Heart problem, high blood pressure, diabetes, and weight loss – if you have any of these, someone must have advised you to switch to olive oil. Is cooking in olive oil the solution to every lifestyle disorder? Being an Indian is it good to use olive oil for Indian cooking?
To answer this let’s understand the following points –
- Why olive oil is important?
- What are the differences between extra virgin, virgin, pomace, pure, and refined olive oil?
- How Indian cooking is different?
- Why smoking points and oil processing technique is important for your health?
- Is it good to use extra virgin or virgin olive oil for Indian cooking?
- How safe is pomace olive oil for Indian cooking?
- How good is pure olive oil for Indian cooking?
- Is it safe to use refined olive oil for Indian cooking?
- Which oil is best for Indian cooking?
How safe is olive oil for Indian cooking?
Why olive oil is important?
The fatty acid profile of olive oil and natural active ingredients make it special. Research suggests that a good quality extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) has many health benefits.
- It is rich in oleic acid – a mono-unsaturated fatty acid (MUFA), which has multiple health benefits. (4)(5)(8)
- Olive oil is loaded with antioxidants. (9) (10) (11)
- It has anti-inflammatory properties.(7)
- Olive oil has anti-cancer properties.(6)(22)
- It reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes.(20)(21)
- It protects your heart health. (14) (15) (16)
- Olive oil may help to reduce the risk of stroke. (12)(13)
- Consuming olive oil on regular basis does not promote weight gain or obesity. (17) (18)
- It may help to treat rheumatoid arthritis.(23) (24)
- It may fight against Alzheimer’s. (19)
However, getting authentic, good-quality extra virgin olive oil is not easy. It is high in demand but its yield is low, thus very expensive. The price for authentic EVOO may start from 1100/- per liter and can go up to beyond few thousand based on its quality.
The report suggests more than 80% of the product available in the market in the name of extra virgin olive oil is fake. (25) (27)
What are the differences between extra virgin, virgin, pomace, pure, and refined olive oil?
Do you think all olive oil is the same and has the same health benefits? No, there are five types of olive oil available in the market. Therefore read the label carefully. Follow table 1 to see the differences.
Table 1: Differences between extra virgin, virgin, pomace, pure, and refined olive oil
|Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)||Virgin olive oil (VOO||Pomace olive oil||Pure olive oil||Refined olive oil|
|Quality||Pure & Best||Pure & Second best||Poor – It’s a mixture of low-quality olive oil and a small percentage of VOO||Average to Poor It’s a mixture of refined olive oil with a small percentage of EVOO/VOO||Average to Poor|
|Colour/ flavour||Present||Light compared to EVOO||Very light||Very light||Nil|
|Degree of processing||Minimum – Oil extracted in room temperature||Minimum – Oil extracted in room temperature||Maximum – Oil extracted using high temp, high pressure, and chemical solvent||Maximum – Oil extracted using high temp, high pressure, and chemical solvent||Maximum – Oil extracted using high temp, high pressure, and chemical solvent|
|Smoking point||163 – 190 oC||210 oC||230 -240 oC||199- 243 oC||199- 243 oC|
|Health benefits||Present||Present||Doubtful (29)||Doubtful||Doubtful|
|Best use for||Seasoning, salad dressing||Seasoning, salad dressing, light cooking||Furniture polish, high temp cooking||Massage oil, high temp cooking||high temp cooking|
|Starting Price (INR/ Liter)||1100/ –||900/ –||300/ –||500/ –||400/ –|
What is the specialty of Indian cooking techniques?
Indian cooking style is different from the west. When people from the west enjoy more raw food and half-done (half-cooked) meal, we Indians love eating foods that are fully cooked.
We cook everything. Cooking for a long time, and cooking at a very high temperature is very common in Indian cuisine. Steaming, roasting, sautéing, frying, boiling, tampering, etc are common cooking methods that we apply on daily basis.
Indian-style hot cooked food helps to destroy all possible microorganisms at high temperatures. However, we are also sometimes guilty of overcooking food.
