Olive oil, a traditional Mediterranean invention, is used throughout the world, but especially, in the Mediterranean countries. The oil commonly used in cooking, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and soaps. Olive oil has many great health benefits, such as high levels of monounsaturated fats, associated with lower risk of coronary heart diseases. Olive oil has significant effects on cholesterol regulation and LDL cholesterol oxidation, and that it combines anti-inflammatory, anti-thrombotic, anti-hypertensive, and vasodilatory effects on humans’ health.
Types of olive oil
Olive oil is made from the olive fruit, preserving the taste, aroma, vitamins and other healthy compounds of the fruit. Traditionally, olive oil is extracted by pressing and crushing olives. However, different processes may also be involved in a production of olive oil. Types of olive oil differ depending on the amount and kind of processing involved. There are four major types of olive oil:
- Extra virgin oil – it is the best and the least processed kind of olive oil. This kind of oil is produces from the first pressing of the oil.
- Virgin oil – oil extracted from the second pressing.
- Pure oil – oil that was filtered and refined in the process of production. Most commonly, pure oil is oil made by adding a small percentage of extra virgin oil to refined olive oil. It is a low quality product.
- Extra light – oil that has been heavily processed and preserves just a mild olive flavor. Light oil is unregulated by any kind of certification organizations and there is no normative about the quantity of olive oil contained in light oils.
Choosing and using the right kind of oil
Extra virgin olive oil is healthiest and tastiest kind of oil. For Italians, for example, olive oil is a condiment, and not oil. Italians are adding olive oil at the end of the cooking process, to preserve its characteristic taste and health benefits. Heat breaks down compounds of the olive oil and affects the way it tastes. High quality extra virgin oil, derived from the first pressing of the olives, is extracted without using heat so that the natural properties of olive are preserved. This cold pressed oil is the closest to its natural state as it is possible. Furthermore, it is important to choose oils that are packed in dark bottles. That is the best way to avoid exposure to light and heat.