Healthy Extra Virgin Olive Oil

By: Ron Lagerquist

“So why the rise in popularity? Olive oil is the highest in monounsaturated fat, making it a very stable cooking oil.”

Whether frying, baking, or rubbing on fish, cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil is the only oil we cook with. So what does “extra virgin,” mean? Olives are a soft fruit, which allows their oil to be extracted without the use of chemicals or heating. The first gentle pressing of the olive produces the cleanest quality and richest flavored extra virgin olive oil. Once the first pressing is complete, other harsher methods are used to extract the remaining oil. There was a time when it was recommended that extra virgin olive oil only be used for gourmet applications like seasoned bread dipping, and the lighter, cheaper second or third pressed oil used for cooking. But olive oil’s rise to popularity has resulted in first pressed olive oil coming down in price. I recommend you only consume extra virgin olive oil from a reputable brand.

So why is extra virgin olive oil so popular?

Olive oil is the highest in monounsaturated fat, making it a very stable cooking oil. Because it is low in essential fatty acids, when heating there will be no production of unwanted trans fats. Studies have shown that olive oil raises good cholesterol (HDL), while controlling the levels of bad cholesterol (LDL). This is a huge benefit in the fight against the number one killer, cardiovascular disease. 

Studies continue to reveal the benefits of this great oil. Just recently, Spanish researchers concluded that olive oil can help in the prevention of colon cancer. Extra virgin olive oil contains greater levels of antioxidants, including vitamin E and phenols. Olive oil plays a protective role in the digestive system, having a healing effect on gastritis and ulcers, and activates the release of bile and pancreatic hormones more effectively than prescription drugs.

A great product that can really reduce the oil used for cooking is a sprayer that can be filled with any type of oil. Simply fill and hand pump until pressurized. We fill ours with olive oil and spray a fine mist on a cast iron pan before frying. Another great application is to spray it over cut potatoes or yams, sprinkle on some seasonings and roast in the oven until brown, turning once. This is a healthy alternative to deep frying and the kids will eat them up. You can buy an oil sprayer just about everywhere now, or check your local health store. They are about ten dollars.

Olive oil does not have to be refrigerated, and is best stored in a sealed dark bottle at around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The olive oil we buy is thoughtfully sold in a tinted bottle.

Like wines, there are many types of olive oil, possessing subtle differences in flavors. We love to try as many as we can, and have even purchased olive oil grown on the Mount of Olives on the east side of Jerusalem. Some of the olive trees there are over 1000 years old. Unlike wine, aging does not enhance taste; flavors peak two to three months after pressing. Shelf life, if stored properly, is a maximum of 15 months.

Related Article: Omega 3 Rich Raw Seeds and Nuts

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