Because olive oil is often considered a healthy oil, many people may be wondering if this means it’s hydrogenated. Hydrogenated oil has a longer shelf life than other oils because it goes through a chemical process that preserves it.
Olive oil is not hydrogenated, and is a good cooking alternative to hydrogenated oils.
What is Hydrogenated Oil?
Hydrogenated oil is an oil-based cooking ingredient, often used for commercial fried and baked foods.
It’s made from treating vegetable oil with hydrogen gas. This process solidifies and hardens the oil, turning it into a buttery paste consistency.
The hydrogenation process involved adding hydrogen gas to a liquid fat, like vegetable oil. The process of hydrogenation started in the 1900s, therein starting what became a massive wave of commercial food full of hydrogenated oils.
The hydrogen gas is added to vegetable oil in a pressure chamber. As the gas meets the oil, the oil becomes “saturated,” which means all of its available carbon bonds become filled with hydrogen atoms.
The most immediate effect this process creates is an oil that’s solid at room temperature. This is why hydrogenation is often called the “hardening” process.
Uses of Hydrogenated Oil
There are two types of hydrogenated oil: partially hydrogenated and full hydrogenated. Partially hydrogenated oil is what most often appears in food products.
Hydrogenated oils have a longer shelf life than alternatives like olive oil, grapeseed oil, and avocado oil. This is partially because the hydrogenation process creates a barrier which then prevents oxygen with interacting with the oil. As such, it doesn’t oxidize.
This is because the hydrogenation process also destroys fatty acids in the vegetable oil, such as linolenic and linoleic acids, which contribute to the shelf life. These fatty acids quickly become rancid, particularly when exposed to high heat.
Olive oil contains both of these, so their presence contributes to olive oil’s less-than-optimal use as a frying oil.
Hydrogenated oils, on the other hand, are great for deep frying because they have a high smoke point and the oil offers the capacity to be reused multiple times.
The shelf-life of hydrogenation oils, as well as the high smoke point, are some of the main reasons why they’re in use. It’s possible to buy themin large stock and not worry about them going bad. They’re often used in commercial spaces, such as large-scale restaurants or fast food spots.
Hydrogenated oil is used both for cooking, and is added to other foods to keep a long shelf life. Some examples are margarine, peanut butter, and shortening. These can all contain hydrogenated oil, but they don’t always.
Hydrogenated oils are most often used in widely-produced baked goods and fast food. They’re the reason these foods are so unhealthy and not recommended.
Hydrogenated oils have functions outside of cooking,too. They’re often used as hydraulic fluids or lubricants in industrial spaces. Sometimes they appear in skincare products too.
They appear in skincare products because their oxygen barrier aids in moisturization. This barrier keeps the skin’s hydration in, so hydrogenated oil is sometimes an ingredient in lip balms and lotion.
Are Hydrogenated Oils Healthy?
There’s some debate over the health benefits of hydrogenated oils. The hydrogenation process can create artificial trans fats, which have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes, as well as the raising of bad/unhealthy cholesterol levels.
Trans fats aren’t healthy for your heart, especially in high doses. In 2012, the FDA began the process of no longer recognizing hydrogenated oils as food safe, in hopes that cutting down on them would increase heart health and prevent obesity.
Artificial trans fats are considered one of the worst, if not the worst, type of fat to consume. They’re not to be confused with natural trans fats, which naturally occur is some dairy products.
The health benefits of trans fat, and thus hydrogenated oil, are slim to none. While they’re safe to eat (non-toxic), they’re likely not suitable in the long run.
Alternative oils like olive oil offer a plethora of health benefits in place of the convenience of hydrogenated oils.
Is Olive Oil Hydrogenated?
Olive oil is not hydrogenated. Thus, it offers nutrients and benefits that hydrogenated oil doesn’t.
Olive Oil Extraction Process
Olive oil is made completely from olives, usually with no artificial ingredients. Here’s an overview of the extraction process.
- Olives are harvested from olive trees, by hand or by machine.
- The harvested olives are cleaned, then crushed into a paste. For commercial use, they’re usually crushed in a stone mill.
- For extra-virgin and virgin olive oil, the crushing process happens at a low temperature. This preserves the oil’s antioxidants, which keeps it healthy.
- Next, the paste is put into a centrifuge to separate the oil from the other contents of the paste: water and fruit.
- The centrifuge works by spinning the paste around a central axle at a high speed. This creates centrifugal force, which separates the different paste components according to their density. Heavy substances, like the fruit, will move to the outside of the machine.
- Finally, the oil is bottled, either by hand or in a factory.
There’s no hydrogenation process in the production of olive oil. Thus, the oil remains a liquid consistency at room temperature.
Olive Oil Flavor and Texture
Olive oil usually has a stronger and richer flavor than hydrogenated oils. There’s also a lot more variety to olive oils.
