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Top 10 extra virgin olive oil myths busted!

Top 10 extra virgin olive oil myths busted!

There are many myths surrounding extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), from whether you can cook with it to how you should store it.  With so much misinformation out there, we thought it was time to set the record straight and bust the top 10 myths that we hear most often.

1. You can’t cook with extra virgin olive oil.

One of the most widespread myths regarding extra virgin olive oil is that you can’t cook with it, however this is false. You can and should cook with extra virgin olive oil – it is one of the safest and most stable oils to cook with.  While many believe that the smoke point of an oil indicates its safety for cooking, research has shown this to be false1. Instead, the amount of antioxidants and the fat profile of an oil are more likely to predict its stability when heated. Extra virgin olive oil is high in stable monounsaturated fats and is also full of antioxidants making it suitable for all domestic cooking including deep frying, roasting, sautéing and baking1.

2. You can’t use extra virgin olive oil with non stick pans.

In Australia, there is a common myth that EVOO can’t be used with nonstick pans, however there is no technical evidence to explain this. 

In 2019, the Modern Olives Laboratory conducted an assessment on the suitability of EVOO and other oils for use on Teflon coated pans. The research found no significant difference between the oils for the volumes of metal released from the pans, suggesting no impact on the pan’s quality or integrity upon cooking with EVOO2. Varying quality of pan proved to be a better indicator of metal leaching rather than different types of oil2.

3. ‘Light’ extra virgin olive oil is lower in calories/kilojoules.

All types of oil have the same number of kilojoules (calories) – around 681kJ (163 calories) per 20mL tablespoon3. ‘Light’ is instead referring to the flavour profile of the oil and indicates that the flavour will be mild or delicate rather than robust and peppery. Due to its milder flavour, ‘light’ EVOO works well as a substitute for butter in baking, or for dishes where you want a more neutral flavoured oil.

4. Extra virgin olive oil can’t be used in Asian-style cooking.

Extra virgin olive oil is most commonly associated with Mediterranean style cooking; however it is suitable for all types of cuisines, including Asian style dishes.  As mentioned above, EVOO is suitable for all types of domestic cooking, including stir frying.  With Asian style cooking, it is a good idea to choose a ‘light’ or ‘delicate’ flavoured variety, so as not to overpower the rest of the dish.

5. Heating extra virgin olive oil ruins its health benefits.

Heating extra virgin olive oil does not ruin all its health benefits. Heating any oil will reduce the antioxidant content, as antioxidants are sensitive to high temperatures. However, it’s important to consider the loss relative to other cooking oils. Since EVOO contains much higher quantities of antioxidants than most other cooking oils4,5, even after heating the antioxidant quantity will still be higher than other oils.

6. Extra virgin olive oil doesn’t go off.

EVOO does have a long shelf life when it is stored correctly however all cooking oils will go rancid after time, and extra virgin olive oil is no different.  Good quality EVOO should last for around 12 months unopened, but once the bottle is open it’s best to consume within 6 weeks.  That’s not to say the oil will be rancid after 6 weeks, but it will lose some of the flavour and health properties after this time.

In order to keep your EVOO fresh, try to keep it away from heat, light and air.  This means you should store it in a cool dark place and in an airtight bottle.

7. Pure olive oil and extra virgin olive oil are the same thing.

Olive oil and extra virgin olive oil are often used interchangeably, with many people thinking they are the same product. While olive oil (OO) and extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) both fall under the ‘olive oil’ category, they are very different products. EVOO is the highest grade of olive oil and is purely the juice of fresh olives. It is mechanically pressed and unrefined, and is high in antioxidants and plant compounds that are highly beneficial for health.

Olive oil, including ‘pure olive oil’ is lower quality and has been refined. During this refining process, most of the antioxidants and plant compounds are destroyed, meaning the resulting oil is not as healthy.

8. You should only have a small amount of extra virgin olive oil in your diet.

Some people believe the amount of fat in the diet should be minimised; however, this is not the case. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a healthy fat, and research shows that benefits come from consuming around 2-3TB (25-50mL) per day6-8.

9. Heating extra virgin olive oil creates trans fats.

Trans fats are generally created via partial hydrogenation in industrial kitchens.  This process doesn’t happen in domestic or commercial cooking, so there no trans fats produced when heating extra virgin olive oil during home cooking9.

10. The colour of extra virgin olive oil indicates the quality.

Many people will be surprised to read that colour is not a good indicator of quality in extra virgin olive oil. EVOO will vary in colour from yellow through to green depending on the variety of olive used, the climate and the maturity of the fruit when harvested. In fact, in competitions, dark colored cups are used to disguise the colour of the oil so the judges cannot be influenced by this factor! 

View article references

  1. De Alzaa F, Guillaume C, Ravetti L. Evaluation of Chemical and Physical Changes in Different Commercial Oils during Heating. Acta Scientific Nutritional Health [Internet]. May 2018; 2(6): 2-11.
  2. de Alzaa AF, Guillaume C, Ravetti L. Cooking with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Olive Oil—New Perspectives and Applications. 2021:1-13.
  3. FoodWorks 10 Professional, v10.0. Brisbane: Xyris Pty Ltd, 2019
  4. Orsavova J, Misurcova L, Ambrozova JV, Vicha R, Mlcek J. Fatty Acids Composition of Vegetable Oils and Its Contribution to Dietary Energy Intake and Dependence of Cardiovascular Mortality on Dietary Intake of Fatty Acids. Int J Mol Sci. 2015 Jun 5;16(6):12871-90. doi: 10.3390/ijms160612871.
  5. Dubois, V., Breton, S., Linder, M., Fanni, J. and Parmentier, M. (2007), Fatty acid profiles of 80 vegetable oils with regard to their nutritional potential. Eur. J. Lipid Sci. Technol., 109: 710-732.
  6. Hernaez A, Remaley AT, Farras M, Fernandez-Castillejo S, Subirana I, Schroder H, et al. Olive Oil Polyphenols Decrease LDL Concentrations and LDL Atherogenicity in Men in a Randomized Controlled Trial. J Nutr. 2015;145(8):1692-7.
  7. Estruch R, Ros E, Sala-Salvao J, et al. Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease with a Mediterranean diet supplemented with Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Nuts. N Engl J Med. 2018;378(25):e34(1-14).
  8. George ES, Marshall S, Mayr HL, Trakman GL, Tatucu-Babet OA, Lassemillante A-CM, et al. The effect of high-polyphenol extra virgin olive oil on cardiovascular risk factors: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2019;59(17):2772-95.
  9. Aroma Dictionary. Frequently asked questions about Extra Virgin Olive Oil. At: