There are lots of good reasons to stock your pantry with this product.
For a very long time this has been the most commonly used oil in the Mediterranean (as much as 25 to 40 percent of calories consumed in this region come from olive oil), extra-virgin olive oil’s healthful properties come from rich levels of monounsaturated fat, which promote "good" cholesterol, as well as abundant polyphenols, powerful antioxidants that may help prevent cardiovascular disease and lower blood pressure.
But when confronted with dozens of olive oils at the grocery store, labeled with terms like "cold-pressed" and "unfiltered" on their labels, and priced from $5 to $50, what’s the quality-minded, health-conscious grocery shopper, like us to do?
Let's delve into this.
What the Labels Mean
• Extra-virgin and virgin olive oils are processed by crushing olives into a mash, which is pressed to extract the oil (this is called the first press) without the use of heat (called cold pressing).
Extra-virgin oils are of higher quality, as the olives used to make them are processed within 24 hours of picking, the longer olives go between picking and processing, the higher their free fatty acid content (extra-virgin olive oil can have up to 0.8 percent, virgin oils 2 percent).
Extra-virgin oils also have more polyphenols than virgin oils.
• Oils can be filtered, or not.
Unfiltered oils have tiny particles of olive flesh in them, which reduces shelf life, and may appear cloudy if those particles haven’t settled at the bottom of the bottle.
• Pure olive-oil or simply olive-oil are below extra-virgin and virgin standards and are heavily processed to remove off flavors and aromas.
Though the oil still is a source of monounsaturated fat, its been stripped of healthful polyphenols.
• "Light", "lite" and "extra-light" are purely marketing terms used on highly refined oils that refer to mild flavor and/or color, not reduced calorie content.
• "Product of Italy" means the oil was processed in Italy, not necessarily that the olives were grown there.
• You can find oils that use solely Italian olives, or olives from Greece or California.
Often made from olives from single estates or particular growing regions, these high-quality artisan oils have more distinct flavors—and are more expensive.
When seeking out these oils, look for seals and designations as helpful indications of quality.
Denominazione d’Origine Protetta (DOP) in Italy, Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) in France and Denomination of Origin (DOP) throughout the European Union (EU) identify products produced, processed and prepared in regions known for expertise in that particular product.
The California Olive-Oil Council (COOC) and International Olive Council (IOC) certify and give their mark to quality extra-virgin olive oils, from California and the EU respectively, based on taste and quality.
General Shopping Tips
Know that not all olive-oil is created equally.
Be sure you know what you're buying and "yes", the bottle color does matter.
• Light exposure causes the oil to become rancid and lose its healthful properties, buy extra-virgin olive-oil in dark glass bottles or metal cans and store it in a cool, dark place.
• Bottling and/or expiration dates provide guidance on how long the oil will keep.
• If you don’t use extra-virgin olive-oil regularly, buy small bottles as polyphenols and flavor can diminish as the oil is exposed to air.
True olive oil should be kept cool so bottles will be darker in color to extend shelf life.
* Check the label.
In the U.S., states like California, place quality control labels on all bottles of oil produced in that state.
To earn a seal, a taste panel puts it through a rigorous chemical test.
* Where you shop matters.
Olive oil is definitely one of those products you never want to buy generic.
Not all retailers keep a close eye on where they're sourcing their oils, so look for higher quality oils at specialty markets.
When in doubt, check the label yourself to see its origin.
And don't believe everything you read.
The FDA can't catch every bottle that hits store shelves proclaiming to be "Extra virgin" or "cold pressed".
• The color of the oil doesn’t indicate its quality but rather the variety and ripeness of olives used to make it.
If all else fails, try taking a whiff.
True EVOO should smell a little fruity.
What We Like
We like to use cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive-oil for both its healthful properties (we often use it to replace butter or other fats) and its flavor.
Try a herbed variety on popcorn.
Consider keeping two types on hand: a less expensive variety for cooking and an artisanal oil for dipping.
The Smoke Point Controversy
You might have heard that you can’t cook with extra-virgin olive oil because it breaks down when heated, creating harmful substances and destroying its beneficial properties.
But know that ALL oils break down when they're heated to their smoke point or reheated repeatedly.
