Olive oil has been the hallmark of the healthy Mediterranean Diet for over 2,500 years. It adds vibrant ﬂavors and textures to Mediterranean foods and is high in healthy, monounsaturated fats along with antioxidants. Simply drizzle it on cooked ﬁsh or vegetables, or use it as a dip for bread. Vegetables roasted, grilled, or sautéed in olive oil are simply tastier – so you’ll ﬁnd yourself eating more of them!
Olive Oil Flavors
Olives are the fruit of the olive tree. Soon after being picked, they’re cleaned in a water bath and then crushed into a mash. This mash has three unique parts: olive solids, olive water, and olive oil. First, the olive solids are separated. Next, the olive water and oil are quickly separated to keep the olive water from changing the oil’s taste and odor. Finally, the oil is bottled.
The best quality olive oils are obtained from the ﬁrst pressing of the olives and are “cold pressed.” This means they’re not heated during the pressing process. Heating produces larger amounts of oil, but decreases important ﬂavor and healthy compounds, including ﬂavenols and polyphenols, abundant in extra-virgin olive oil.
Olive Oil Grades
Olive oil is graded on taste, acidity level, and processing method. The table below lists the main types of olive oil in order of decreasing quality.
|Extra Virgin||Highest quality oil made from ﬁrst pressing with no heat or chemicals||Superior||Dips, salads and drizzled on ﬁsh|
|Virgin||Lacks perfect taste of extra-virgin, but not reﬁned||Good||Frying, grilling and roasting|
|Olive||Blend of virgin and reﬁned (chemically treated) oils||Lacks Flavor||When ﬂavor is not needed|
|Light||The word “light” means the oil has been reﬁned, not that it is lower fat.||Lacks Flavor||When ﬂavor is not needed|
|Pomace||Lowest quality made by blending virgin and pomace||Lacks Flavor||Frying or cooking|
Buying and Storing Olive Oil
The four foes of olive oil are age, heat, air, and light. When you buy olive oil, make sure it is no more than 18 months old. (Look at the bottling date on the label.) At home, store olive oil in a cool, dark place.
Cooking with Olive Oil
There’s no better way to bring out the ﬂavor of vegetables and seafood than sautéing. It’s an easy, healthy way to prepare your favorite dishes. To sauté, pour olive oil into a cold skillet or sauté pan and heat over low heat. When the oil is heated through, add the food item. Stir, toss, or turn until cooked and enjoy!
|1 tsp||¾ tsp|
|2 tsp||1 ½ tsp|
|1 Tbsp||2 ¼ tsp|
|2 Tbsp||1 ½ Tbsp|
|¼ cup||3 Tbsp|
|⅓ cup||¼ cup|
|½ cup||¼ cup +
|⅔ cup||½ cup|
|¾ cup||½ cup +
|1 cup||¾ cup|
Baking with olive oil, instead of butter, cuts the amount of cholesterol and saturated fat in your favorite recipes.
Olive oil produces lighter-tasting breads, brownies, biscotti, and cakes. Even more good news – you need less olive oil than butter when baking! See chart on right.
Frying in olive oil leaves food less greasy, and crunchier, than frying in other fats. Also, foods fried in olive oil have less cholesterol and saturated fat than foods fried in most other fats. Here are some tips when frying with olive oil:
- Deep fry at 350 to 365 ºF, and heat the oil slowly.
- Use enough oil to properly cover foods.
- Avoid putting too much food in the oil at once.
- Place food on wire racks after cooking to drain excess fat
For 12 Great Ways to Use Olive Oil, click here