Table 2 shows the common Indian cooking techniques and their approximate required temperature.
Table 2: Indian Cooking technique and the required temperature
|Cooking Technique||Temperature (in oF)||Temperature (in oC)|
|Slow cooking/ Dum||170 -280 oF||77 -138 oC|
|Steaming/ Boiling||212 oF||100 oC|
|Smoking||225 – 250 oF||107 -121 oC|
|Baking||300 – 570 oF||150 – 300 oC|
|Roasting||300 oF||150 oC|
|Sauteing||320 oF||160 oC|
|Grilling||300 – 400 oF||148 – 204 oC|
|Shallow frying||375 oF||190 oC|
|Deep frying||350 – 400 oF||177 – 205 oC|
Why smoking point of cooking oil and its degree of processing is important for your health?
Since Indian cooking demands a high temperature- up to 200 oC, it is important to choose regular cooking oil which can withstand the high heat and remain unchanged.
A smoking point is also referred to as a burning point. It is the temperature at which cooking oil starts producing smoke and begins to break down and produce toxic substances & free radicals. Needless to say that using oil beyond its smoking point on regular basis can be extremely harmful to health. (3)
Therefore you must pick an oil that has a high smoking point to withstand the high heat during cooking. But it is not all. Since we are concerned about our health, we also need to pay attention to the processing technique of the cooking oil.
Less refined oil is better for the health. Refining of oil improves its shelf life and increases the smoking point but also destroys its natural active compound and nutrients. High-temperature oil processing with chemical solvent often alters the nature of the oil. Thus one must avoid using refined oil for regular cooking. (28)
Is it good to use extra virgin or virgin olive oil for Indian cooking?
Extra virgin olive oil or virgin olive oil is the best quality olive oil. Superior quality olive is selected and cold-pressed to extract the oil. All the health benefits that you have heard of olive oil are actually from extra virgin olive oil.
However, the unrefined, best-in-quality extra virgin olive oil has a low smoking point of 160-190 oC which is not sufficient for the Indian style of cooking. Cooking methods like grilling, baking, frying, tampering, etc require higher temperatures for proper cooking.
Therefore if you are planning to use extra virgin olive oil for making sabzi, dal, and frying puri, drop the idea now. This is not going to give you many health benefits. Rather a high temperature will break the olive oil and will form toxic substances. Needless to say that regular consumption of such oil may develop health risks. (26)
It is best to use extra virgin olive oil for salad dressing or seasoning of food. You may use virgin olive oil for light cooking like the quick tossing of food etc.
How safe is olive pomace oil for Indian cooking?
Best quality olive fruits are used to prepare authentic extra virgin olive oil or virgin olive oil. After extracting the oil these fruits are not thrown. They are further taken for the remaining oil extraction.
High temperature, high pressure, and chemical solvent are used to extract the remaining oil. This oil is called refined pomace oil. Since it is low-quality oil with no health benefits, a small percentage of virgin olive oil is added to it and finally called Olive pomace oil.
Olive pomace oil is a cheap quality olive oil, which is best for furniture polishing. The oil has a high smoking point (230 -240 oC) which is safe for high-temperature cooking like frying, baking, etc.
However, do not buy olive pomace oil with any health expectations. The health benefits of olive oil come from only extra virgin olive oil.
How good is pure olive oil for Indian cooking?
There is no purity in pure olive oil. 85% of refined olive oil is mixed with 15% of extra virgin olive oil to produce pure olive oil. It is best suitable for body massage. Since the smoking point of pure olive oil is quite high, you may use this oil for frying and tampering. Just like olive pomace oil, don’t expect any olive oil special health benefits from using pure olive oil.
Remember the oil has 85% of refined olive oil which is highly processed. Therefore, regular consumption may invite potential health risks.
Is it safe to use refined olive oil for Indian cooking?
No matter what is the oil source, refined oil is always highly processed.
