It is generally recommended to avoid or consume fried food as little as possible.
However, vegetable dishes fried in olive oil were in traditional Mediterranean diets every day without the adverse health effects we now associate with fried foods.
The reason could be that the foods were fried in olive oil and not unhealthy seed oils.
Some scientific studies have shown that the occasional consumption of fried foods was not associated with coronary events. The food was fried in fresh (not reused) olive oil, and the individuals followed a Mediterranean diet.
However, refined olive oil does not contain many of the widely spread health benefits of extra virgin olive oil, a genuine concentrate of nutrients and antioxidants.
Refined olive oil is the standard grade of olive oil obtained through an industrial chemical refining process to remove undesirable qualities such as excessive acidity and unpleasant flavors. Still, it remains a practical and healthier alternative for repeated frying today. It was compared to other cooking oils such as corn or soy.
Let’s analyze their characteristics before defining which olive oil and seed oil are better to use in frying.
Olive Oil Or Seed Oil: Characteristics And Differences
Olive oil is a fat obtained from the fruit of the European Olea, a crop of traditional trees from the Mediterranean region. Whole olives are pressed to produce this characteristic oil.
Olive oil is the primary source of fat in the Mediterranean diet. There appears to be a lower mortality rate from cardiovascular disease in the Mediterranean compared to other parts of the world.
Olive oil intake also appears to help reduce inflammation, endothelial dysfunction (problems with the inner linings of blood vessels), thrombosis, and carbohydrate metabolism.
Olive oil contains more monounsaturated fats than any other oil, helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, and raises HDL (good) cholesterol.
This is why it is often touted as one of the healthiest oils.
Extra virgin olive oil also contains polyphenols which act as antioxidants in the body
Extra virgin is perfect for dressings but less ideal for cooking as it has a low smoke point (the temperature at which the oil starts to smoke and breaks down, losing quality, flavor, and health benefits).
On the other hand, unlike olive oil, the seed oil is rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, mainly linoleic acids. Seed oils are more sensitive to oxidation, contain fewer antioxidants, and help reduce bad cholesterol but do not contribute to “good” cholesterol.
The oxidation of seed oils produces tiny particles that combine with specific LDL (low density) protein residues to form “oxidized LDL,” which tends to generate cells that contribute to plaque formation in the coronary arteries.
Seed oils are part of a macro-category, that of vegetable oils: derived from vegetable and fruit seeds that have a high oil content, these oils have become a rather important part of our diet.
It is a good source of healthy fat, whether used as a cooking medium such as frying, thickener, or salad dressing.
Overall, vegetable oils provide many benefits, such as reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, improved metabolism, and digestion, decreasing the chances of breast cancer, and providing omega-3 fatty acids to the body.
One of the most common is soybean oil; it is extracted from soybeans and is rich in fatty acids. The high mineral and vitamin content and antioxidant properties make this oil a very healthy choice. Some of its health benefits are eye and skin benefits and a reduced risk of heart complications. It also helps reduce the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
Sunflower oil also contains a good amount of fatty acids and vitamin E; it also helps to stimulate energy, prevent heart disease, reduce the severity of arthritis and asthma, and promote skin cell regeneration.
Despite this, considering that food with a high content of monounsaturated fats contains powerful antioxidants (olive oil), we can conclude that the intake of polyunsaturated fats (from seed oils) should be replaced by monounsaturated fats (from olive oils), which are safer and less prone to oxidation.
We should also know that olive oils are not only rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (75% oleic acid) but also contain valuable antioxidants such as vitamin E, provitamin A and other phenolic compounds essential for antioxidant activity.
This is why we can say that olive oil is one of the healthiest and most nutritious products among all edible fats and oils. But is it the best oil for frying?
Seed Oil Or Olive Oil: Which One To Choose For Frying?
Some oils can withstand much higher temperatures than others.
The ideal temperature for frying is 176-190 ° C; when food is immersed in oil of this temperature, its surface cooks almost instantly and forms a type of “seal” that the oil cannot penetrate.
At the same time, the moisture inside the food turns into steam, cooking the food from the inside. The steam also helps keep the oil out of the food.
If the temperature is too low, the oil will seep into the food, making it greasy and disgusting; if the temperature is too high, it can dry out the food and oxidize the oil.
Therefore, our choice will have to fall on oils with a high smoke point, be stable, and not react with oxygen when heated.
The more saturated fats an oil contains, the more stable they are when heated.
For this reason, oils that are primarily saturated and monounsaturated are best, but we should avoid using oils that contain large amounts of polyunsaturated fats.
Polyunsaturated fats contain two (or more) bonds in their chemical structure; these double bonds tend to react with oxygen and form harmful compounds when exposed to high heat.
Olive oil is one of the healthiest fats: it contains a high percentage of monounsaturated fatty acids, with only one double bond. Like saturated fats, monounsaturated fats are highly heat resistant.
In theory, this makes it an excellent choice for deep frying. However, the flavor and scent of olive oil may not hold up well if heated for a long time.
Seed oils are high in polyunsaturated fats, so they should be avoided for deep frying.
However, no food should be demonized: it is true that with the wrong oils, such as harmful vegetable oils, fried food is unhealthy, but if consumed occasionally, using, for example, quality olive oil, you can enjoy it guilt-free and take the flavor to a whole new level.