Cold pressed extra virgin oil, which is used a lot in the mediterranean diet, is widely accepted as one of the best oils to use raw, although its smoke point (180 deg C approx for Olive Oil) was remarked as a potential issue in discussions on this subject a couple of years ago.  However, it seems that this may not be a concern in many cases.  According to studies, compared to cooking oils with even higher smoke points, extra virgin olive oil produces fewer unhealthy compounds when heated, thanks to its protective polyphenol compounds.

What is a smoke point?

By the way, the smoke point of an oil occurs when you heat it and it reaches a certain temperature at which it stops “shimmering” (gleams and moves in ripples around the pan) and starts to release a greyish-blue coloured smoke.

If you allow the oil in your pan to smoke excessively, it can cause unhealthy compounds to develop.  These include pro-inflammatory free radicals. The excessive heat can also cause some of the oil’s naturally occurring nutrients to degrade.  CPEV Olive Oil actually contains polyphenol compounds, which have excellent antioxidant properties.  These properties allow the oil to resist oxidation when heated within normal cooking temperatures.

Other Oils

There are mixed opinions about vegetable and seed oils, but there are studies which raise concerns about the levels of Omega 6 they contain and also the impact of hydrogenated or trans fats on our health. The levels of industrial trans fats that we are consuming in processed foods may be the key consideration, but more studies are needed in relation to the Omega 6 levels, from what I can gather. Trying to make the right choices can be overwhelming!!


To remove my own stress, on balance, and taking all of the information that I read into account, I have decided to use Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil, both raw in salad dressings, and also in cooking.  I don’t really cook at a high enough temperature, or for long enough, for the oil to smoke anyway.  If it did, I would wash it out of the pan and start again. 

Now, of course the amount of oil we use matters.  It’s all about proportion.  Use 1-2 tablespoons on your pan when cooking.   2 tablespoons to dress our salad portion will help us to absorb vitamins A, D, E & K and support our cells.  I have a recycled non-stick pan for cooking food such as scrambled eggs and pancakes, so I don’t need to use oil for those.  Context is of course key, and healthy foods are most beneficial when being consumed as part of an overall healthy lifestyle.  So, olive oil will support our health, in addition to all of the other healthy choices we make!

Other Resources

Article about Vegetable Oils

Pub Med Article about Olive Oil

Photo by Roberta Sorge on Unsplash

Lyn Sharkey Nutrition
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