Staying healthy is all about choices. Choosing the best food and food additives could make a difference in your health. Olive oil is one of the most common additives in the human diet. If you want to be your healthiest, start with making the best selection of olive oil to add to your diet. Olive oil comes in many varieties: They come in classic or pure types, virgin, extra-virgin, refined, light or lite, and pomace. Look for 10 points when evaluating olive oils.
1) The type of olive oil,
2) the acidity or oleic acid level,
3) the flavor,
4) the number of pressings,
5) polyphenols contained indicating the antioxidant level,
6) the smoke point,
7) the monounsaturated fat content,
8) its intended uses,
9) its purity and
10) its shelf-life.
Classic or Pure Olive Oil: This type of olive oil is the most likely to be a mix or blend of both refined and virgin olive oils. It will most likely have added vitamin E and at least 1% acidity as well as varying antioxidant levels. This type of olive oil is suitable for applying to the skin, for searing meats or deep-frying. So there is definite meaning behind ‘pure‘ in the term ‘pure olive oil.’ It means that only olive oil of a particular type is used to make this product.
Virgin Olive Oil: This product comes from the first pressing of the olives, and no chemicals or heat are used to extract the oil. This oil has a higher fatty acid content of up to 2% oleic acid level. It also has a higher smoke point, so it can be used to pan-fry foods. It has an excellent antioxidant profile, but it has less flavor than the best olive oils.
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil: Again, this version of olive oil comes from a first pressing. This version, however, has all much more quantity of antioxidant polyphenols. These include hydroxytyrosol, oleuropein, and oleocanthal. All these elements come together to give the oil its anti-inflammatory properties.
People consider extra-virgin olive oil as the best virgin olive oil as it has the peppery and green flavors of olives. It possesses 220 mg/kg polyphenols and contains no more than .8% acidity (.8 grams per 100 grams of free fatty acids). This oil is not likely to oxidize because it contains antioxidants and monounsaturated fats. Extra-virgin olive oil is ideal for salad dressings and other cold applications, yet it is suitable for light frying, poaching, and some sautéing.
Refined Olive Oil: Repeated pressings of the olives extract this type of oil. The term ‘refined‘ is misleading as this product is certainly not the best version of olive oil on the market. It does not have the antioxidant properties, lacking the polyphenols found in virgin olive oils. It does not have the flavor, and the acidity ranges at .3% versus .8% found in virgin olive oil. It does have a longer shelf-life and added vitamin E. Use refined olive oil for deep frying.
Light or Lite Olive Oil: This version of olive oil has another misnomer, Light or Lite. In the case of olive oil, ‘light’ or ‘lite’ refers to flavor, not calories. This product is a mix of other vegetable oils and a variety of olive oils. With this oil, you cannot be sure of the antioxidant content, the fat content, or the flavor profile your food will have after cooking with it. It can, however, be used to grill, fry, and cook on high heat.
Pomace Olive Oil: This particular product can be dangerous as it’s made by using solvents and then refining. It has been found to contain carcinogenic elements, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The product gets produced after many pressings. It is the least expensive olive oil available, so many consumers buy it because of the appealing price. It contains 1% acidity, little flavor and aroma, and nominal vitamins and polyphenols. This product is ideal for high heat cooking.
When comparing all olive oils, it is apparent you will have to be discerning if you care about your health. You should be aware of the differences to ensure you make the appropriate choice for your preferred uses of olive oil and the health benefits you seek. You will need to know which oils deliver the most health benefits such as polyphenols or antioxidants and oleic acids. Another advantage is to find the olive oil with the most pleasing taste and aroma. Lastly, use the olive oil best for the application you are using. Are you deep-frying, pan-frying, poaching, grilling, or serving raw food?
Always select the first pressing to obtain the best virgin olive oil. If it is certified, you have an added layer of insurance that you are buying the best. Look at the label and check the bottle’s contents. It will tell you the polyphenol or antioxidant content, the fat content, and its preparation methods. Usually, the bottle will also indicate the shelf life. A shorter life often means a purer product.