A short guide to olive oil

I love olive oil very much. I use it every day for cooking, baking, salad dressings and for just drizzling over various dishes. Today you can find a wide selection of olive oils both in the big food chains as well in the small specialized stores. When buying your olive oils you have to know some basic things.

There are several varieties or grades of olive oil and they depend from the amount of pressing in the oil’s extracting process.

The best olive oil is the Extra Virgin oil that comes from the first pressing of olives. Extra Virgin oil is less processed and therefore contains higher levels of antioxidants and phenols. This type of oil has high amounts of Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant. Extra Virgin oil is pressed using a cold press (this is very important so always look on the oil label if the oil is cold pressed). Extra Virgin oil has a strong, intense taste and its color is a rich olive green.

I use Extra Virgin oil in the raw version, because if you use it for cooking it will acquire a bitter taste (and loose most of its beneficial substances). So, it’s best to use it in your salads or  you can add it directly on top of cooked meals (like fish). I also drizzle it over slices of crusted bread (bruschetta) with tomatoes or garlic.

Virgin oil is made from olives that are slightly riper than those used in the making of Extra virgin oil. Even though Virgin olive oil is produced in the same way as the Extra virgin grade, it is essentially a low grade extra virgin oil.  This oil has a milder and less intensive taste and a lighter color. I use mostly Virgin oil for cooking and baking bread, pizzas, etc.

The next gradation of olive oil is Pure olive oil (or usually referred to as “olive oil” or “commercial grade olive oil”). It’s called pure because there are no non-olive oils mixed in. Pure olive oil comes either from the extraction of the olive mash that is left over after the first pressing or from the second cold pressing. Pure olive oil is lighter in color and blander in taste when compared to virgin olive oil.  This is a general, all purpose oil. Excellent for deep frying.

Light & Extra Light olive oil is a mixture of refined olive oils that are derived from the lowest quality of olive oils. This grade is the most processed type and has a very mild flavor. You can use it for frying and cooking.

Avoid Refined olive pomace oil and Olive pomace oil. They are both obtained by treating olive pomace and they have a very low quality.

The best olive oils come from the Mediterranean countries (Greece, Italy, Spain, France and Croatia). All these countries have a long tradition in production and consumption of olive oil.

Olive oil should be kept in cans or dark-colored bottles. Light, air and heat will make your olive oil turn rancid (it acquires a buttery taste). You should store it at 57°F or 14 degrees C, even though if you keep it in a dark storage area, room temperature (70ºF) will do just fine. You can store it in your kitchen cabinet if the place is away from the stove or direct sunlight.

Because of its high contents of antioxidant substances, olive oil is indicated against heart diseases because it raises the levels of “good cholesterol”(HDL). Furthermore is beneficial for treating gastritis, ulcer and colon cancer. Some studies have even shown that is an effective pain reliever and that has anti-inflammatory properties.


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One Response to A short guide to olive oil

  1. Hi Bapsi,

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