As published in Body Ecology website Jan 5th 2012
If you have ever used a fine quality olive oil in a salad dressing or drizzled it over a warm winter stew, then you know how a good olive oil has the ability to brighten up any dish.
What makes an olive oil taste good? First and foremost: how it is processed.
- If you buy virgin or extra-virgin olive oil at the store, you are purchasing oil that has not undergone any chemical treatment.
- When oil is refined, this means that chemicals have been used to remove taste and to neutralize acid content.
- Any oil that reads “pure olive oil” is typically a blend of virgin and refined olive oil.
Refined olive oil is considered to be of lesser quality than extra-virgin olive oil. Not only have the natural flavors of the olive been removed, but chemicals are used in its processing.
Besides flavor, there are is another reason why you want to spend a little extra time locating good quality olive oil: your health.
Many people consider olive oil to be one of the healthiest oils available. And the research shows that olive oil is indeed heart healthy, when used correctly. Using olive oil correctly means that you understand its monounsaturated nature.
Olive oil is made up of monounsaturated fatty acids. A fatty acid is just another way of saying a fat molecule.
Because olive oil is monounsaturated, this means that it is not as delicate as flax oil or the oil from cold-water fish, which are polyunsaturated. However, as an unsaturated oil, it still will oxidize and go rancid under the right conditions.
Unsaturated fats, whether monounsaturated or polyunsaturated, are most likely to oxidize under the right conditions. So what causes unsaturated fatty acids to oxidize? Three things:
This is why extra-virgin olive oil has the potential to taste so delicious! Because it has been minimally processed and exposed to the least amount of light, air, and heat.
If your olive oil does not have flavor, then it has been overly processed, and it is most likely doing more harm than good in your body. Unfortunately, the same is true if you cook with olive oil.
Many people cook with olive oil because it is a “heart healthy” oil, but olive oil should not be used at high temperatures.
Cold Pressed or Ice Pressed?
You will find that the olive oil with the most nuance of flavor will also be the best for your health. Light, air, and heat can all potentially damage an unsaturated oil and affect its flavor.
“Cold pressed” is not exactly what you would imagine. When extra-virgin olive oil is cold pressed, this means that it is exposed to temperatures ranging from 35°-55° Celsius (95°-131° Fahrenheit). Cold pressing an oil decreases the yield, but it increases flavor and nutritional value. This is why cold pressed oils are generally more expensive on the market shelf.
“Ice pressed” is exactly as the name implies. Ice pressed olive oils are exposed to temperatures ranging from 0°-5° Celsius (32°-41° Fahrenheit). This production method almost entirely preserves both the flavor and the nutritional value of olive oil.
One “ice pressed” oil that has impressed us is Rallis Olive Oil: http://www.rallisoliveoil.com
Many of us know that certain fats are good for our bodies, especially olive oil.
But did you know that good quality fats can supply your body with a steady source of energy throughout the day? Most of us reach for carbohydrates when we are looking for energy. But a carbohydrate-rich diet ultimately leads to far more fluctuations in blood sugar than a diet that is rich in healthy fats.
So go ahead! Feel good about eating high-quality fats and know that by choosing the absolute best quality, you are protecting and nourishing your body.
What to Remember Most About This Article:
The way that olive oil is processed can make or break its flavor and quality. Virgin and extra-virgin olive oil have not undergone any chemical processing methods. A good quality olive oil will have grassy, sometimes fruity flavors.
Olive oil is made of monounsaturated fatty acids, meaning that it can go rancid and is not ideal for cooking. Light, air, and heat will cause olive oil to oxidize; olive oil should not be used at high temperatures.
If olive oil does not have any flavor, then it has likely been over processed and will do more harm than good to your body. Olive oil also has the potential to harm your health if it is used in cooking. When used correctly, olive oil is a healthy fat that can boost your energy and stabilize blood sugar better than eating carbohydrates.