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Demystifying Olive Oil

  • GoToChef
  • May 03, 2018

In a country where ghee is not only a medium to cook food, but a medium to express hospitality, love and care, olive oil is yet to get a permanent passport to the kitchen shelves of a majority of the Indian households. And what further fuels the gap between our recipes and this healthy oil alternative, is its availability in several confusing grades earned. Through this piece, we are going to try and demystify the olive oil for you by addressing a few of the most common questions about olive oil. 

As the name suggests, Olive oil is the oil obtained from the fruit of the olive tree. The low sugar content and a high oil content of the olive fruit makes it a great source for producing oil. Most of the world's supply of olive oil is produced from olives grown in Spain, Italy, and Greece followed closely by France and California. The taste of olive oil is impacted by a lot of factors – from the variety of olives used, method & timing of harvesting the olives to manufacturing techniques and storage methods. There are many variables that go into the production of olive oil that yield dramatic differences in colour, aroma, and flavour and several names are used to differentiate all of these versions. As a consumer, there are four main grades of olive oil that one should be aware of - Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Virgin Olive oil, refined olive oil and lastly just Olive Oil.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) :

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) is made from olives picked not more than 24 hours ago, by mechanically pressing & crushing the olives at cold temperature. This process allows the oil to retain its natural fruity and peppery flavours. The acidity content in extra virgin olive is not more than 0.8%*.
The best use of extra virgin olive oil is at room temperature – salads, dips, hummus, or just as a finishing touch to your soup, pizza, fish or bread. This grade of olive oil is the best in both nutrition and flavour – and hence quite expensive as compared to the other versions. 
*As per the IOCC – International Olive Oil Council

Virgin Olive Oil (VOO) :

Virgin olive oils are also produced by mechanical pressing, without any heat treatment. However, the time between harvesting and processing of olives here can be more than 24 hours. The acidity content in virgin olive oil is higher and can range up to 2%* 
As compared to EVOO, virgin olive oils are less rich in both flavour and nutrients, and hence relatively
less expensive. VOO is also best used at room temperatures where there is very little to no heat or cooking involved. 

Refined Olive Oil (VOO) :

Refined olive oils are obtained by refining virgin olive oil by making use of chemical and physical processes. Refining the oil reduces the acidity level to 0.3%, however, the flavour and aroma of a refined version is much less as compared to that of a VOO or an EVOO. Due to the low flavour, the best use of refined olive oil is in sautéing or cooking, as it does not add the characteristic olive oil flavour as a dressing or topping.

Olive Oil:

Olive oil, also called pure olive oil, is a blend of refined olive oil and virgin olive oil. Olive oil has the acidity content of around 1%, but it is quite low in nutritional value in comparison to extra virgin olive oil. This grade is best used in heavy cooking at high temperatures. Just like the refined version, it is not suitable for dips and salads as it does not carry the aroma or flavour of fresh olives. 

Why use Olive Oil?

Olive oil has many health benefits over normal cooking oils, which makes it the top choice for every health aware person.
 
•    High levels of monounsaturated fats, which increases your good cholesterol (HDL) and reduces the bad cholesterol (LDL), thereby reducing the risk of heart diseases.  
•    Rich source of omega – 3 fatty acids, which helps to lower blood pressure and keep the heart healthy.
•    EVOO is also rich in antioxidants which are proven to be great for our joints, heart and immune system.
•    By virtue of above three, olive oil is great at controlling both diabetes and weight.
•    EVOO has also proven to reduce inflammation.

So, pick the right olive oil for the right use, and this simple change can go a long way in supporting you to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

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Pawandeep

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