Olive oil is pressed from the fruit of the olive tree, whose history dates back to Italy and Spain in the 12th century BC. Olive oil can be fruity, nutty or even peppery. It can be infused with flavor and mixed with other ingredients, drizzled on fresh vegetables and salads, and used for cooking.
Your mission this week is to use some olive oil as you prepare your food. Read on to see how incorporating this simple step brings new flavor and nutrition to your daily life.
Why use olive oil?
Diets incorporating extra-virgin olive oils (EVOO) which are high in polyphenols (plant antioxidants) may influence cancer prevention and progression. Studies involving breast, colon, ovarian, prostrate and skin all suggest that olive oil can be a healthy addition to an anti-cancer diet. Olive oil is also heart healthy and helps lower triglyceride levels.
Not all EVOO is the same. Did you know that the bottle should be dark? Did you know that oil should be dated by the press date? Watch below as Dr. Theresa Ramsey explains what you need to look for when you buy extra virgin olive oil.
Tips for Cooking with Olive Oil
The lower the acidity of olive oil, the higher the nutritional benefits. Here are the categories of olive oil in order of pressing method which impacts its acidity:
• EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL – Extra virgin olive oil is the highest quality of olive oil achieved by the cold pressing of freshly picked olives. Extra virgin olive oil’s acidity level is less than 1 % and is rich in antioxidants.
• VIRGIN OLIVE OIL – Virgin olive oil has an acidity level around 2.0%. It is from the second pressing of the olives.
• REFINED OLIVE OIL – Refined olive oil is obtained by using chemicals to extract the oil from the olives. Refining virgin olive oil eliminates the acidity level. Refined olive oil is made for bulk consumption and is very cheap.
• PURE OLIVE OIL – Pure olive oil is simple olive oil. It is a blend of refined olive oil and extra virgin olive oil. Pure olive oil has the acidity level around 2.0%, but it is very low in nutritional value in comparison to extra virgin olive oil.
Extra virgin oils are best used uncooked or cooked at low to medium temperatures. Refined and olive oil grade oils are the choices for moderate heat use. For high temperature cooking such as frying and stir frying, the Mayo Clinic recommends corn, soybean, peanut and sesame oils. Coconut oil, safflower, avocado and grape seed oils are additional high heat options.
An oil’s smoke point is the temperature at which it smokes when heated. If you heat an oil to its smoke point, it will become bitter and burnt. Carefully discard it and start over. Because olive oil has a higher smoke point than many other oils (about 350-400 degrees Fahrenheit), it can be used in cooking.
This video describes the nutritional benefits of olive oil and how to use it in cooking.