Olive oil is one of the healthiest oils on the market. It has a high monounsaturated fat content (that’s good fat!) but is low in saturated fat (that’s the bad one). Made from the juice of the olive fruit, it is a prime component of the Mediterranean Diet. Not only is it used in cooking, but as a condiment for adding flavour, nutrients and aroma to foods.
Olive oils explained:
Take a stroll down the oil aisle of the supermarket and you will soon discover there are lots of choices when it comes to olive oil. Foodie HQ’s olive oil guide explains the differences between some of the more common oils:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: this is the highest grade olive oil you can buy. Think of “extra” as “premium” which means it has a superior taste, colour and scent. Extra virgin olive oil is delicate, making it the ideal choice for salad dressings, dipping breads and soups. It is the perfect condiment and the best choice if you are not heating the oil.
Virgin Olive Oil: this is a close second to the “extra virgin” oil but has a slightly higher acidity. It is good for cooking but flavoursome enough to be used unheated.
Pure Olive Oil: this is a cheap blend of virgin and refined oil, not as “pure” as its name suggests. It can be used to grease a cake tin and for frying foods. Cooking at a high heat will destroy the flavour and aroma of the oil so a cheaper product, like this one, is your best choice.
Light Olive Oil: this is a lighter coloured variation of your pure olive oil. Many people believe “light” oil is lower in calories. This is not true. Light oil is lower in colour and flavour, not fat.
Debunking olive oil myths:
When it comes to olive oil there are plenty of myths out there. Here at Foodie HQ we have debunked some of the more common ones.
Myth 1: Olive oil is fattening.
This is probably the greatest olive oil myth out there. Used in moderation, a good quality extra virgin olive oil can actually be a healthy addition to your diet. It is a natural juice from the olive fruit, high in vitamin E and monounsaturated fats. Unlike butter, it contains no cholesterol.
Myth 2: Cooking in olive oil will lower the nutritional value of the food.
The heating process itself can break down nutrients and therefore lessen the nutritional value of foods. Olive oil has no effect. In fact, adding a little extra virgin olive oil after cooking has health benefits, adding anti-oxidants and flavour.
Myth 3: All olive oils are the same.
As we’ve already explained, there are plenty of different olive oils on the market. Extra virgin is by far the best. However, olive oil is just like wine. The flavour and quality will depend on the fruit it is made from. Therefore, different years, regions and harvests will produce different quality oils.
Tips and tricks:
- Store your olive oil in a cool, dark place and it will last for more than a year. Never store it in the fridge as it will become cloudy and crystallize.
- Use olive oil to grease your pan instead of butter or margarine.
- Olive oil will keep longer than vegetable oils.
- Never heat your olive oil over its smoke point (that is the temperature at which it breaks down) as this will cause the oil to smoke and burn and give your food an unusual taste. The International Olive Oil Council estimate the smoke point to be around 210C.
- Believe it or not, extra virgin olive oil makes a fantastic moisturiser for your skin! Remember – a little goes a long way so you won’t need to use a lot of oil.