Ode To Olive Oil

For thousands of years, olive oil has been the principal source of dietary fat in much of the world. This fragrant and delicate oil is the staple in the "Mediterranean Diet" which provides approximately 30-40% of its calories from fat. Studies have shown that those people who follow this European eating style, when compared to American cuisine, are at lower risk of developing heart disease and cancer. In addition, numerous studies show that they also live longer. So why not add a little Mediterranean flavor to your meals...

Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat, which unlike saturated fats, can help lower LDL cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol). A monounsaturated fat is simply the healthiest fat you can have in your diet. Most heart researchers have shown that monounsaturated fats may reduce the risk of developing hardening of the arteries. LifeScript suggests that you use monounsaturated fats, like olive oil, instead of saturated fats like butter.

Question: Which Olive Oil Should You Choose?

Answer: Now that you know a little about the health benefits of olive oils and their origin in the Mediterranean diet, let’s look at the varieties that are available. Olive oils are graded primarily by flavor, color, amount of acidity and aroma. Most olive oils are a blend of several varieties. The crop and the weather conditions determine the cost of olive oil. Olive oil tends to be expensive since the best olives oils are made from olives that were harvested by hand.

Here are some definitions of olive oil:

Extra Light - Olive oil that has been refined to create a lighter color and flavor is called extra light. This oil is ideal for baking. Extra light has the same amount of calories and fat as the other types of olive oil.

Extra Virgin -Olive oil that has a low acid content and a delicate flavor. It’s from the first pressing of the olives, hence the descriptive term "extra virgin." It’s pressed, rather than chemically refined. Industry standards require that extra virgin olive oil must be free of acidity.

First Cold Press - Olive oils that are made from the first pressing of the olives without heat application are referred to as first cold press. This type of olive oil is more expensive and has a full, rich taste with much of the original olives' flavor maintained in the oil. First cold press olive oils are of superior quality due to the fact that at no point in production has heat been used to process the olive oil.

Pure РPure olive oil is made of a blend of virgin olive oil and refined olive oil. Use this type of olive oil to saut̩ rather than in salads.

Virgin – Virgin olive oil is mechanically produced. Most olive oils in the American marketplace are virgin olive oils. This type of oil comes from the second cold pressing of the olives and leftover pulp. Any oils that have been refined, rather than pressed may be labeled as "Pure" or "Original" or "Light."

Storing Olive Oil
Always store olive or any plant oils in a cool, dark place. One of the worst places to store oils is near the stove, microwave or oven. That’s because heat and light can cause the oil to turn rancid, eliminating the many health benefits of olive oil described above. In addition, refrigerating olive oil will cause it to solidify and be unusable unless brought back to room temperature.

To maximize flavor and minimize the damage to your wallet, save rich, extra virgin olive oil for salad dressings, for tossing with grilled vegetables, uncooked sauces, or brushing on breads and lean meats. Shop around and try several brands to find one with the flavor and intensity you prefer. Use lighter oils for sautéing and in places where you do not want a prominent olive oil flavor.

Nutrition Tip
If you want to personalize your olive oil you can simply add a few branches of slightly bruised fresh herbs or a few chili peppers to the bottle. Leave the herbs or chilies immersed in oil for several days, strain and store as you would other olive oil. Use seasoned oil for drizzling over grilled vegetables, lean meats or fish.

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