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Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Properties and Health Benefits

Updated on June 15, 2016
Robie Benve profile image

Born and raised in Italy, Robie loves good, healthy food (even better if it's easy to cook). She proudly raised 2 kids that eat everything.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, do you really know how to choose it?
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, do you really know how to choose it? | Source

Origin of Olive Oil

Typical of the Mediterranean region, Olive Oil is made from olives.

Like wine grapes, olives respond to variation in climate, soil, cultivation practices, harvesting methods, processing and age; thus there are many kinds of olive oils.

Just like grapes or apples, every variety of olives have a different taste, and the characteristics and taste of olive oil depend on what kind of olives are used.

Factors Determining the Quality of Olive Oil

Determining Factors
Variables
Kind of Olives
Each variety of olives has different flavor and characteristics.
Geography
The area where the Olives are grown.
Soil
Composition and nutrients of soil.
Climate
Ratio of drought and rain throghout the year.
Processing
Hhow the oil is extracted from the olives
Harvesting
What techniques are used to harvest the olives.
A bottle of good Extra Virgin Olive Oil
A bottle of good Extra Virgin Olive Oil | Source

Acidity of Olive Oil

One of the main quality-telling characteristics of olive oil is its acidity, which measures the amount of oleic acid in the product.

A good Extra virgin oil has an acidity below 1%.

Why is acidity so important?

From the acidity of the olive oil it's possible to understand what alterations the olives endured due to harvesting methods, transportation condition, and transformation process.

What to Look For - Key Terms on the Olive Oil Label

First cold press - oil obtained from the first pressing of olives, with little or no heat applied. A superb product, retaining all the natural goodness and healthy characteristics, the best olive oil. Unfortunately, often quite expensive.

Cold press - Simply extracted without any heat above 82F, but perhaps from the second pressing of the same olives. Still a great product, retaining all the healthy and organoleptic properties.

Unfiltered - Often murky but delicious, described as cloudy, it's processed with careful handling and offers excellent quality and flavor.

Learn to read your olive oil labels: they usually advertise the best qualities, like cold pressed and 100% natural.
Learn to read your olive oil labels: they usually advertise the best qualities, like cold pressed and 100% natural. | Source

Extra Vergin Olive Oil

A superior olive oil, obtained directly from olives, and only with mechanic procedures, no chemical processes. Low level of acidity, typically below 0.8%. This is a virgin olive oil with supreme aroma and flavor, also defined as high organoleptic qualities.

Virgin Olive Oil

Olive oil obtained directly from olives and with only mechanic procedures. Has a great aroma and flavor, but with allowable level of acidity up to 2%. Solvent is not permitted.

Pure Olive Oil is no different than "Olive Oil", it just means that it's not mixed with other types of oil, such as corn or soy oils.
Pure Olive Oil is no different than "Olive Oil", it just means that it's not mixed with other types of oil, such as corn or soy oils. | Source

Olive Oil

Olive oil that is a mix of virgin olive oil and an olive oil that did not meet the high quality standards, and had to be enhanced with a chemical process. Has good but not perfect taste and aroma and allowable acidity up to 3.3%.

Pomace Oil

This oil is obtained from the further processing of what is left of the olives and their pits after the other oils have been produced. It's usually mixed with some olive oil for taste and color. Heavily chemically processed it is the cheapest of the olive oils. It's fit for human consumption, but avoided by olive oil lovers.

Health Properties of Olive Oil

In the Mediterranean diet, proved to be a healthy one, olive oil is the major source of fat. Although many components of the diet are responsible for its healthy profile, olive oil is a major element.

Olive oil is the most delicious and natural of all lipids, made mostly of oleic acid. It contains high levels of monounsaturated fat, which provides many cardiovascular benefits. A diet high in oleic acids, and low in saturated fats, increases good cholesterol (HDI) while reducing bad cholesterol (LDL), in a way that promotes heart health.

In addition, oleic acid is beneficial in decreasing the incidence of arteriosclerosis and thrombosis.

The higher quality olive oils contain poliphenols, which have great antioxidant effects. These antioxidants are very helpful in combating the armful effects of free radicals, which are known to have a dramatic role in many health condition, including arteriosclerosis, cancer, as well as aging.

Oleochantal, also present in olive oil, acts as anti-inflammatory by preventing the production of pro-inflammatory enzymes. Higher quality extra virgin olive oils contain a higher quantity of oleochantal.

For a glowing skin: EVOO, coffee and sugar rub

Why You Should Fry with Olive Oil

Olive oil resists very well to hot temperatures.

During frying, olive oil does not break down, keeps a protective crust around the food, and it's absorbed less than many other oils.

It's ok, for reasons of frugality, to use a more economical grade of olive oil for frying. It's cheaper and still will be one of the most heat stable fats, standing up well to high cooking temperatures.

Alternative Uses for Olive Oil Around the House

Olive oil is an effective and safe product to use for several cleaning and maintenance jobs around the house. Here are some examples:

  • Clean paint off your hands and hair.
  • Repair scratches on leather furniture, and condition old leather chairs, jackets, and gloves.
  • Polish wood furniture.
  • Maintain wooden tools and cutting boards.
  • Free a stuck zip.
  • Remove makeup.
  • Cure diaper rush.
  • Lubricate squeaky hinges.

© 2012 Robie Benve

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    • Robie Benve profile image
      Author

      Robie Benve 5 years ago from Ohio

      Lady_E, sunflower oil can be a nice alternative - and easier on the pocketbook - but as you have read EVOO has some great nutritional and healthy characteristic that are quite unbeatable and make it totally worth the cost. I'm glad my hub gave you some info and food for thought. Thanks for reading an commenting. :)

    • Lady_E profile image

      Elena 5 years ago from London, UK

      Thanks for sharing this useful info. I used to cook with Virgin Olive oil then resorted to Sunflower oil as it's cheaper. After reading this, I think it's best I go back to using Virgin or Extra Virgin oil.

      Healthy Hub. :-)

    • Robie Benve profile image
      Author

      Robie Benve 5 years ago from Ohio

      Marcy, It sure can be confusing to choose between olive oils. I have noticed they are starting to advertise better on the containers the main qualities - especially the good ones, like cold press or unfiltered. I'm glad you found it interesting and useful. Thanks for your comment! :)

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

      I have wondered for some time what the distinction is between the grades and types of olive oil! Sometimes it's hard to tell which product to get, especially when the choices aren't as complete as your list includes. Thanks for publishing this!

      Voted up, useful and interesting!

    • Robie Benve profile image
      Author

      Robie Benve 5 years ago from Ohio

      WannaB Writer, sometimes saving on food items is not the best choice, and EVOO is one of those products where usually you get what you pay for. I'm glad you went for the good stuff. :) Thank you for your comment.

    • WannaB Writer profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 5 years ago from Templeton, CA

      Thank you for a very informative article. I ran to the kitchen to check the label on my olive oil, and it appears I made a good choice.