Get to Know Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Posted 12/01/2015 | By HealthCorps

The Mediterranean Diet, which is actually based on a style of eating that originates from regions in the Mediterranean, typically includes daily consumption of certain specific foods and food groups. At the core of the diet is monounsaturated-rich olive oil. Olive oil has been identified in many studies as part of a healthy diet.

Dietary fat is crucial to health. The types of fat you choose, and the number of servings you eat daily, can help with overall health and weight management. Of course, the typical American consumer believes, “If it’s healthy let’s eat loads of it,” but when it comes to even healthy fat, there’s a limiting point. Eat too much and you will likely gain weight. The fact that fat is incredibly satiating can help to manage your total daily calorie consumption. The Mediterranean Diet includes a fair amount of plant-based healthy fat, and those fats – monounsaturated and polyunsaturated – are associated with lower risk of overall inflammation, heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancers.

Is EVOO the best kind of olive oil?

Extra virgin olive oil or EVOO is considered the “highest grade of olive oil.” It’s basically oil that is extracted from olives without using heat or chemicals in the process, so it maintains its high level of heart-healthy polyphenols. Regular olive oil is still heart-healthy but typically has lower levels of these polyphenols. Experts will also tell you that EVOO has a wide range of flavor profiles. Things that can impact olive oil taste include weather and temperature, the specific growing season and time of year, the region where the olives are grown, and how the olives are handled and processed.

Does EVOO lend itself to all types of food preparation?

Since olive oils and EVOO have strong, distinctive flavors, your personal taste buds will play a role in how you use them. Even regular olive oil has a range which includes “light” olive oil which has a lighter flavor, compared to traditional olive oil. These oils can work well in salad dressings and can be used in baking, sautéing, and even grilling, despite a lower smoke point compared to other oils. If you choose to sauté with olive oil, use a cold pan to start and a small amount of oil. Heat the oil first and then add the vegetables or other ingredients. You can also bake breads with olive oil. EVOO or traditional olive oil is a great swap out for butter, cutting the cholesterol and saturated fat in many recipes, and you will find that when you do the conversion you’ll use less oil than butter in many recipes. If the recipe calls for one teaspoon of butter, you will likely need ¾ teaspoon of olive oil.

You can fry with olive oil and you will find that foods are a bit less greasy and crunchier. Aim for a heat level that does not exceed 365 degrees Farenheit, and always heat the oil slowly over low heat. Another healthy tip is to let fried foods cool on wire racks, allowing any excess fat to drip off.

How long can I store EVOO?

Light, age, air and heat are the four elements that affect length of storage. Store it in a cool, dark spot and never buy oil that is older than 14 months (look at the date on the label).

Simple salad recipe

There are endless ways to cook with EVOO. For a simple salad dressing combine olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Experiment by adding different herbs. Just remember that when you use oils, a little goes a long way.

For a variety of healthy recipe ideas, check out our recipe finder.

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