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Cold pressed olive oil is surprisingly healthy
Extra virgin olive oil has an aura of superb quality. It transforms ordinary food into elegant fare. It is a luxury for every day. And it is one of the healthiest foods in your kitchen.
Unlike most vegetable oils, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) does not need to be refined after it is pressed. There is no chemical treatment or detoxification. Olives are ground to a paste and then squeezed with an oil press; after a simple filtering the oil is ready for use. Because there is no further processing, the olive’s natural flavor is preserved. What else is preserved? Vitamins. Minerals. Antioxidants. Pure goodness.
Green olives are used for oil because black olives produce a flavor that is too mild. Green and black are not different types of olives, however. Black are fully ripened, while green are... well, green. They produce a stronger flavor when harvested before they ripen on the tree.
Watch olives being pitted and processed through the oil press
Pressed oil keeps the most flavor
So what is the difference between virgin, extra virgin, and plain old olive oil? Quality of flavor is a factor, but olive oil is graded by its acidity. Extra virgin, which has the most delicate flavor, has less than 1% acidity. Virgin olive oil is pressed from slightly riper olives and has an acidity level of 1.5%. Regular olive oil has a higher acidity and is lighter in color, but has a bland flavor.
Watch out for misleading labels! “Light” olive oil does not have reduced calories. It is a mixture of refined olive oils which have been chemically processed. Along with flavor, nutrients have been removed in processing. “Light” olive oil is actually less healthy than regular, virgin, and extra virgin.
Scroll down to see a Butter to Olive Oil conversion chart. Try the healthy quick switch in your own favorite recipes.
Which grade of oil you buy will depend on two factors: use and price. Delicate extra virgin will lose its flavor if heated too high.
For salad dressing, drizzling on toasted bread, or brushing on meat or fish after cooking, go with EVOO. Substitute it for butter when you mash your potatoes.
If you want to fry, stick with the less expensive regular or even light olive oil. They will still provide you with a health benefit and will hold up better to the heat because they have a higher smoke point.
A quick note about smoke point
If there is a visible vapor while you are heating your cooking oil, you have reached it. This is bad because:
- Your oil is decomposing
- Your healthy nutrients have evaporated
- Your flavor has changed from tasty... to nasty
- Your stove is about to ignite.
Kill the heat, scrap the oil (safely!), and start over with fresh. Once your oil smokes it cannot be saved.
The smoke point of extra virgin olive oil is rated as low as 200° and as high as 400°. Light olive oil has the highest rating, going as high as 450°. By contrast:
- Refined Canola oil: 400°
- Refined Soy oil: 400°
- Refined Sunflower oil: 450°
Keep smoke point in mind when you are baking as well.
Protect your healthy oils
Light, heat, and air will degrade all grades of olive oil. Keep your oil in an airtight container, out of direct sunlight, and away from the heat of your stove. Stored away in its cool, dry place, olive oil will last up to 18 months. Refrigeration is not recommended. If you live in a warmer climate, stick with smaller bottles to help preserve the freshness.
Olive oil for skin care
Olive oil is excellent for skin treatments. Use it for shaving; it reduces razor burn and moisturizes beautifully. Add a few tablespoons to your bath before you crawl in with a book. Extra virgin is the best for your skin because it is the most pure and has the least acidity.
Another amazing olive oil fact: It kills head lice! Yup. Apply it to your child’s hair and let it work for 45 minutes. Then shampoo twice. You will still need to check for nits, and take measures to prevent them from returning. There you have a natural, chemical free head lice treatment - with a high fun factor!
Olive oil has some other surprising uses outside of the kitchen. It makes a good furniture polish. Got a squeaky hinge? Olive oil it! Spritz your garden tools with olive oil and dirt will not build up on them.
Butter to Olive Oil Conversion Chart
1/2 Cup PLUS 1 Tablespoon
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Extra Virgin Olive Oil - Cook Healthy