Extra Virgin Olive Oil has a lot of health benefits. Here are some ways to use it in a way that keeps its nutritive benefits intact.
How to choose extra virgin olive oil, benefits of extra virgin olive oil and how to use extra virgin olive oil
Given how our supermarket shelves are flooded with olive oil brands, there is this eternal confusion between Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Pure Olive Oil, Light Olive Oil and so many other variants. To simplify this matter, it is good to know that extra virgin olive oil is the first round of oil pressed out of olives and this has the best flavour and most health benefits, as compared to the subsequent extractions of oil. That’s the reason it is also the most expensive variant of olive oil.
A good extra virgin olive oil brand will be dark golden in colour, have a lovely grassy aroma to it and will be sold in a tinted glass bottle. This oil is unrefined, retains the flavour of olives and has the least free oleic acid content (<1%). The next in line is virgin olive oil, similar to extra virgin but has an oleic acid content of >1%, a less intense colour and flavour. Virgin olive oils are rarely sold in the supermarkets.
What is sold as PURE Olive Oil or just ‘Olive Oil’ is usually a blend of virgin olive oil and refined olive oil, thereby available at a lesser cost (oleic acid content is 3-4%). This blend is also suited to cooking at low temperatures, generally an all-purpose oil. The other commonly sold variant is a ‘Light Olive Oil’ that is pale yellow like any other refined vegetable oil. This retains very few health properties or antioxidants. The LIGHT word in this term can be misleading. It stands for the light colour and not for a reduced calorie oil. The calories in Light Olive Oil are same as that of any other oil.
Benefits of using Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
- Flavour Plus! – There’s something about the rich colour and flavour of EVOO, that none of the other olive oils come close, especially when you eat it raw in salads. Just by itself it adds a boost of freshness and flavour, only to be enhanced by the other ingredients you add to it.
- A certain component in EVOO called hydroxytyrosol prevents oxidation in the lining of the blood vessels, thereby protecting cardiovascular health.
- The larger proportion of monounsaturated fats in olive oil helps lower bad cholesterol and it is also said to reduce blood pressure.
- EVOO is said to possess a higher dose of antioxidants (phytonutrients) than non-virgin olive oils, thereby having more potent anti-inflammatory properties.
- EVOO is a good source of vitamin E, which is a potent antioxidant by itself.
As EVOO is heat sensitive, in order to get the full range of nutrients, it is best had in raw form. Here are some of the best ways to include more EVOO in your diet such that you get the maximum health benefits.
1. SALAD DRESSINGS
Check my video on how to make an easy Italian Salad Dressing. Add Balsamic Vinegar instead of lemon juice and you get a Balsamic Vinaigrette.
Pestos are a great way to consume raw EVOO. Try the classic Italian basil pesto with basil, EVOO, garlic and pine nuts or try this uniquely Sicilian version below.
A drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil over any hummus adds lots of flavour to the hummus.
4. Topped on sauteed vegetables – Since it is best not to heat EVOO, toss the vegetables in regular cooking oil with garlic and herbs and just before serving, toss them in some raw EVOO for flavour and health benefits.
5. Potato salad tossed in EVOO – Typically potato salads are tossed in mayo and mustard. Make a healthier version by tossed in garlic and herb infused EVOO. Finely chopped dill or parsley make this a delicious tasting salad.
6. Herbed Rice – Cooked and fluffed up rice tossed with lots of finely chopped herbs and EVOO, make a simple and quick rice dish to go with sauteed vegetables or any other main course dish.
7. Flavoured EVOO – Make your own flavoured EVOO to use in salad dressings for a flavour boost – such as chili / lemon zest / garlic flavoured EVOO. These also make lovely gourmet gifts for food loving friends.
Tips to store extra virgin olive oil
- EVOO is both light and heat sensitive. That’s the reason good quality EVOO is sold in tinted glass bottles.
- With time, the level of healthy antioxidants start deteriorating, so buy smaller bottles and use them within 3-4 months.
- EVOO has a tendency to go rancid, so it needs to be stored in a cool dry place away from light to preserve the flavour. Don’t place a big bottle of EVOO near the hob as the heat from the flame may deteriorate the quality of oil.
- Pouring a small quantity in a bottle for daily use and storing the rest in the fridge prolongs its life as the bigger bottle is not opened repeatedly and exposed to air.
- EVOO turns a bit cloudy in the fridge but will get back to normal on reaching room temperature.
This post is in collaboration with Phalada Agro – the product used is their Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Coming up in the next post are two homemade body scrubs made using extra virgin olive oil and a bunch of other ingredients easily available at home. Stay tuned 🙂