Olive oil falls into two distinctive categories: refined and unrefined. Unrefined oils are pure and organic, while refined oils are treated to remove flaws from the oil to make it more marketable.
Extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) is unrefined oil and the highest-quality olive oil you can purchase, the experts say. There are very specific standards oil has to meet to obtain the label “extra-virgin.” Because of the way extra-virgin olive oil is made, it holds more true olive taste, and it also has a lower level of oleic acid than other olive oil ranges. It also contains more of the natural vitamins and minerals found in whole olives.
According to the standards of the International Olive Council — yes, there is such a body — virgin olive oil has a higher level of oleic acid to some extent. It also has a slightly less concentrated flavor than extra-virgin olive oil.
An olive oil expert, Dr. Richard Gawel, stated, “Refined oils have minute or no olive aroma, flavor, or color — what they have gets there by the means of blending in a few percent of an extra-virgin oil. They also ensure no bitterness.” (By the way, you can follow him on Twitter via @oiloilguy, if you would like to learn more.)
Parameters such as the area of production, altitude, climate, fruit variety, and stage of maturity of the fruit greatly affect the fatty acid composition of extra virgin olive oil. Oils of the highest quality can be produced from both manual and mechanical harvesting, provided that the minimum precautions are taken to avoid damage to the fruit and that processing in the mill is quick.
And that brings us to the benefits of all of this anyway with the following as just some of the benefits of using extra virgin olive oil held by many experts:
- Beneficial for heart related diseases. Heart disease is the number one reason of premature death worldwide. The active compounds present in EVOO have powerful cardio-protective properties, it is thought, helping to lower blood pressure and preventing atherosclerosis — or hardening of the arteries.
- Lowers the risk of Type II diabetes. Around the globe, millions of people are thought to have type II diabetes. Type II diabetes is characterized by the abridged effectiveness of insulin, the hormone that moves glucose (sugar) out of the blood and into cells to be used as energy. It is also thought that the phenolic compounds existing in EVOO aid in glucose metabolism and increase the sensitivity and effectiveness of insulin.
- Increases lifespan. Some research has shown that people with the highest olive oil intake were far less likely to die early compared to those consuming the least amount of olive oil. It makes sense that two of the places where people live the longest, such as Icaria and Sardinia inhabitants, eat a diet rich in EVOO. Observational studies consistently show that those who eat a diet rich in EVOO Oil have a tendency to live longer.
- A healthy option for your brain. Olive oil could possibly reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and age-related dementia. One study compared an EVOO-enhanced Mediterranean diet with a standard low-fat diet and found those on the EVOO diet experienced less cognitive decline, meaning loss of brain function and memory, after a six-and-one-half year follow up exam.
- May protect you against strokes. One French study that compared olive oil use and stroke incidence stated people who consumed the highest amounts of olive oil had a 41% lower risk of stroke. These outcomes make sense because people who use olive oil will likely be replacing other less “heart healthy fats” in their diet. Combining this with the high antioxidant and monounsaturated fat content in EVOO makes it clear why it has a favorable impact on cardiovascular health.
So, look on the label next time you are at the grocery store. Be sure you are using Extra Virgin Olive Oil in your next recipes made at home. It will not only improve taste, but may improve your health as well!