Olive oil has long been renowned for it’s health benefits and most people include it as part of a healthy diet but now there is virgin, extra virgin, light, pure…. and no one is ever sure which to buy. That aside you can pay anything from 99p to £39.99! So we thought we would give you the low down on which to buy and how to use it.
Olive oil is made from the crushing and pressing of olives. Its been around for thousands of years and some olive groves in Spain are actually over a 1000 years old.
Olive oil has long been associated with the Mediterranean Diet, as a source of monounsaturated fat, vitamin E and powerful antioxidants, olive oil lowers the risk of heart disease. It lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol and prevents cholesterol from oxidising, it is oxidised cholesterol that sticks to our artery walls and so nutrients which prevent this occurring are essential. Others studies have demonstrated olive oil may help to balance blood sugar, burn fat and reduce inflammation.
There are several different types now available, although obviously subject to manufacturers definition in general terms the differences denote the following:
- Extra Virgin – made from the first press of the olives and has the lowest acidity. It is not exposed to heat or chemically changed and most resembles the natural oil within olives. As the most unrefined oil it has the lowest smoke point.
- Virgin Olive Oil – made from the first press of the olives but has double the acidity of olive oil. Is twice as acidic as extra virgin and has less antioxidant content.
- Refined/light Olive Oil – chemicals are use to extract the oil from the olives, far inferior in terms of nutrients and quality.
The best olive oil (and the one you should buy) is extra virgin olive oil as it contains the most nutrients and so provides the most heart health benefits. Do not use this for cooking as the many of the nutrients are destroyed if heated and the fats become oxidised (negating the point of choosing a healthy oil!). You should add the oil to food once cooked, drizzle on vegetables, salads or soups. Cooking should be done with more saturated oils like organic ghee or coconut oil. Check out our Fitter Chef Says “cook fats the right way” for more info on this.
You should buy oil that is sold in dark, glass bottles to minimise exposure to light which can damage the oil and once opened consume within 3 months. Always store in a cool dark place as any exposure to light and heat will turn the oil rancid. Once opened you can store in the refrigerator to keep it fresh.
Olive oil is so tasty and easy to include in your diet, you can drizzle over poached eggs or add some grated garlic and ginger to it and pour over fish or salad as a dressing. So get drizzling the good stuff!