Generally medium to low-quality fruit is taken to produce refined olive oil. Then the fruits are passed through in high temperature, high pressure, and chemical solvent treatment. This ultra-processing method finally produces colorless, odorless, white refined olive oil.
The smoking point of refined olive oil is very high and suitable for the Indian high-temperature cooking style. However extreme processing makes this oil not a great choice for regular consumption. The beneficial property of olive oil gets denatured during refined oil extraction techniques. Thus the oil is not a good choice for regular intake.
Which oil is best for Indian cooking?
The best cooking oil for Indian cooking should have a higher smoking point and be less processed. If you look at table 3 smoking point and degree of refining is always inversely proportional. That means more smoking point means more refined oil and unrefined oil has typically low smoking points.
To balance this, investing money in good-quality cooking oil is always a smart choice. It is better to pick the cooking oil as per your region and local availability. Kachi Ghani mustard oil, cold-pressed coconut/ groundnut/sesame oil, and ghee as a regular Indian cooking medium is the best choice.
If you want to make it more budget-friendly then semi-refined oil like filtered groundnut oil or sesame oil is a good choice compared to refined oil. Semi-refined oil also has a high smoking point compared to its unrefined version.
However, any source of refined oil is definitely not a wise pick considering the possible health risks.
You can keep a bottle of good quality extra virgin olive oil for use as salad dressing and seasoning.
Table 3: Degree of processing, smoking point, and price of available cooking oil in India
|Cooking oil||Degree of processing||Smoking point (in oF)||Smoking point (in oC)||Average Price in INR per liter|
|Extra virgin Olive oil||Low||325 -375 oF||163 – 190 oC||1100/-|
|Virgin Olive oil||Low||410 oF||210 oC||700/-|
|Extra virgin or unrefined coconut oil||Low||350 oF||177 oC||650 – 800/-|
|Kachi Ghani Mustard oil||Low||480 oF||250 oC||180 – 300/-|
|Cold-pressed sesame oil||Low||350 oF||177 oC||300 – 600/-|
|Cold-pressed groundnut oil||Low||320 oF||160 oC||300 – 600/-|
|Cold-pressed sunflower oil||Low||320 oF||160 oC||300 – 600/-|
|Cold-pressed safflower oil||Low||225 oF||107 oC||380 – 600/-|
|Filtered sesame oil||Medium||450 oF||232 oC||180 – 300/-|
|Filtered groundnut oil||Medium||445 oF||229 oC||180 – 300/-|
|Butter||Medium||302 oF||150 oC||480 – 550/-|
|Ghee||Medium||482 oF||250 oC||500 – 3000/-|
|Refined sunflower oil||High||450 oF||232 oC||188-200/-|
|Refined safflower oil||High||510 oF||266 oC||240 – 280/-|
|Refined soybean oil||High||453 oF||234 oC||180 – 200/-|
|Refined rice bran oil||high||450 oF||232 oC||160 – 200/-|
|Refined groundnut oil||High||450 oF||232 oC||180 – 230/ –|
|Refined olive oil||High||390 – 470 oF||199- 243 oC||400 – 1300/-|
|Pure olive oil||High (mixed oil)||390 – 470 oF||199- 243 oC||500 -700/-|
|Pomace olive oil||High (mixed oil)||446 – 464 oF||230 -240 oC||300 – 450/-|
Planning to buy good quality oil online? Check the link below –
No matter whatever you cook, oil is constant in your diet. Thus choose your cooking oil carefully.
All the health benefits of olive oil come from using extra virgin olive oil on regular basis. Good quality extra virgin olive oil is very hard to get and it is extremely expensive. It is not safe to use extra virgin olive oil for Indian cooking.
Using poor quality, comparatively cheaper version of olive oil like olive pomace oil or pure olive oil, or refined olive oil for high-temperature cooking may not be a great choice for health reasons.
Pick the local oil – mustard oil/ sesame oil/ groundnut oil/ coconut oil or ghee for cooking. Use it less but invest in a good cold-pressed quality oil. You will be fine.