How To Choose Olive Oil
Olive oil is known as the best monounsaturated oil that promotes heart health. It is used universally as a popular cooking oil, especially Western dishes, and adding to salads to enhance that fruity taste.
All olive oils are not the same. You should know which one you should purchase, from a health point of view.
With no hesitation you should go for the Extra Virgin oil, more expensive than the other extracts, but the health qualities are unquestionable. It has abundant polyphenols, powerful antioxidants for good health and prevents cardiovascular disease.
The premium brands are the unprocessed, cold pressed oils. They are obtained by crushing ripe olives into a mash and the first cold press is referred to as ‘Extra Virgin oil’. The best oils are produced when the picked olives are crushed within 24 hours of picking. If prolonged beyond this period the olives accumulate more free fatty acids. Extra virgin oil contains up to 0.8 per cent, whilst virgin oils contain 2 per cent or more. When pressed within 24 hours the content of polyphenols seems to be much higher.
The oil goes through a process of filtration. Un-filtrated oil contains sediments which settle down at the bottom. This oil has a very short shelf-life.
Pure olive oil is heavily processed and heat compressed which removes the good flavours and aromas. The essential polyphenols seem to be stripped off from this pure oil. This oil though used for cooking as healthy oil, has its oil value only, with no nutrients and antioxidants.
So when you chose olive oil, avoid these processed oils, though mono-unsaturated, has lost its healthy polyphenols.
If you see on the bottle ‘Product of Italy’ it may mean only processed in Italy, not necessarily grown in Italy. If you choose carefully, you could choose oils processed in a particular estate or growing region, but they seem to be more expensive. Look for seals and designations when you choose these high quality oils.
Light exposure causes the oil to become stale (rancid), undergoing oxidation and lose its health properties. Keep your oils in the fridge, if you can find the space, or in a dark cupboard. You may relax this rule when it comes to the expensive virgin oils as they are protected being sold in dark bottles.
The colour of the oil does not seem to indicate the quality, depends on the ripeness of the olive.
Olive oil is a major component in the Mediterranean diet. Evidence shows that Mediterranean populations have reduced risk for certain chronic diseases and extended life expectancy compared with other populations in the world, despite their high dietary fat intake, which is usually in excess of 30 per cent of their total energy intake.
Clinical studies focusing on olive oil show that consumption of olive oil may reduce cardiovascular risk factors by decreasing plasma triglycerides, total and low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, platelet activation, inflammation and oxidative damage, and increase high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and antioxidant status.
Studies have also shown that olive oil consumption may have a protective role on breast, colon, lung, ovarian and skin cancer development. Compounds specific to olive oil, known as ply-phenols, seem to possess free radical-scavenging properties and so may be able to reduce oxidative damage to DNA.
A number of studies have also shown that olive oil may have additional beneficial effects on blood pressure, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis and immune function.
(Some Ref: Better Health channel: WebMD Food & Recipe)