Cooking oils and health – why a fresh, stable oil may be your most important health decision.


We’ve all heard the term free radicals, but why do they matter?  Free radicals are responsible for aging, tissue damage and are associated with diseases  such as diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s. Free radicals age us, our loved ones and…even our olive oil!   Mother nature offers us a miraculous defense against free radical damage: ANTI OXIDANTS.

Anti-oxidants neutralize free radicals, effectively disarming them and making them harmless.  Our oils are tested for anti-oxidant levels (polyohenols) . The oil in the chart below would be a MEDIUM intensity oil in our store.  EVOO = extra virgin olive oil.  EV coconut = Virgin Coconut Oil .

The refining process in many cooking oils removes water-based anti-oxidants.  Virgin coconut oil has some polyphenols (anti-oxidants) UP-Certified Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a fresh squeezed fruit juice (not refined) and is HIGH in polyphenols (anti-oxidants).

In olive oils, higher levels of anti-oxidants make the oil more bitter (like bitter kale, bitter chocolate and other green healthy things full of antioxidants.  They also make the oil more “peppery” or pungent.  This is due to a specific olive oil anti-oxidant called oleocanthal that is a powerful anti-inflammatory and actually has been proven to kill cancer cells in lab situations.

Even our mildest oils are much higher in anti-oxidants than anything else on the polyphenol graph



Smoke point is the temperature at which an oil will smoke when heated (and forms unhealthy compounds).  Smoke in unrefined oils is an excellent safety precaution because it tells you when you are overheating an oil. Extra Virgin Olive Oil varies in standard.  The bottom end has a smoke point of 325-350 degrees.  UP-Certified Extra Virgin Olive Oil has a smoke point of 410-425 degrees.



Refined oils have been pre-heated or chemically treated to keep them from SMOKING in the pan.  Unfortunately, this process removes your warning signal for when an oil might be transforming into unhealthy compounds.  Also, the refining process removes anti-oxidants so refined oils are considered far less stable when heated (and they don’t have as long a shelf life either).

Refined olive oils are sold as: “light”, “pure” or simply “olive oil”.

Refined olive oil is NOT usually made by refining a good quality oil. That would be too pricey!  Generally, it is made with old, low quality oil that has to be refined to be edible (lampante or lamp oil grade).

Refined olive oil is often used for infused or flavoured oils (NOT OURS THOUGH: all our infused oils are infused into a UP-Certified medium intensity Extra Virgin olive Oil).  Manufacturers like this because refined oil doesn’t have any of those pesky anti-oxidants that add olive oil flavour to an infused oil (like our oils, which have a background of bitterness and pungency that ensure the oil is safe to cook with).  Those pesky anti-oxidants also keep the oil stable when heated and disarm damaging free radicals.




Fresh olive oils smell like fresh green things: herbs, grass, tomato leaves, bananas.   The oil you choose for cooking should be as fresh as you can get since it will be higher in anti-oxidants.  So, we recommend you do not buy a big jug and save it for special occasions (you can do that with your vinegar though).  Instead, buy small amounts that you will use up in a year.


Olive oil expands when heated, so you need less of it for cooking compared to seed oils.


Oils oxidize (go stale then rancid) over time.  To reduce this, store your oil in a cool, dark cupboard.


Oils and nuts go rancid over time. They lose anti-oxidants.  Rancid olive oil smells waxy, or like playdough for example.

Rancid oil is a poor choice for cooking because it

a) has higher levels of free radicals (as a result of the aging process)

b) has low or no more anti-oxidants that could neutralize free radicals

c) rancid oils (termed “fertilizer for cancer cells” by a local oncologist) are associated with the initiation and acceleration of cancerous tumour growth.


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