With so many agencies promoting the use of different vegetable oils, ranging from canola, to safflower, to olive oil, it can be very difficult to know which one to choose, particularly if you’re worried about the dietary impact on your health.
This isn’t made any easier as you browse the relevant section of your local supermarket.
I have to say I too am confused at times, and I feel that manufacturers labeling often leaves a lot to be desired, and adds to my confusion.
I want to take a look at some of the popular, and not so well know oils in more detail. There are a few I know very little about, and I’m looking forward to digging deeper on these.
But first of all, we’ll take a look at olive oil.
Health Benefits Of Olive Oil
Olive oil contains monounsaturated fat, which can help to lower our risk of heart disease, by helping to reduce the total, and LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) levels in the blood.
It is important to remember, however, that all oils are high in calories, and therefore the greatest benefit comes by substituting olive oil for saturated fat sources in your diet, rather than simply adding more of the healthier oil into your diet.
A tablespoon of olive oil contains 120kcals, and 14g of fat.
77 percent of the fat in olive oil is monounsaturated, and 9 percent is polyunsaturated fat. Virgin olive oils also contain the antioxidants beta-carotene and vitamin E, along with other beneficial components.
Understanding Labeling Terms
As I’ve said, some of the commonly used labeling terminology can be confusing. So, here is a closer look at what those claims really mean.
1. Extra-virgin olive oil
This oil comes from the first pressing of the olives, there can be no refined oil added to it.
It has a low boiling/burning point, making it a poor choice for cooking. Heating olive oil will evaporate the alcohols and esters, which make up its taste and fragrance.
I would recommend choosing a cold pressed extra-virgin olive oil for dipping with bread, or adding to salads and pasta (after cooking).
The chemistry of a cold pressed oil is not altered during the extraction, and therefore the great olive oil flavour is retained.
2. Virgin olive oil
This usually comes from the second press. Again, no refined oil can be added to this oil.
3. Pure olive oil
This oil is usually a blend of refined olive oil, and one of the above two categories of virgin olive oil.
The term ‘pure’ means very little, as 100 percent pure olive oil is often the lowest quality available in retail stores.
4. Olive oil
Is a blend of virgin oil and refined oil. It commonly lacks a strong flavour.
5. Light olive oil
This actually means refined olive oil. The term ‘light’ merely refers to the taste and color.
Not to be confused with lighter in calories, as the oil has the same calorie and fat content as other oils.
Cooking With Olive Oil
If you want to fry, bake, or saute on high heat, I don’t recommend that you use olive oil.
It is best used for salad dressings, or added to food after it has been cooked, as this will retain it’s flavor and health properties.
What oils do you use in cooking?