There’s a lot of confusion around the best cooking oilsthat you should use for your health. The supermarket shelves are stuffed with a huge variety of different kind of oils and within those too there different types. You have virgin oils, extra-virgin oils, cold-pressed oils and even blended oils! The word extra-virgin refers to ‘fine grade’ oil. There are different varieties of olive oil that are set apart not by the type of olive that is used, but the process used to extract the oil.
What is extra virgin olive oil?
Extra virgin olive oil is obtained by crushing olives and extracting the fresh juice. It is unrefined and the highest-quality olive oil you can buy. Because of the way extra-virgin olive oil is made, it retains the true flavour of olives, and has a lower level of oleic acid than the other varieties. It has a higher concentration of natural vitamins and minerals found in olives.
According to Consultant Nutritionist, Dr. Rupali Dutta, “Extra virgin olive oil is the first oil that comes out of cold pressing the olives. It has been subjected to zero processing, and has no additives which makes it bright green in colour and has a strong olive flavor. It also contains only 1% of Oleic Acid and is able to retain all its antioxidants. Regular olive oil, on the other hand, is commercially produced and processed just like any other oil. It contains at least 3-4% of Oleic Acid.”
Ms. Ritika Sammadar, Consultant Nutritionist at Max Super Speciality Hospital in New Delhi, agrees, “Extra Virgin Oil is the clearest form of oil and is extremely healthy as it is rich in Vitamin B. There is no heat applied during its extraction nor are are any chemicals used in the process, thus the oil is pure and unrefined. The oil usually has a pungent smell because it is crude and pure.”
How to use extra virgin olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil has a subtle golden-green hue with a light peppery flavour. It has a lower smoke point than many other oils, which means it burns easily at a lower temperature. Therefore, it may not be suited for high heat cooking. Dr. Rupali Datta, advises, “It is better to use extra virgin olive oil only for raw or cold cooking. Indian cooking needs are not suited to substitute this oil for our regular vegetable oil. You can use it in salads, as dressings, for making breads and dips. Light sauteing can also be done using extra virgin olive oil.”
Here are six wonderful health benefits of adding extra virgin olive oil to your daily diet.
1. Full of good fats
Extra virgin olive oil has high a percentage of omega fats (polyunsaturated fats that are good for your heart) along with monounsaturated fats. Delhi-based Dietitian, Dr. Deepali Solanki, shares, “Extra Virgin Olive Oil has a lot of monounsaturated fatty acids, unlike other oils which have a lot of saturated fat acids. It can be consumed in the same amount like any other oil. The recommended amount is half a liter per person per month.”
2. Heart friendly
According to the US FDA, having two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil daily may reduce the risk of heart disease, due to its monounsaturated fat content. Some of the antioxidants present in extra virgin olive oil like oleocanthal and oleuropein are known for their anti-inflammatory action and help in reducing the levels of bad cholesterolwhich can be a risk factor for heart disease.
3. Rich in antioxidants
The biggest health benefit of consuming extra virgin olive oil lies in its powerful antioxidant qualities. Extra virgin olive oil contains polyphenols which act as antioxidants, reducing the oxidative stress throughout your body. Antioxidants also help in promoting and strengthening your immune system making your body more resistant to infections and inflammation.
4. Helps in controlling diabetes
People with diabetes are often advised to follow a diet rich in fiber from fruits and vegetables and monounsaturated fats instead of saturated fats and carbohydrates. A lot of studies show that having extra virgin olive oil as part of a balanced diet can help regulate blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity.
5. Promotes brain health
A small amount of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids present in extra virgin olive oil are essential for brain health. Scientifically, it has been seen that consumption of extra virgin olive oil may help in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. A recent study published in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology, shows that extra virgin olive olive may help protect the brain tissue against toxic substances that can cause Alzheimer’s disease.
6. Aids weight loss
Extra virgin olive oil helps in supporting your weight loss goals effectively. This is because of the satiating power of the fatty acids found in olive oil. This means that the regular consumption of extra virgin olive oil leads to a greater feeling of fullness. Extra virgin olive oil does contain calories but it is a healthier type of fat and is a great alternative to the others like butter or refined oils, especially if you are on a diet. In Greece, which consumes more olive oil than any other country, it is traditional to drink half a cup of extra virgin olive oil with lime water every morning to stay slim, prevent hunger pangs and increase longevity. You must consult a nutritionist to help you add extra virgin olive oil to your weight loss diet.
Extra virgin olive oil is also naturally rich in Vitamin E and Vitamin A that makes it great for your skin. You can rub some oil on your face and see the difference. It penetrates deep into the skin, moisture it as well as adds a protective shield.