The list of advantages of using extra virgin olive oil in food preparation has just gained another element.

In addition to the known health benefits, such as the important role in preventing cardiovascular diseases , researchers have revealed that the ingredient, rich in monounsaturated fats, bioactive compounds and vitamins, is capable of reducing the loss of nutrients from food during cooking.

This is what reveals a broad review carried out by researchers from the University of São Paulo (USP) and the University of Barcelona, ​​in Spain. The study, conducted by researcher José Fernando Rinaldi de Alvarenga, a postdoctoral fellow at the Food Research Center at USP, analyzed more than 90 scientific papers. The findings were published in the journal Trends in Food Science & Technology.

“Before any explanation, it is important to reject that cooking with this oil is not healthy”, says Alvarenga, explaining that, in the past, it was believed that in extra virgin olive oil the fatty acids would oxidize at higher temperatures.

“This was thought to be because of olive oil’s smoke point, which is when oils start to burn [smoke] and oxidize. Although its smoke point occurs at lower temperatures than other oils, today we know that smoke does not come from these fatty acids, but from minor components of olive oil. That is, it ‘supports’ higher temperatures as well as other oils”, explains the expert, in a statement.

How nutrients are preserved

In extra virgin olive oil, there is a predominance of monounsaturated fats which, among other benefits, have antioxidant potential. “Because of this action, the degradation of olive oil is slower compared to other oils. And this protects both the nutrients in the oil itself and in the food”, explains Alvarenga.

As an example, the researcher mentions the bioactive compounds in food , which have several properties that are beneficial to health.

“Extra virgin olive oil helps prevent phytochemicals from being oxidized. This makes cooked foods healthier, as it preserves important components that could otherwise disappear,” he explains.

“When we compare a tomato stew with and without oil, for example, the amount of lycopene can be reduced without the presence of oil in the cooking process [cooking]. However, by using extra virgin olive oil, we were able to preserve this compound that is associated with the prevention of prostate cancer ”, he adds.

Influence of cooking methods

Degradation of bioactive compounds varies by cooking method , according to the study. Several studies were analyzed on the loss of nutrients with foods prepared in the oven, sautéed in a frying pan, fried or sautéed.

“We saw that the technique that promotes the greatest degradation is cooking in an oven, as it involves very high temperatures and a very long cooking time. Sautéing, on the other hand, is the technique in which food is quickly cooked over high heat, with little fat and in constant movements, creating a crust on the outside and maintaining the softness on the inside”, he adds.

According to the article, the levels of degradation also vary according to the bioactive compound. In the case of water -insoluble compounds such as carotenoids and fat-soluble vitamins, boiling and steaming are the techniques that best preserve these compounds. On the other hand, there is considerable loss of them when microwaved and fried.

“Techniques that use oil for cooking, such as sautéing and sauces, are even more interesting because they better extract carotenoids from food and increase their bioavailability. As for polar [water-soluble] compounds, such as phenolics, steam cooking seems to be the most indicated, since baking, boiling and microwave preparation reduce their presence in food”, he explains.


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