We know that healthy fats are good for us in moderation, but generally it’s a good rule to avoid fried foods. However some recent research is suggesting that you might actually increase the nutrients of some vegetables by frying them.
A study done at the University of Granada found that frying vegetables in extra virgin olive oil can increase their health benefits by increasing their dietary phenol levels. The phenols in vegetables are the compounds that can prevent cancer, slow aging, and work as antioxidants that can cut down on the risks of all sorts of diseases.
This research is particularly interesting because in general cooking vegetables is thought to make them less nutritionally dense that when you eat them raw. When vegetables are boiled the nutrients in them can seep out into the water instead.
In this case, the researchers cooked potato, eggplant, tomato, and pumpkin in a few different cooking methods. (It may or may not be important to note that they removed all the seeds and cut each items into a cube shape before cooking.) The different cooking methods that they tried were boiling in water, sauteed in extra virgin olive oil, or sauteed in a mixture of water and extra virgin olive oil.
After the veggies had been cooked they measured a variety of things including the moisture levels of the vegetables, how many phenols they had in them, and their antioxidant capacity.
What they found was that when the vegetables were fried in extra virgin olive oil they not only had an increase in their fat content, but they also saw a boost in the antioxidant and phenol levels which doesn’t happen with other ways of cooking.
As for why this happens, it’s basically just because there are phenols in the extra virgin olive oil that are then transferred into the vegetables when they are cooked. Not super mysterious. Of course when the olive oil goes into the vegetables as they cook it’s also adding on calories and fat.
The question is then, is this much different than just drizzling olive oil onto a salad. Anytime you are going to be cooking something with olive oil you will need to be mindful about how much oil you are using. It is very easy to over do it since a serving size of oil is pretty small. One serving size of extra virgin olive oil is a single tablespoon which contains 120 calories and 14 grams of fat.
Of those 14 grams of fat 10 of them are monounsaturated, which is considered the healthy kind that is also found in foods like avocados. A variety of studies have linked health benefits with diets where monounsaturated fat was included. One study in Sweden found that diets high in monounsaturated fat have less likelihood of developing breast cancer, while other studies have found that it can reduce belly fat, reduce the risk of heart disease, improve blood lipid profiles, and help with arthritis pain.