Do You Lose Any Health Benefits When You Heat Olive Oil?

Research has suggested olive oil's health benefits over and over, from fighting against heart disease to potentially even protecting you from cancer (via Medical News Today). These benefits stem from the makeup of olive oil, which includes a whole host of nutrients: Antioxidants ward off damage to your body's cells and help reduce inflammation and polyphenols may even lower the risk of stroke.

But of course, we know that cooking by nature fundamentally changes the structure of food. Per Healthline, cooking makes some foods easier for our bodies to digest, allowing us to absorb more nutrients from them, but it can also leach out nutrients from other foods. (For example, an egg will pack a bigger nutritional punch when cooked, whereas vegetables might be most nourishing raw.) Your cooking method can change a food's look and taste and break down compounds we cannot see, so does heating break down olive oil's helpful nutrients?

Don't be afraid to heat your olive oil

According to a study conducted in Spain, the way we cook olive oil in a home kitchen actually leaves behind plenty of nutrients. The study checked out the polyphenolic profile of olive oil before and after sautéing and found that only some of those healthy compounds in the oil had a significant reduction after cooking. The temperature heating the oil made a big difference in how much was lost from the oil, too, with only a 40%  decrease in polyphenolic content at 120 degrees Celsius, or 248 degrees Fahrenheit. A higher temp of 170 degrees Celsius (338 degrees Fahrenheit) saw a higher percent decrease of 75%, but even then some polyphenols were better at sticking around than others.

Bottom line, while there is some nutrient loss in heating this household staple, you will still get plenty of nutritional value when cooking with olive oil. To get the most nutritional bang for your buck, you can try cooking at a slightly lower temperature with your extra virgin to hold on to as many of those sweet health benefits as possible.