French fries are the ultimate comfort food. That is, if cheese fries aren’t on the menu. They’re also just potatoes fried in a vat of oil, which is less comforting when considering a healthy diet — which is why we’re living for the study that found deep-frying potatoes in refined olive oil better helps retain their nutrition.

You might be thinking, Wait. Isn’t olive oil sensitive to high heat? It is, at least if you're using the virgin or extra virgin kind (more on that later). The low smoking point makes it so olive oil’s healthy benefits, such as monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, break down, even become toxic. Yet pure, or refined, olive oil seemed to be most stable when deep-frying raw potato pieces.

Researchers’ deep- and pan-fried potatoes in a variety of refined oils — olive, corn, soybean, and sunflower — and found refined olive oil was more stable at 320 and 374 degrees Fahrenheit than refined seed oil was when pan-fried at similar temperatures. “This oil has proven the greatest resistance to oxidative deterioration, and its trans-fatty acid contents and percentages of total polar compounds were found to be lower … during deep-frying,” researchers explained.

The different between deep- and pan-frying ultimately comes down to the amount of oil used. Deep-frying requires the food to be submerged in oil, while pan-frying requires much less, sometimes none at all (think bacon). Yet the factor that really makes a difference when it comes to fried food is how the olive oil is made to begin with.

“After olives are picked and washed, they’re crushed – sometimes between two big stones, but now more commonly by steel blades,” Olive Oil Times reported. “The resulting paste is stirred to release the oil droplets in a process called maceration, before being spun in a centrifuge to pull out the oil and water. After the water is removed, what is left is olive oil.”

The leftover oil that is chemically refined in order to neutralize the taste is considered refined olive oil. These are the bottles labeled simply as "pure" or just simply "olive oil." Unrefined olive oil, on the other hand, are the “extra virgin” and “virgin” types that don’t go undergo any chemical changes, which is why it has a more distinctive flavor. And it’s refined olive oil that can doesn't get any love from the deep-fryer (or your health).

Potatoes in particular are low in calories (assuming you skip the creamy fixings), as well as a convenient source of carbohydrates, sodium, potassium, as well as vitamins C, B, and other healthy antioxidants. Being able to retain all that when handling a hankering for fried food is basically a dream.

Source: Zribi A, Jabeur H, Aladedunye F, Rebai A, Matthaus B, et al. Monitoring of Quality and Stability Characteristics and Fatty Acid Compositions of Refined Olive and Seed Oils during Repeated Pan- and Deep-Frying Using GC, FT-NIRS, and Chemometrics. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2014.