Most of us know we should use extra virgin olive oil instead of corn, safflower and sunflower oils. The real problem? There are TONS on the market, so it’s tough finding the right one. Here’s a fast guide that can help.
Types of Olive Oil
Olive oils have different grades, depending on the processing method.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Has a higher polyphenol content, and is considered a SuperFood. It is derived from the first pressing of the olives and has a low acid content. In addition to its considerable health-promoting qualities, it has the most delicate flavor.
- Virgin Olive Oil
From the second pressing of the olives. It has a higher acid content than extra virgin oil.
A blend of extra virgin and virgin oils.
- Refined Oil
Made by using chemicals to extract the oil from the olives. It is often a blend of a variety of oils.
- Cold-pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The best extra virgin olive oil to buy because it provides the most health benefits and has the most subtle taste. One study indicates that virgin olive oil (most studies do not differentiate the type of olive oil) provides greater protection against free-radical damage to LDL cholesterol—a first step in the development of atherosclerosis—than other oils. Always look for greenish-colored extra virgin olive oil, since the color indicates a high level of polyphenols. Different types of olive oil—from Spain, Greece, and even California—have different, interesting tastes.
Storing Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil is quite perishable. Buy no more than you’ll use in two or three months. Decant some oil from the original container into an opaque bottle or tin and keep it from the light; store it in a cool, dark place in your kitchen. Don’t keep it near the stove. Store the rest of the oil in the fridge, where it will solidify slightly. Cold olive oil will quickly liquefy when brought to room temperature.
Olive Oil in Your Diet
Remember, moderation is the key. Here are some ways to get it.
- Make salad dressing with 3 parts extra virgin olive oil and 1 part balsamic vinegar or lemon juice. You’ll avoid the high sodium levels in most prepared dressings. Add finely chopped garlic or shallots and fresh herbs plus ground pepper, and use a salt substitute such as Vegit.
- Drizzle vegetables and sautéed greens with a bit of extra virgin olive oil before serving.
- Add extra virgin olive oil and roasted garlic to make delicious mashed potatoes.
- Drizzle asparagus, beets, red and white potatoes, turnips, or carrots with extra virgin olive oil. Roast in a 400°F oven until crisp-tender.