Why is olive oil considered a superfood? What does it take to make a high quality oil? What words should I pay attention to when shopping? myPanier has put together a helpful guide to answer all your questions about this increasingly popular cooking oil.
Olive Oil Health Benefits
1. Lots of Healthy Monusaturated Fats
Olive oil is rich in monosaturated fat, a type of good fat that can eliminate the “bad” fat that increases cholesterol levels. It also reduces blood pressure and prevents strokes and heart diseases.
2. High in Antioxidants
When a diet is rich in olive oil, cells are protected against oxidation. This prevents damage to our cells and slows down our aging process.
3. May Help Fight Alzheimer’s Disease
Olive oil has has been found to remove harmful plaques in the brain that triggers Alzheimer’s. In addition, it is believed to enhance brain memory and thinking.
4. Can Help Prevent or Treat Diabetes
Numerous studies have shown that olive oil intake is linked with weight loss. This type of healthy fat can help stabilize blood sugar levels in those with Type 2 Diabetes and reduce the risk of it.
5. Anti-Bacterial Properties
Olive oil contains nutrients that can combat bacteria in the stomach, even some that are resistant to antibiotics.
The Process of Making Olive Oil
The peak time to pick olives for making oil is right after they ripen. Olives are at their prime for about 2 to 3 weeks before their quality diminishes. Handpicked olives are the best because they are less likely to be bruised. When olives are bruised, the oils they produce will be degraded. Some growers also set up nets beneath the trees to catch them before they hit the ground.
The way in which the olives are transported to the processing plant is very important. They must be carefully placed in shallow wooden crates to prevent them from crushing each other.
Once the olives reach the mill, they should be processed immediately. Ideally, they should not be stored for more than a week. If they must be stored, there has to be ample room between each crate to allow air to circulate.
To prepare the olives for extraction, the first step is to remove their leaves and twigs and rinse off any debris. Then, the olives are passed off to a machine that grinds them into a paste. The paste is mixed through a process called malaxation, which allows the small oil droplets to combine into bigger ones.
Afterwards, the oil is separated from the vegetable water and solids and filtered until it is pure. Olive oil has to be stored away from direct sunlight and extreme temperatures before bottling.
Unrefined Olive Oil vs. Refined Olive Oil
Unrefined means chemicals and heat have not been used to collect the oil. Refined oil has been treated to remove flaws to make it more sellable. However, this process strips the oil of its natural aroma, flavor and golden-green color.
Refined olive oil also lacks the antioxidants and other nutrients olives are known for. In contrast to other oils, extra virgin has no more than 1% oleic acid. Lower oleic acid means less fat will break down into fatty acids.
What’s the difference between Extra Virgin, Virgin, Pure and Light?
Extra virgin and virgin olive oil are both types of unrefined olive oil. Extra virgin is the highest quality of olive oil that exists. Compared to extra virgin olive oil, virgin olive oil has a slightly higher level of oleic acid and is a bit less flavorful. Virgin olive oil is not as commonly found in grocery stores.
Pure olive oil is actually what we considered to be “regular” olive oil. It is a mix between virgin and refined olive oil. It has lower quality than extra virgin and virgin, meaning it has less flavor and a higher level of oleic acid (3-4%).
Light olive oil is a refined oil with lighter flavor than extra virgin, virgin and pure. It its usually used for all cooking purposes because it doesn’t burn at low temperatures.
What does Cold-Pressed mean?
The cold-pressed method refers to the extraction of olive oil at a temperature less than 81.9°F. While producers can obtain more oil from the olives with more heat, this makes the oil more bland and less healthy. It is also known as first cold-pressed because a second press would be too harsh to the olive paste. The difference between cold-pressed and non cold-pressed is a smooth olive oil to a greasy one.