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Today I learned that you should not use olive oil to cook at high heats (i.e., potentially anything over 200 - 250º F / 93 - 121º C, although that is debated), especially extra virgin olive oils. The heat damages the oil molecules, burns off all of the "good stuff," produces free radicals, and produces carcinogens (which cause cancer). For cooking at high heats, coconut oil appears to be a healthier choice. Any oil that starts to smoke when cooking (i.e., past its smoke point) is at too high a temperature. And, just to be clear, olive oil is healthy for you.

Like most Americans, I have adopted the concept that the first step to healthy cooking is to use extra virgin olive oil. We hear about this from just about every chef on The Food Network, and Rachel Ray starts almost every dish by drizzling her "E-V-O-O" in the pan. But did you know that heating olive oil is actually toxic?

I used to be the host and Executive Producer of a food and wine show on NBC here in Chicago called "Taste". We were on the air for 12 seasons, which meant visiting a lot of kitchens for chef demonstrations. From Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill to Grant Achatz at Alinea, we got tips from the best in the business.

But there was one food expert named George Mateljan who forever changed the way I cook with olive oil. George has written 5 books on healthy eating, including The World's Healthiest Foods,and he told me that cooking with olive oil isn't all it's cracked up to be.

"You never want to let olive oil get hotter than 200-250 degrees," he warned as he poured it into a pan for our taped cooking segment...

So does this mean no more olive oil? Not a chance. Research says that by ingesting more olives, you can even help prevent certain kinds of cancers- such as breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and skin cancer. You just need to know how to correctly use your olive oil in order to reap the benefits.

"I drizzle olive oil on just about everything," says George. "After I've cooked my meal, I put it on fish, vegetables, whatever you make- it's like adding a handful of nutrients and vitamins to every dish."

So after meeting George, I went out and purchased some of that safflower oil and coconut oil. I must say, I have noticed much less smoke in the kitchen when making dinner, which is especially good since I have a three year old running around. Now I drizzle my E-V-O-O on salads and cooked fish, and I find you can actually taste the olives when you don't heat up the oil.

Cooking with olive oil at high heat levels can be toxic


Original posting by Braincrave Second Life staff on May 17, 2011 at http://www.braincrave.com/viewblog.php?id=556

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