Saturday, July 30, 2011

Can Olive Oil Stand the Heat?

Q: I've seen news reports saying olive oil loses its healthy qualities when you heat it, and that using it as a salad oil is best—is that true? Also, how long can I keep it before it goes bad?
— Dilraj Kahlon, Delta, British Columbia

A: Like all oils, olive oil is a mixture of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated fatty acids. What makes olive oil so healthful is its high percentage of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that helps protect the heart and in some research seems to lower cancer risk. The amount of oleic acid varies from 55 percent to 85 percent of the total fat content, depending on the type of olives and the site and soil in which they were grown. But oleic acid isn't the only reason to like olive oil: It also contains heart-healthy flavonoid antioxidants and vitamin E. Extra-virgin olive oils—they're made from the first pressing of the choicest olives—contain the highest levels of these beneficial substances.

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