Olive oil has well reported health benefits, however choosing the right olive oil for your cooking can be confusing. The subtle differences on the labels can make a big difference to the flavour. Light olive oil has to be better for you, right? Wrong. Read below as we debunk some of the myths surrounding the oil known as liquid gold.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil –
Extra virgin olive oil is the king of all olive oils. In terms of the production, the “virgin” status indicates that the oil was produced using physical pressing, without the addition of chemicals. To be classified as extra virgin olive oil on the supermarket shelf it must also have a free-acidity level of no more that 0.8% and be judged to have a superior taste.
Virgin Olive Oil –
Virgin Olive Oil also comes from virgin oil production only. However it can have an acidity level of up to 2% and is judged to have a good taste.
Pure Olive Oil –
Pure olive oil is usually a blend of refined olive oil and virgin olive oil. It generally has a milder flavour. Refined olive oil has been chemically treated to neutralise the acid content and the strong taste. Oils labelled “pure olive oil” or “100% pure olive oil” are generally the lowest quality olive oil available on the shelves, however they are still very suitable for use in dishes were you are cooking the oil and the flavour of the oil is not paramount.
Olive Oil –
Olive oil is also a blend of virgin olive oil and refined (chemically treated) olive oil. It will generally have a very mild flavour.
Light Olive Oil –
Oils that are labelled “light” are not, as commonly thought, actually lighter in fats. They are refined oil and consequently are light on flavour. They contain the same number of kilojoules as all other olive oils.
Health benefits of olive oils –
The monounsaturated fats in olive oil are believed to lower low rates of heart disease and cancer. Olive oil also contains powerful antioxidants that may help prevent age-related diseases.
Cooking with olive oil –
Olive oils are great used in cold preparations such as on salads and cold dishes. Olive oil can also be used for cooking. However, olive oil does burn easily and has a strong flavour that can adversely affect your cooking. Oils with a high flash point (that can withstand high temperatures) include canola, sunflower and peanut. Of these canola carries the least flavour.
Read our article by Peter Howard for more information on storing olive oils and cooking with them.