Is Deep Frying in Olive Oil Good for You?

Olive oil
Olive Oil (Image: Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

Stroll the midway at any state fair, and it's clear that people love deep-fried foods. Deep frying makes food crispy, and the fat adds flavor along with crunch, but deep frying isn't the healthiest way to cook. You might wonder if deep frying with a healthier oil, such as olive oil, would make fried foods better for you, as well as increasing the amount of beneficial olive oil in your diet. You can enjoy the occasional deep-fried treat and stay healthy, but if you want to get more olive oil into your diet, frying isn't the way to go.

Olive Oil Benefits

Fats may be saturated, polyunsaturated or monounsaturated. Saturated fats contribute to high cholesterol and clogged arteries. Monounsaturated fats such as olive oil and avocados, and polyunsaturated fats such as corn and canola oil, don't clog arteries and even may help lower cholesterol. Olive oil makes a healthier substitute for butter for dipping bread or brushing on streaks and vegetables. Olive oil is an important part of the diet eaten by people in countries around the Mediterranean Sea. These people have lower levels of heart disease than people in other countries. Adding olive oil to your diet, especially to replace saturated fats such as butter, can help lower your cholesterol.

Deep-Frying Basics

Deep frying involves heating large quantities of oil to a high temperature and then frying foods quickly in the hot oil. The key to healthier fried foods lies in the temperature of the oil. If the oil isn't hot enough to cook the food quickly, the food absorbs excess oil and fat. If the oil is too hot, components in the oil begin to break down, which produces off flavors and can produce toxic compounds in the oil. Heat the oil to the right temperature, usually 350 to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, and the food will absorb little excess oil.

Frying with Olive Oil

Every oil has a temperature at which it begins to break down. This temperature, known as the smoke point, is lower for olive oil than for other types of oil used from frying, such as peanut or canola oil. Extra virgin olive oil has a smoke point of only 320 degrees Fahrenheit, making it unsuitable for deep frying. Light olive oil, with a smoke point of 460 degrees Fahrenheit, can be used to deep fry, but deep frying with olive oil does not make food healthier than frying with other kinds of polyunsaturated oils.

Oil and Health

Olive oil can be part of a healthy diet, which may include some fried foods. Instead of deep frying, brush vegetables with a light coating of oil and cook them in the oven for oven-fried foods. Use olive oil instead of butter to flavor steamed vegetables or as a dip for bread instead of butter. Make your own healthier salad dressings with olive oil and lemon juice or vinegar. When deep frying, maintain the proper temperature and choose oils with a high smoke point.

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