HomeHealthArchivesAug 2008



All About Olive Oil

There's nothing confusing about the benefits of olive oil-it's tasty, loaded with good fat (monounsaturated), and known to help lower bad cholesterol. However, when you go to the store to buy a bottle of this liquid gold, you may be bombarded with a variety of types and colors. The type of olive oil we recommend is extra virgin olive oil.

Olive oils do not differ in the types or amount of fats they contain. The differences lie mainly in the taste and aroma. Here's the breakdown:

Extra Virgin Olive Oil-This is the oil we recommend. It's the highest quality oil, with the lowest acidity of one percent or less. With this type of oil, you need only a small amount to enjoy the flavor. Chefs often use it on salads, with bread, or as a garnish for soups and stews. Because of its low smoking temperature, this oil should not be used in frying- though, of course, you should not be frying your foods on the South Beach Diet, anyway!

Virgin Olive Oil-An intermediate oil with an acidity of between one and three percent. Since you need more of it to enjoy the flavor, this oil may not be your best choice if you are watching your weight.

Ordinary Virgin Olive Oil-This one's not commonly found in American supermarkets, but if you come across it someday you should know it's one of the lowest quality oils (with a 3.3 percent acidity). Not great for most cooking, but still okay for frying.

Light Olive Oil-This is simply a designation used by companies to market a less flavorful, more acidic type of oil to diet-conscious Americans. The term "light" means lighter in color and fragrance, not less fat or calories. These oils are generally between 90 and 95 percent refined olive oil and 5 to 10 percent virgin olive oil. They have had their color, taste, and fragrance removed by the refining (chemical, usually Hexane, and steam) process. This process also destroys the phytochemicals and antioxidants in the oil.