Olive oil has been hailed as one of most healthy oils by nutritionists and health experts in the United States and across the world. Also known as the queen of oils, it’s strong taste and heady aroma makes it the perfect oil for cooking, making salads, and also for body massage.
Increasing demand for healthier oils has made sure that olive oil is available in both health food stores and the neighborhood supermarket. Though not all olive oils you see on the store shelves are the same. To make the most of all the benefits olive oil has to offer, you need to know about the different types of olive oil and how to use them.
1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra virgin is a not just a type of olive oil but also a grade for the highest quality of olive oil. To be certified as extra virgin, an olive oil should satisfy four criteria:
- It must be produced by mechanical extraction methods (no chemicals or hot water applied)
- It has to come only from first cold-pressing
- It should have an oleic acidity level of less than 1%
- It must have superior taste, color, and aroma
Olive oil connoisseurs treat extra virgin olive oil like wine and argue that the taste and flavor varies depending on the region where the olives grow. Extra virgin olive oil is very rich in antioxidants and has the highest amount of minerals and vitamins found in olives. However, its low smoking point does not make it ideal for cooking. It’s best used as dressing for salads or can be drizzled over cold dishes.
2. Virgin Olive Oil
Virgin olive oil also comes from the first pressing but is slightly inferior to extra virgin olive oil. Like extra virgin olive oil, it is also produced through mechanical extraction which means no chemicals or heat is used while extracting the oil. But the main difference separating the two oils is the level of acidity.
Virgin olive oil has an oleic acidity level of 1.5-2% giving it lower flavor intensity and a milder aroma. It can be used for dressing salads as well as sauteing vegetables. It can also be used for baking but is not recommended for deep frying because of its low smoking point.
3. Lite/Light Olive Oil
When it comes to foods, the word lite or light usually refers to the calorific value. But in the case of olive oils, lite is a reference to the amount of flavor in the oil and not the calories. Lite olive oil has the same calories as other olives oils but is low in nutrition, taste, and aroma.
Lite olive oil is considered to be of a lower grade as it does not carry the strong flavor and aroma of extra virgin olive oil. This makes it a great oil for cooking dishes where you do not want the flavor of the oil to dominate. It also has a higher smoke point and can be used for sauteing, grilling, and frying.
4. Pure Olive Oil
Contrary to it’s name, pure olive oil is actually a blend of virgin olive oil and refined olive oil. It’s nutrient value is quite low compared to extra virgin olive oil which also makes it inexpensive. It has an acidity level of around 2% which makes it a better option for heavy-duty, high-heat cooking.
Pure olive oil is a low grade olive oil that lacks the taste and aroma olive oil is known for. Though is can be used for cooking, it’s also suited for external application. It can be used to moisturize the skin and can help control dandruff.
5. Olive Pomace Oil
Pomace is that part of the olive which remains after all the oil and water in it has been removed by pressuring or centrifuging processes. This oil is extracted using solvents and refined rendering it neutral in taste and color.
Pomace oil is the lowest grade of olive-based oils, but to make it more marketable to customers, producers blend it with virgin olive oil. The proportions may be different but the virgin olive oil content is generally low. Olive Pomace oil is inexpensive and is not rich in vitamins like virgin olive oil. Like pure olive oil, it’s used only for high-heat cooking.
Olive oil is a rich source of monosaturated fatty acids and vitamin E. The natural compounds in olive oil have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits that make it one of the healthiest oils. This does not mean that all types of olive oil have the same benefit. Based on your usage and the quality you need, always ensure that you invest in the right type of olive oil.