Cooking with olive oil is a common practice. Restaurants do it, personal chefs do it, even housewives do it. The topic has been debated for years. Many “experts” say cooking with olive oil is beneficial, however, doing so may be more than harmful.

“NEVER cook with olive oil. Never heat, never cook with it. Nut and seed oils are extracted in cold conditions and in the dark. They can be easily damaged. Never cook with cold pressed olive oil. The value of olive oil is in its micronutrients- salicylates, phytonutrients. The aspects that make it green and spicy, this is the healthy aspect of olive oil,” Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride tells her Practitioners in Certified GAPS Practitioner Training.

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Olive oil is best pressed cold when it contains higher nutrition from ripe olives. The olives are pressed to extract their oil. Some olives are so ripe that when you lay them on the tray, they drip oil without any pressure from the machine. This oil is optimal.

The Olive Oil Times reported, “A three-year study by Australian scientists confirms that oxygen, light and heat are indeed among extra virgin olive oil’s worst enemies.”

Jamie Ayton, Rodney J. Mailer and Kerrie Graham were researchers in the study establishing stability in processing, packaging, shipping and shelf life. They found, “The Effect of Storage Conditions on Extra Virgin Olive Oil Quality (PDF)” is that olive oil should be stored at cool temperatures, away from light and without exposure to oxygen. Otherwise, the olive oil can deteriorate so much that it can no longer be classified as extra virgin olive oil.”

They found high temperatures and oxygen negatively impact the olive oil on many levels. The sensory profile declined, rancidity developed, free fatty acid levels rose, antioxidants were lost and rancidity developed. 

DSC04247Tocopherols were lost meaning the vitamin E content of the nutritious oil was greatly depleted if not diminished altogether. 

The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reported a study saying, “Two monovarietal extra virgin olive oils were subjected to heating at 180 degrees C for 36 h. Oxidation progress was monitored by measuring oil quality changes (peroxide value and conjugated dienes and trienes), fatty acid composition, and minor compound content. Tocopherols and polyphenols were the most affected by the thermal treatment and showed the highest degradation rate.”

The publication concluded, “We conclude that despite the heating conditions, (virgin olive oil) maintained most of its minor compounds and, therefore, most of its nutritional properties.”

This statement ranks in the same category of everything in moderation. Eating food, if it’s not food, is not healthy. Drinking lighter fluid in moderation is not acceptable, eating antifreeze in moderation is not healthy– yet these are the ingredients are in processed foods today. The preservative tertiary butylhydroquinone, or TBHQ, is lighter fluid, used in chicken nuggets. Propylene glycol, antifreeze, is used in ice cream and frozen yogurt to prevent them from turning into a block of ice.

If food is not in its real food form the body can not recognize it for digestion. This is true for olive oil in its original unadulterated state.

2014-03-04 20.24.09Some “experts” say olive oil has been heated for centuries by the ancient Greeks, Romans and Italians. Others say they never heated olive oil, unless it was being used as lamp oil, it’s only the later generations that have heated the oil. 

Atherosclerosis, a journal which analyses disturbances of lipid and lipoprotein metabolism, says olive oil is altered and suffers oxidative stress when heated.

The World Journal of Gastroenterology says, “Virgin (unrefined) olive oil contains a significant amount of antioxidants and α-tocopherol and phytochemicals. However, when refined or heated, olive oil loses these natural compounds. The exact composition of olive oil depends not only on the growth conditions in the year preceding the harvest, but also on the degree of ripeness of the fruit and the technical processing (cold pressing, refining).”

If heat in the extraction damages the oil, we would be naive to believe heating the oil in cooking doesn’t damage the oil. 

DSC02772Quality olive oil should be green in color and taste spicy. It should be stored in a colored glass container to deter sunlight from damaging the oil. Cooking is best done with grass fed tallow, pastured lard, unrefined coconut oil or butter if high heat isn’t used. To learn how to make your own tallow or lard at home click here. 

*Nourishing Plot is written by Becky Plotner, ND, traditional naturopath, CGP, D.PSc. who sees clients in Rossville, Georgia. She works as a Certified GAPS Practitioner who sees clients in her office, Skype and phone. She has been published in Wise Traditions, spoken at two Weston A. Price Conferences, Certified GAPS Practitioner Trainings, has been on many radio shows, television shows and writes for Nourishing Plot. Since her son was delivered from the effects of autism (Asperger’s syndrome), ADHD, bipolar disorder/manic depression, hypoglycemia and dyslexia, through food, she continued her education specializing in Leaky Gut and parasitology through Duke University, finishing with distinction. She is a Chapter Leader for The Weston A. Price Foundation. [email protected]

“GAPS™ and Gut and Psychology Syndrome™ are the trademark and copyright of Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. The right of Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Patent and Designs Act 1988.



2 Responses to Cooking With Olive Oil – Caution Advised

  1. Wolf says:

    I was hoping you could clarify (either as a comment or with an update to this blog page the question of what does “heat” mean (in the context of the admonition, “don’t heat olive oil”)? I don’t ask this as a trouble maker, but because things are harder to do when the directions are ambiguous. For instance, if someone’s doctor sent them home with a diagnosis of “chest pain” how would they make wise decisions on how to proceed with their life? The person wouldn’t know if the problem was with their heart, their digestive system, or perhaps even a tumor. In this case I feel like I haven’t been taught to fish, but rather just given a fish. So I am reduced to asking for things that I should rightly be armed with knowledge to figure out on my own. For instance, does this rule out dressing a piping hot meal with olive oil before eating (or do all olive oil dressed meals need to be cold)?

    There’s also the question of “time and temperature” in cooking. To clarify this question consider that without knowledge on how to make my chicken safe to eat I might boil it for a few hours to err on the side of caution. While it would be free of any pathogens, it would also by free of nutrition, flavor, and enjoyable texture. But with access to the safety research concerning cooking times and temperatures on the FDA site I know that it’s perfectly safe to poach my chicken at 160 degrees for a couple of hours to make a chicken that is both nutritious, and enjoyable to eat (according to that research holding the chicken at 160 degrees for only 15.3 seconds kills all harmful pathogens).

    If I knew what temperature, and what amount of time the olive oil could be held at that temperature, I could make decisions to perhaps sweat some garlic in olive oil to dress a meal. Or, if the olive oil does *not* become toxic, but rather becomes less nutritious, then I could decide to sautee some onions in olive oil and finish them with fresh olive oil. If the olive oil does become toxic with heating, what temperature is that?

    It has taken me a long time to find my way to the gaps nutritional protocol. I should have been on it when I was born, and now I’m 50-ish. I’ve been doing it for about a year, and I’ve been through intro twice. While I still have miles to go, I attribute my progress to reading and learning as much as I can, and from the help from others more knowledgeable than myself – which is what I’m hoping for here. Any insight, or references would be greatly appreciated.

    • Becky Plotner says:

      Dr Natasha does not recommend heating olive oil at all. Olive oil sitting on the counter or in the cabinet is room temperature. Adding olive oil to any form of heat is heating it.
      Best of luck to you, GAPS is very powerful.

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