Extra virgin olive oil is the juice of the olives and is one of the healthiest oils available. This invaluable ingredient has gained its place in your kitchen and your beauty shelf.
Olive oil is made out of olives and contains fatty acids and antioxidants. This is extremely important, as antioxidants help fight free radicals and undo cell damage and are great against inflammation. There is also strong evidence suggesting that it can help prevent chronic diseases.
Healthy fats are essential to absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, and olive oil is rich in healthy monosaturated fatty acids –far more beneficial than saturated trans fats. However, olive oil is a high source of calories, so moderation here is key –a teaspoon a day will do the trick.
Which type should we consume?
The way oil is produced affects greatly its nutritional value. Non-virgin olive oil is a blend of processed oils and cold-pressed oils cleaned by chemicals or heat, thus it loses many of its benefits.
Virgin olive oil is produced by grinding olives into a paste and pressing them, it is not heated or altered by any chemicals –it is the result of the second pressing of the olives. The first press of the olives is called extra virgin olive oil and it contains even more nutrients. So when it comes down to choosing a type, always go for extra-virgin olive oil.
Here are three keys you should know to distinguish Extra Virgin Olive Oil from other olive oils.
This is the fundamental point. If the oil is high quality, it will be on the label of the bottle. A good Extra Virgin has less than 0.5% acidity
2. Cold pressing
This is an aspect you can also find on the label, in good oils. The pressing of the olive must be cold and by mechanical processes. Some manufacturers "heat up" the olives so that the heat helps them to give more oil. This is not good practice.
3. Extra Virgin
The denomination "Extra Virgin" is certified in oficial food laboratories so that oil meets certain standards. If it says Extra Virgin on the label, it is almost certainly so and has passed the quality controls. If it doesn't, be suspicious.
Should we use it for cooking?
When oil gets above the smoke point it burns, smokes and changes its flavor, loses nutrients and releases free radicals. As olive oil has a lower smoke point, it is best for low and medium-heat cooking.
8 Scientifically proved benefits of olive oil
1. It extends your lifespan
The Mediterranean diet contains a higher proportion of fat than others, but approximately 2 thirds of the vegetable fat come from olive oil. Some studies have shown that olive oil may reduce mortality by a quarter.
2. It reduces blood pressure and promotes heart health
Polyphenols, present in olive oil, can reduce blood pressure and improves the function of the endothelium –the lining of the blood vessels and the heart. It has also proved to promote heart health and reduce the chances of heart attacks and strokes.
3. Diabetes reduction and weight management
People who follow a Mediterranean diet have significantly fewer chances of developing diabetes and gain weight.
4. It helps ward off dementia
Extra virgin olive oil reduces the formation of beta-amyloid plaques and tangles in the brain that can cause Alzheimer's.
5. It protects memory and cognition
Olive oil or nuts improve cognition and thought processing in general.
6. It has anti-inflammatory effects
Phenols –antioxidant components– may have an anti-inflammatory effect when you include extra virgin olive oil in your regular diet.
7. Wound healing
Fatty acids in olive oil reduce inflammation, and this is a way of speeding up wound healing processes –do not apply it to the affected area, the process occurs through ingestion.
8. Hair moisturizers
Olive oil can protect your hair due to its ability to repel water and prevent drying –as it prevents water from moving out of the hair.