Get the best of olive oils

Olive oil

As regular readers will no doubt remember, this column spoke about the benefits of olive oil two weeks ago. Here, we will take a look at the different types of olive oils and which ones are best for us.

Olive oil is different from other types of oil due to high concentrations of polyphenols, richness in MUFA and vitamin E. These give it several health benefits like lowering risk disease, diabetes, obesity, etc. Polyphenols also impart special benefits to skin and hair. Health benefits of olive oil rise with increasing polyphenol content.

Olive oil varieties include extra-virgin, virgin, pure (also called refined or light) and pomace.

Extra-virgin is the highest quality of olive oil. This oil has the highest polyphenol content. Its colour varies from dark green to dark yellow, depending on the variety of olives. It may be used for salads and cooking. Extra-virgin oil must conform to International Olive Oil Council (IOOC) standards.

Virgin olive oil, with slightly lower polyphenol levels, is not bound by strict guidelines but follows the same extraction process. It may be used for salads and cooking.

Pure or refined olive oil is obtained by refining virgin olive oils that have some taste defects, which are eliminated after refining. It is low on polyphenols and lacks taste or odour. It is sold blended with some percentage of extra-virgin olive oil. It can be used for frying and cooking.

Pomace or olive seed oil is extracted from the seed pulp or paste that is left over after pressing. It is blended with a little extra-virgin olive oil for taste and flavour. It has low level of nutrients and polyphenols, and is cheaper.

So the next time you pick-up olive oil, make sure you make the best choice, rich in polyphenols. Extra virgin olive oil and virgin olive oil packed in dark glass bottles are ideal choices. For prolonged hot summers, refrigeration may be desirable.

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