There’s virgin, extra-virgin, and refined olive oils. These are just a few of the many different kinds. Olive oil has a rich culture around it, similar to wine.
Extra-virgin olive oil is the best example of olive oil flavor. The cold pressing process makes the flavor strongest. This kind of olive oil tastes nutty, sometimes fruity and floral, and always has a hint of that classic olive bitterness.
While olive oils are thick, they’re not dense like hydrogenated oils. They retain a liquid consistently, to be poured over salads and used for cooking, like in our recipe for cooking perch fish.
Antioxidants in Olive Oil
Olive oil is considered one of the healthiest oils. Extra-virgin olive oil has the highest levels of antioxidants of any oils.
Antioxidants help protect cells and tissues from damage from free radicals. Thus, they keep oxidative stress low in the body. Oxidative stress contributes to diabetes and heart disease, so keeping it low keeps your risk low.
Some of the antioxidants in olive oil are as follows:
- These contribute high amounts of vitamin E, which helps protect our bodies from cell damage as well as offering immune-boosting properties.
- This antioxidant is a carotenoid, an antioxidant that also protects cells from damage.
- Lutein is good for our eyes, preventing damage from UV light. It also potentially helps treat heart disease and certain types of cancer.
- Squalene is similar to “good” cholesterol, and offers benefits like helping the immune system stay strong, fighting cancer cells, and protecting against UV damage.
Olive Oil Smoking Point
Make sure not to heat olive oil on too high of heat for too long of a time.
Olive oil’s smoking point is 392 degrees Fahrenheit. If you heat olive oil at a higher heat than this, it will start smoking. Smoking olive oil means it’s being burnt.
Burnt olive oil can release harmful compounds like benzopyrene and acrolein, which can potentially cause respiratory problems.
Furthermore, overheating olive oil makes it lose some of its flavor and the essential nutrients and antioxidants that were previously mentioned.
What Type of Fat is Olive Oil?
There are different kinds of fats, some unhealthy like artificial trans fats, and some actually good for your health.
The middle ground of fats are unsaturated fats, which aren’t amazing for our health but aren’t detrimental either. Saturated fats are also solid at room temperature. Some example foods they’re found in are red meat, butter, cheese, and coconut oil.
Saturated fats can potentially raise our cholesterol levels, which then could cause artery blockages and lead to heart disease.
Then, there’s unsaturated fats.
There are health-boosting fats that really make our bodies thrive. These are always liquid at room temperature. There’s monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. They have different chemical designs and benefits to our health.
The kind of fat at play in olive oil are monounsaturated fats. They’re fatty acids, called omega-9 fatty acids. They come from olive oil, as well as some whole foods.
Monounsaturated fats can balance cholesterol vels and reduce risk of heart disease. They’re also said to help control blood sugar levels. In this sense, they do the exact opposite of hydrogenated fats, which raise risk for heart disease and spike blood sugar levels.
Because it’s so high in monounsaturated fats, olive oil supports metabolic syndromes like diabetes and obesity. It also helps to remove the buildup of plaque in our arteries, so improves our heart health.
Between the high levels of antioxidants and healthy fats, olive oil is a really great cooking ingredient. The benefits outweigh the cons, which is that you won’t have as much access to yummy fried food when cooking with olive oil.
Yet, if fried foods are so bad for our health, is that really such a con?
Beauty Benefits of Olive Oil
While hydrogenated oils are used in beauty products, olive oils offer a set of their own benefits. In fact, they contain more than hydrogenated oils.
- You can use olive oil as an effective makeup remover. It helps get rid of things like makeup and sunscreen.
- Olive oil is a great moisturizer. It also creates an oxygen-blocking barrier that can help lock in moisture. The only downside is that it potentially gets your hair greasy. It has big benefits for eczema.
- Olive oil works as a good hair treatment. It moisturizes hair follicles in a similar way to how it moisturizes skin.
- It can be used in lip scrubs when combined with sugar. This keeps your lips soft and supple.
- Use olive oil as a shaving cream to avoid razor burn and bumps. It lubricates the legs and is a nice, organic replacement for shaving cream.
- Combine olive oil with calendula and tea tree oil to create a remedy similar to Neosporin.
- It’s a good diaper rash treatment, or replacement for baby oil. Similarly, it works to moisturize cracked heels.
Hydrogenated fats are vegetable oils that have hydrogen compounds added to them. This is called the hydrogenation process, and it makes these oils last for a long time. Thus, it’s easy for commercial restaurants to save money.
However, these oils are pretty bad for our health. They can cause heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, especially if consumed often.
A great alternative is olive oil. It’s non-hydrogenated, so it doesn’t have the health threats of hydrogenated oil. Between it’s monounsaturated fat count and antioxidant levels, it actually offers some of the problems caused by hydrogenated oil.
If you’re trying to keep your health in mind, opt for olive oil instead of something like Crisco when cooking your next meal.