If certain health publications are to be believed, we should all have sworn off cooking with olive oil long ago in favour of coconut, sunflower or other "safer" cooking products.
While olive oil has always been considered a heart-healthy oil when used in salad dressings or as a dip for bread, many foodies wrote off using the oil for cooking as it was believed to develop dangerous toxic compounds when used with high heats.
Now though, new research says olive oil might be a much safer choice than previously thought, and it is actually more resistant to heat than other plant-based oils like sunflower, corn, and soybean.
"I have found no evidence that high-heat cooking with olive oil is unhealthy," says US clinical nutrition director Rebecca Blake to Prevention magazine. "There's no proof."
All oils (including your beloved coconut oil) will break down, lose nutrients and can even develop harmful compounds when heat is applied. However olive oil is relatively resistant to these changes given its high antioxidant content.
The key when cooking with olive oil is to avoid the "smoke point", i.e. the temperature at which the oil begins to break down. Olive oil has a fairly low smoke point, so you should avoid it when cooking on very high heats eg. when searing or using a wok.
The smoke point for a standard extra virgin olive oil starts at about 190 degrees Celsius, but gets higher for lower quality olive oils.
If you do plan on cooking with high heats, Ms. Blake recommends using corn, soybean, peanut oil or sesame oil, all of which have a high smoke point.