However, an oil’s smoke point is really a temperature range (olive oil’s is between 365-420°F), not an absolute number because many factors affect the chemical properties of oil.
You can safely and healthfully cook with any oil by not heating it until it’s smoking, to get your oil hot enough to cook with, just heat it until it shimmers.
Olive Oil Pulp
~ What You Didn't Know ~
While olive-oil in cooking has become synonymous with good health for years, we've found that few people know about the health benefits found in the olive "pulp".
Bet you didn't know about olive pulp.
It's actually the watery portion of the olive that's normally disposed of after the pressing process.
But, olive pulp is brimming with powerful antioxidant polyphenols, which are the rising super foods "stars" of the olive fruit.
And it's these polyphenols that hold the greatest promise for supporting your health, including your joints, heart, and immune system.
In fact, a "dose" of olive pulp a day could be just what your joints need.
But what is olive pulp?
We're all familiar with olive-oil, but surprisingly just 15-20% of the olive fruit itself is used as cooking oil.
And over 50% is juice and pulp, which is where the potent antioxidants, or polyphenols, are found.
And it's these polyphenols that give you a great defense against free-radical damage.
Hydroxytyrosol, the main polyphenol extracted from the olive pulp juice, scores the highest in free radical scavenging activity per gram reported for natural compounds.
In fact, its ORAC rating (a measure of antioxidant power), is amazingly more than five times higher than vitamin-C.
In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, Hidrox (a special patented form of hydroxytyrosol from olive pulp) benefited everyday joint function.
The participants in the study who were given a daily dose of 12 mg. of hydroxytyrosol from Hidrox showed (stats wise) significant improvements in their overall function.
Everyday activities like getting dressed, walking, grasping objects, and reaching were easier for them, than those taking the placebo.
Targeted support for your heart and immune system.
What's amazing about these olive pulp polyphenols is just how many benefits they provide.
Research is showing that these same polyphenols in Hidrox will likely benefit your cardiovascular system, too.
Plus, Hidrox is good for your immune system, and your skin.
Animal studies suggest that Hidrox may reduce the effects of free radicals from UV rays on your skin, and helps to keep your skin normal and healthy.
Now finally, there's a better way to extract the valuable antioxidants from the olive pulp.
Normally, olives are pressed with the pits still in them, which will leave unwanted byproducts along with the antioxidant-rich polyphenols in the remaining juice.
In the past, because it was too difficult to separate the two, olive oil producers disposed of the pulp and along with it all of the valuable polyphenols.
It was literally, like throwing valuable nutrients down the drain.
Fortunately, science has developed a special patented process that removes the olive pit before pressing.
This completely removes the source of those unwanted byproducts, so all you get are the potent, free-radical fighting polyphenols.
We believe that all of us could benefit from taking organic olive oil extract every day.
Just two capsules will give you a full 12 mg. of hydroxytyrosol, the same dosage used in the studies.
Taking organic olive extract is one of the simplest, easiest, and least expensive ways to benefit your joints, heart and overall health.
**** Olive-Oil Update
We already know it's good for our heart, because it's rich in monounsaturated fats.
But it also improves your insulin sensitivity!
The effect is so strong in fact that it even occurs in non-diabetics...even healthy teenagers!
Boosting insulin sensitivity is so important to preventing and controlling diabetes that many people take manufactured drugs to do the job.
Herbed Extra-Virgin Olive-Oil
Serve with sliced baguette for dipping or as suggested earlier, on your popcorn.
Servings: about 1/4 c.
Total Time: 5 minutes
Easy to Prepare
Health: Low Carbohydrate, Low Cholesterol
3 Tbs. fresh chopped herbs (such as thyme, rosemary, marjoram or chives)
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive-oil
1: Combine herbs, salt and oil in a small bowl.
And that's pretty much all you have to do.
Calories - 511
Carbohydrates - 1 g.
Fat - 56 g.
Saturated Fat - 8 g.
Monounsaturated Fat - 43 g.
Protein - 0 g.
Cholesterol - 0 mg.
Dietary Fiber - 0 mg.
Potassium - 49 mg.
Sodium - 1181 mg.
Nutrition Bonus ~ What you get: Heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.Tweet
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