How often have you stood in front of the rows of olive oil in a supermarket and felt like a lost child who doesn’t know which way to go? You are not alone. With more than a half a dozen varieties available, it’s easy to be at a loss for what to pick and for what purpose. But with the Mediterranean diet said to be the best for weight loss, it’s important to know the different variants.
We make life easier for you by helping break down this superfood into 5 grades that are mostly used for different types of cooking. This will ensure that you never use the olive oil meant for drizzling on your salad to make chicken curry!
EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
The greenish golden or bright green extra virgin olive oil is the queen grade of all and also the most flavourful. It is made from first pressing the olives (“cold” press or physically pressing the olives rather than extracting the oil with heat or chemicals) and has less than 1 percent acidity. Avoid cooking with extra virgin olive oil as the high heat inhibits its nutritional value, flavour and aroma. Light and heat can degrade its flavour, making it turn rancid quite quickly, so always store in a cool, dark place.
Best for Use as a condiment drizzled over fish, meat, steamed vegetables or baked potatoes. It is also great for salad dressings, as a bread dipper and as the base for mayonnaise and uncooked sauces.
VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
Virgin olive oil comes from further pressings or often from the first pressing. However, it is “virgin” rather than “extra virgin” because its acid level falls between 1 and 3.3 percent. It is obtained from olives using solely mechanical or other physical means and is of slightly inferior quality than the extra virgin.
Best for Good for low temperature cooking such as sautéing and baking and if you must, in salads as well. Many use virgin olive oil for body and hair massages!
PURE OLIVE OIL
Pure olive oil which has 3.3 percent acidity or less. This oil contains refined olive oil and is usually not “cold pressed”, but extracted with heat or chemicals. It has a much milder flavour and is more stable which makes it effective cooking oil.
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Best for Baking and other applications where you don’t want a strong olive flavour.
REFINED OLIVE OIL
A far cheaper option, refined olive oil is made from refining virgin olive oil. It is considered inferior to the other varieties and does not have the characteristic flavour, taste or aroma of the pure olive oil.
Best for Cooking purposes but not for salads due to its lack of taste and aroma.
When all the oil and water is extracted from olives, the residue left can be extracted to make pomace oil. This oil carries none of the taste, nutrition and aromas of extra virgin olive oil and is usually blended with virgin olive oil to impart some of the benefits of olive oil.
Best for Olive pomace oil is good for high-heat cooking such as frying pooris and other Indian-style dishes.