I was reading this excellent post: Why you Should Never Eat Vegetable Oil or Margarine! and I started to become very curious about oils we use for cooking. Seriously, read it!!!! So after reading this, I began my research and found an overwhelming amount of information (yea, it’s times like these that I wish I was a scientist so I could fully understand chemical compounds)
Here’s the problem with educating yourself…you are obligated to use the knowledge gained.
So what did I learn? Smoke points.
I know that the paleo people say not to cook with olive oil, and I’ve been slightly curious, but too afraid to research because I really really really love to cook with olive oil. Well I finally did it, and I realized that I need to be a lot more careful with my first press extra virgin olive oil.
That was for emphasis; I wasn’t yelling at you, I promise!
So what is a smoke point and why is it important that we follow the rules. Every oil has a smoke point. A smoke point is the point when the oil starts to break down. It is called a smoke point, because it literally produces smoke. Why is it so bad? Because when an oil reaches its smoke point, it deteriorates and starts to become rancid. We don’t want anything that’s rancid, right? Okay, so we always want to make sure we get our antioxidants to prevent cancer, right? Well when we are talking about the breaking down of oil, we are talking about oxidation (yes, the very thing we need to protect our bodies from!).
In addition to changing the taste of the oil and reducing the nutritional value, there are some very harmful effects of oxidation. Oxidation can damage DNA, mitochondria, and other components of a cell. Damaging these cells can lead to many diseases, especially those that heavily rely on oxygen, such as, the heart, lungs, and brain. What can happen when we start messing with our cells? Cancer.
Oxidation is not avoidable in our bodies and is actually needed for some processes, but we can control the bad things we put into our body, correct? yes, it pains me, but yes.
Also, the more refined the oil, the higher the smoke point. I of course, prefer not to use highly refined oils, so this kind of sucks. So I’m about to share some info that may save your life (hey we have to do what we can to prevent disease, no matter how unpopular it may be)
A precise list of smoke points is very difficult to find, There are very differing opinions on smoke points and not everyone takes note of how processed the oil is. On the subject of extra virgin olive oil, I have seen the smoke point listed from 200 F all the way to 350 F, so it is difficult to keep up with the truth. I have also read many articles that have said to not cook with olive oil at all (paleo folks suggest this as well). Heating the oil of course is going to deplete nutrients, which isn’t ideal, but I wouldn’t call it dangerous. I however, would call crossing the smoke point dangerous. So if your oil is letting off smoke, please do not use it! You have crossed the line and are headed into the danger zone. I’m so dramatic.
Another important point: Every time you cook with an oil, you lower the smoking point of the oil. I wouldn’t suggest using the same oil twice, you’re increasing your risk.
So the moral of the story? Don’t eat rancid oil. Easy enough.