Is Grilling With Olive Oil Safe?


I received this question from a reader recently and thought it would be a good opportunity for a quick refresher on which oils are best for cooking.

Dear Healthy Foodie,

I have often used olive oil and garlic when barbecuing, but have been told lately that one should never heat olive oil as it breaks down into things that are not good for you. Is this true?


Hello Betty,

There is a lot of confusion about oils and which ones should be used for which applications. Here’s a quick guide.

Polyunsaturated oils (oils that are still liquid when put in the fridge) should not be heated because they are delicate and become damaged (and unhealthy) when heated. This is why it is so dangerous that most “cooking oil” sold in the supermarkets are polyunsaturated oils.

Mono-unsaturated oils (oils that are liquid at room temp but solidify in the fridge), like olive oil, sunflower oil, peanut oil and others, are a little bit more sturdy and stand up to moderate heat cooking and sauteing.

Saturated oils (oils solid at both room temp and fridge temp) including animal fats, coconut oil and palm oil are very robust and stand up to high temperatures without becoming damaged. The ironic thing is that once the public became misinformed about the health status of saturated fats they replaced all their cooking fats with the worst kind for cooking – polyunsaturates like corn, safflower, soy or cottonseed.

This isn’t to say that polyunsaturated oils are bad in and of themselves. Omega-3 and Omega-6 oils, the essential fatty acids, are polyunsaturated oils. Because they are sensitive to heat they should be consumed cold or very modestly heated (like fish that is medium rare; still moist in the center or using flax oil on salads).

Back to barbecuing, there are a few issues that need to be addressed when grilling. about steps you can take to minimize these negative health effects.

The Healthy Foodie is Doug DiPasquale, Holistic Nutritionist and trained chef, living in Toronto.

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