Olive Oil Benefits and Methods of Use
Olive oil is an oil which is obtained by extracting oil from olives. Olive plant is cultivated in many parts of the world but they are more commonly found in Spain, Greece, Italy and France. Olive oil is used mainly in cooking and in medication. It is also used in cosmetics and in soaps. Though it is used in most parts of the world but its use is very common in Italy, France and Lebanon. Various varieties of olives are cultivated and they all differ in their flavor and as a result they produce different types of oils.
In cooking, use of olive oil is considered very healthy. Nutritionists suggest that olive oil has least cholesterol and is very good for health, therefore can be used by even heart patients. Other than having low cholesterol it contains many antioxidants and other nutrients that add to the benefits it can give to health.
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Olive oil has wider benefits as compared to other oil extracted from other plant sources. It contains monounsaturated fats and this fat has been linked with reducing the risks of coronary diseases. Use of olive oil in daily diet reduces the risks of heart diseases to greater extent. If olive oil is used in daily routine the use of other oils should be reduced or avoided.
Olives are great source of antioxidants and therefore olive oil is also anti-carcinogenic in nature. Use of olive oil can reduce risks of cancer and other such diseases. Many clinical studies have been conducted to understand the role of olive oil in reducing chances of cancer which prove its benefits.
Types and Grades of Olive Oil:
Olive oil is the most favored oil for use in cooking but to use olive oil and to get most benefits from it one may need to know what grades of olive oil are the best ones and how to cook in olive oil so as to get the most of benefits from it. Some commonly available grades of olive oil are as follows.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Extra virgin olive oil is obtained from high quality olives from which oil has not been extracted previously. The method of extraction is purely physical and no chemical means are employed to extract oil. This grade of olive oil is of highest quality and is very good for health. It has no more than 0.8% acidity. This accounts for very few percentage of total olive oil used worldwide. It also has excellent flavor and can be easily distinguished by its clear fresh aroma.
Virgin Olive Oil: Virgin olive oil has an acidity less than 2.0%. Virgin olive oil also has good taste.
Pomace Olive Oil: Pomace olive oil is extracted from olives that have already been extracted for virgin oil. The remaining pit of the olives from which virgin olive oil has been extracted are treated chemically and under pressure and heat to extract pomace oil. Pomace oil has the same health benefits and there fore it is also used in cooking. It is cheaper than virgin and extra virgin olive oil. The fat composition is also similar to the virgin olive oil but the acidity is greater than virgin olive oil.
Refined Olive Oil: Refined olive oil is refined to improve the taste of the oil. Some olives are of such quality that they have to be refined before rendering it fit for cooking.
Some tips for Cooking in Olive Oil:
- Like any other oil olive oil should not be heated above its smoking temperature. Above smoking temperature the properties of oil change and the HDL cholesterol converts into LDL cholesterol which is bad cholesterol and is not good for health.
- Olive oil should always be stored in glass bottle or container. Olive oil that comes in metal container should not be purchased. The shelf life of olive oil increases in glass bottle. While in metal container it can get rancid soon.
- It should be stored in cool and dark place. Do not keep it near fire (like near oven). Keep it inside a cabinet and if you want to keep it close to oven then pour a little of it in a bottle and store the rest of it in a cabinet.
- Do not overcook in olive oil but some people say that olive oil should be added after cooking and not during cooking, which is wrong assumption. Any oil loses its benefits with overheating similarly olive oil may lose its benefits with overheating but cooking in olive oil is not harmful.
- The taste and freshness of olive oil changes early than other oils. Its shelf life is less than other oils. Its taste may change when it becomes rancid so change in taste is the first sign of rancidity.
- After repeated frying olive oil should be discarded as repeated frying can cause development of polycyclic hydrocarbons which can deteriorate oil and its taste. It can also bring toxicity in food.
- Extra virgin olive oil and virgin olive oil should be used preferably for salads and for simple saut'eing rather than for deep frying. For deep frying use refined olive oil or pomace oil.
- If olive oil is in use in daily diet than do not use other oils as it can add to the amount of fat you are consuming.