If you do make French fries, why you should use extra virgin olive oil

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Do you remember the fuss about acrylamide? If you don’t remember the term, you likely do remember the critical details about this compound – the link between French fries and cancer. It was well over a decade ago that scientists discovered that cooking potatoes – fries and chips – at  the high temperatures used in deep frying yielded acrylamide.

In 2010, the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) concluded that acrylamide is a human health concern. In 2010, the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives  concluded that acrylamide is a human health concern.

But  over the past few years, other nutrition issues such as  our expanding girth, trans fat and sugar  have taken over the headlines. Eating fewer French fries was considered to be wise for many reasons including its impact on waist management.

Scientists, though have not forgotten about acrylamide. The research is ongoing, something that was brought to my attention by Dr. Simon Poole, author of The Olive Oil Diet and a family physician in Britain who is a huge advocate of the Mediterranean diet.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Many people shy away from using extra virgin olive oil for cooking as they mistakenly believe that it should not be used in high temperature cooking. In fact, its smoke point is a very respectable 410 degrees F.  The oil’s smoke point is that temperature where a heated oil will begin to smoke and degrade.  Compare that to virgin coconut oil with its 350 degree F smoke point.

Now to the olive oil-acrylamide link: in frying potatoes, scientists found that the higher the polyphenol content (those aromatic and bitter compounds), the lower the amount of acrylamide formedThe latest research shows that in animals, the extra virgin olive oil was associated with decreasing the kidney damage caused by acrylamide.

Now this does need to be put into perspective. Eating fries regularly, even if they are made with extra virgin olive oil, may not be the best thing for practicing girth control. But if you are making fries, consider the extra virgin olive oil – if you’re not already using it.

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Categories: Nutrition News

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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