When olive oil is unhealthy

Real Food Recipes

For some of you this will be old news, but it always surprises me how few people know this oh so important fact about one of their favorite cooking oils (if this is you, not to fret – you’re in good company!).

Olive oil is widely popular for its numerous health benefits.

It is rich in the healthy Omega-9 monounsaturated fatty acids and has been shown to decrease blood pressure and the risk of diabetes, age-related dementia, blood clots, and cancer.

In short, olive oil is awesome and extremely healthy! At least when used properly.

Unfortunately, when olive oil is overheated, it does more harm than good.

The “smoke point” of oil is the temperature point at which it starts to smoke (makes sense). Different oils smoke at different temperatures; olive oil has a smoke point in the lower range of the spectrum high-quality extra-virgin olive oils have a lower smoke point (around 320°F for high-quality extra-virgin olive oil). For this reason, it should be used at low to medium heat only.

So what is the problem with exceeding the smoke point? Well when an oil smokes, it begins to decompose and the antioxidants in the oil are replaced by free radicals, nasty little buggers that damage cells and are carcinogenic. The smoke is also toxic and should therefore not be inhaled.

If you need a hardier oil for baking or high-heat cooking, use an oil with a higher smoke point such as coconut oil. Unrefined coconut oil can be used for medium-heat and refined coconut oil can be used for medium- to high-heat cooking.


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  1. Yes, avocado oil is wonderful for high-heat cooking!

    I’m a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner… but you don’t need to be a PhD to know and share facts.

  2. I did know about olive oil and high temps but have a recipe with garlic olive oil that is delicious. The temp for roasting is high. What oil would be a good substitute. Avocado with garlic? What are your credtials? Thanks, Angie

  3. Thank YOU for that succinct answer on how/why olive oil `goes bad’! I never could explain it properly & now I have your perfect answer- thanks!

  4. i CAN’T FIND any information on baking with EV olive oil like brushing on a pizza baked at 350 degrees. If the oil is heated above room temperature does that make it unhealthy? Please somebody tell me.

  5. Smoke points are fairly common knowledge. Feel free to Google “smoke point oils” to learn some more.