Cooking With Olive Oil

Olive oil bottleWith so many agencies promoting the use of different vegetable oils, ranging from canola, to safflower, to olive oil, it can be very difficult to know which one to choose, particularly if you’re worried about the dietary impact on your health.

This isn’t made any easier as you browse the relevant section of your local supermarket.

I have to say I too am confused at times, and I feel that manufacturers labeling often leaves a lot to be desired, and adds to my confusion.

I want to take a look at some of the popular, and not so well know oils in more detail. There are a few I know very little about, and I’m looking forward to digging deeper on these.

But first of all, we’ll take a look at olive oil.

Health Benefits Of Olive Oil

Olive oil contains monounsaturated fat, which can help to lower our risk of heart disease, by helping to reduce the total, and LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) levels in the blood.

It is important to remember, however, that all oils are high in calories, and therefore the greatest benefit comes by substituting olive oil for saturated fat sources in your diet, rather than simply adding more of the healthier oil into your diet.

A tablespoon of olive oil contains 120kcals, and 14g of fat.

77 percent of the fat in olive oil is monounsaturated, and 9 percent is polyunsaturated fat. Virgin olive oils also contain the antioxidants beta-carotene and vitamin E, along with other beneficial components.

Understanding Labeling Terms

As I’ve said, some of the commonly used labeling terminology can be confusing. So, here is a closer look at what those claims really mean.

1. Extra-virgin olive oil

This oil comes from the first pressing of the olives, there can be no refined oil added to it.

It has a low boiling/burning point, making it a poor choice for cooking. Heating olive oil will evaporate the alcohols and esters, which make up its taste and fragrance.

I would recommend choosing a cold pressed extra-virgin olive oil for dipping with bread, or adding to salads and pasta (after cooking).

The chemistry of a cold pressed oil is not altered during the extraction, and therefore the great olive oil flavour is retained.

2. Virgin olive oil

This usually comes from the second press. Again, no refined oil can be added to this oil.

3. Pure olive oil

This oil is usually a blend of refined olive oil, and one of the above two categories of virgin olive oil.

The term ‘pure’ means very little, as 100 percent pure olive oil is often the lowest quality available in retail stores.

4. Olive oil

Is a blend of virgin oil and refined oil. It commonly lacks a strong flavour.

5. Light olive oil

This actually means refined olive oil. The term ‘light’ merely refers to the taste and color.

Not to be confused with lighter in calories, as the oil has the same calorie and fat content as other oils.

Cooking With Olive Oil

If you want to fry, bake, or saute on high heat, I don’t recommend that you use olive oil.

It is best used for salad dressings, or added to food after it has been cooked, as this will retain it’s flavor and health properties.

What oils do you use in cooking? 

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About Melanie
Melanie is a Registered Dietitian who started Dietriffic in March 2007. Her aim is to make good health attainable and sustainable, without guilt and torture, making her approach popular with those who desire a level-headed approach to good health. Have you got your copy of her free book yet?

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

kathryn September 20, 2007 at 2:37 pm

Great, topic stream Melanie – I’m looking forward to reading the rest of your posts. The one I always get asked about is coconut oil. While I’ve blogged about on the subject, it’s still not an oil of 100% made my mind up on – so would love to know your thoughts.

I cook with olive oil and the occasional little bit of butter :-). I sometimes use sesame oil in dressings and, given I don’t eat fish, I also take flaxseed regularly.

Hmm, am I asking too much to also ask your opinion on the fish oil vs flaxseed debate? Again there seem to be conflicting opinions, some saying flaxseed is a good source of Omega 3s and others saying we can’t absorb it very well, so you must have fish.

That’s all!


Melanie September 22, 2007 at 10:09 am

Kathryn – thanks for getting involved! Yes I have a friend who uses coconut oil quite a lot, but I need to do more research on it myself, as I’m not 100% sure yet!

I also cook with olive oil and butter at times, it really depends on what I’m cooking. I find olive oil works well for me, but I am interested to find out what the other suitable alternatives are. I know that canola oil is recommended by many government agencies as being a ‘healthier’ option – but I don’t like it much!

The fish oil vs flaxseed debate is an interesting one – okay, that’s a challenge!!!

Thanks again!


Sonia Harris September 8, 2011 at 6:34 pm


I really appreciate all of the info you have here. I wanted to insert something that I have been told by Dr. Josh Axe and a few others. Olive Oil is great for salads and as part of a cold dish, however, not only does olive oil (any kind of pressing) break down in flavor at high heats, it actually becomes a toxin and should not be used for cooking. I use virgin Coconut Oil, organic butter or grapeseed oil. Coconut oil does not generally work well for me when I am pan frying but grapeseed oil does beautifully. This temperature issue is actually what makes cooking with Canola or Vegetable Oil, in a deep frying capacity, so bad for your body, not solely the fat issue as we all have been taught. I am not an expert nor am I a dietician and I respect your opinion on many subjects, I am just sharing with you so that you may look into this and share with the masses. Thanks for all that you do!


Melanie September 14, 2011 at 11:55 am

Hi Sonia,
Thank you so much for your comment. As you will see, I published this article back in 2007, and have not looked at it since. However, I have changed my opinion on it, and I totally agree with your comment. I personally use rice bran oil in cooking now, which has a smoke point of about 250 C. Have you tried it?

I have updated this article following your comments, and really do thank for being so kind as to leave me this comment :-)


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