Spending my summer vacations in Puglia, Italy’s largest olive oil producing region, many of my fondest memories are centered around olive oil. Olive oil benefits have been long heralded by Italians, including my family. On warm Italian summer nights, we’d sit out on the balcony and enjoy a family meal dining al fresco. There was always one guest that had a place reserved at our Italian table: a large old bottle of our homemade olive oil.
When I moved abroad, our family’s Olive oil was no longer omnipresent. This ignited my search for the best extra virgin olive oil available outside of Italy. My research became my passion, leading me down the path to becoming an Olive Oil Expert. Taking courses, learning about olive oil benefits, sampling and eventually selling some of the best extra virgin olive oil to top restaurants and gourmet shops in Canada. Those days you could find me carrying a large black bag filled with all the fresh extra virgin olive oil samples. A bag I guarded like it was gold.
During this time I tasted hundreds of olive oils. Learning there is no such thing as “The best olive oil”. However, there are a few important things that will help you decide what olive oil is best:
- Food Pairing
- Personal Taste
Pro-tip #1: Always check the date. A freshly pressed olive oil will always taste better than an older one. Similarly to a piece of fruit. It’s also just one of the many seasons you’ll love tasting “Olio Nuovo” (new oil) during wine tastings on your tour with us in October & late fall.
Prot-tip #2: Just like a fine wine your olive oil also needs to be paired with the dish you’re eating. For example, if you’re eating fish you’ll want to use an olive oil that is more delicate rather than spicy.
HOW EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL IS MADE
Extra Virgin Olive Oil is made by pressing the olives with granite stones after the olives have been thoroughly washed.
This process produces three products:
- Pomace Oil (not used for food production but instead as a natural fuel)
- Pulp (the most important product, this is what is used to make extra virgin olive oil)
The pulp is then placed into a machine that, using centrifugal force, separates the oil completely from all other solid residuals. Only after this step the extra virgin olive oil is then either stored in stainless steel tanks to protect from oxidation or bottled to go directly to the consumer: You!
This process occurs at temperatures that are always below 27℃ (80℉). The cold press helps maintain the extra virgin olive oil’s natural chemicals (ie. antioxidants) that offer you health benefits . Pressing olive oil at higher temperatures would alter the organic properties of the oil and therefore reduce its health benefits. In fact, by definition to be called an extra virgin olive oil, the oil is always cold extracted. This is an important indication of quality when you’re looking to buy olive oil. Now that you know “extra virgin” is synonymous with cold pressed, you’ll be better equipped to choose what olive oil is best.
Pro-tip: To ensure you’re using olive oil that benefits your health, make sure to choose extra virgin olive oil.
Visiting an olive oil producer (aka Frantoio) always been on your bucket list?
Guess what?! You’re in the right place! You can visit a local family-run olive producer on Italy Undiscovered & Italy’s Epicurean Journey.
OLIVE OIL BENEFITS FOR YOUR HEALTH
When it comes to super foods, Extra virgin olive oil is arguably one of the top choices. Its benefits are numerous and proven to be a key part of nutrition for mediterrenean populations. Olive Oil contains oleocanthal, a substance with a very strong anti-inflammatory action that is crucial to the benefits olive oil lends to your health. It is an excellent ally for the skin, as olive oil benefits you by improving the absorption of vitamin A and E. Another way Olive oil benefits you is its positive effect on your cholesterol. Olive oil increases HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) while reducing LDL (ie. bad cholesterol). In doing so olive oil benefits your overall cardiovascular health. Extra virgin olive oil also increases bioavailability of vitamin D and K2, allowing better absorption of calcium and magnesium from your diet, and therefore olive oil benefits your bones. Last but not least olive oil benefits your memory process! If you have ever tasted a slightly spicy olive oil you might already be familiar with the compound that helps your memory. These spicy memory helpers are called polyphenols.
#1 MYTH ABOUT THE OLIVE OIL SMOKE POINT YOU’RE STILL BELIEVING (& MORE)
Extra Virgin Olive oil is one of the best vegetable oils that can be used in your kitchen. It’s great for simply dressing up a salad and putting the finishing touches on almost any plate. But its versatility extends beyond just cold dishes. Contrary to popular belief, extra virgin olive oil’s smoke point makes it ideal for frying. It’s high content of mainly oleic acid, which is much less fragile than linoleic acid (that is contained in seed oils such as sunflower and canola) gives it a relatively high smoke point. Olive oil’s smoke point is around 405 ℉ or 207℃ celsius. Now you’re probably asking yourself why you’ve read that you should not use olive oil for frying.
There are two probable reasons why you’ve read this:
- Extra virgin Olive oil is expensive compared to canola and other vegetable oil. When it comes to French fries (which is a low cost fast-food item) it does not make sense to use olive oil as it would drive up the price tenfold on your side of fries.
- Large companies control the production of canola, sunflower and other modified hybrid seed oils that have been created for the use of frying. Unfortunately, many of these companies have erroneously put this info out there to discourage you from using olive oil in your kitchen. They want you to buy their products.
An interesting thing to remember is that when you do encounter vegetable oils with a higher smoking point it’s usually due to the modification and refining process. Not because of the natural acids found in the oil. For example, canola oil, the most widely used frying oil, is often modified to have a higher smoking point due to the modifications of its core properties.
HOW TO CHOOSE WHAT OLIVE OIL IS BEST TO COOK WITH
When choosing what olive oil is best to cook with, Remember that, as with any other oil, if the olive oil smokes the denaturing has started. Once it has begun to smoke, the nutritional value of olive oil will be rendered completely useless. When olive oil breaks down, it releases harmful chemicals (as with any other vegetable oil). Unfortunately, this also has the undesirable side effect of making your food taste burnt or bitter. To avoid this disaster in your kitchen, make sure that the smoke point of the olive oil (this can be applied to any vegetable oil) you’re planning to use can handle the heat.
Pro-tip: Test a teaspoon of your olive oil beforehand, to ensure it can handle the higher temperatures that you plan to cook with.
OLIVE OIL CALORIES & NUTRITION FACTS
Olive oil benefits your health as it is one of the most nutritionally densely packed foods in the world. Olive oil calories come completely from pure fat. Extra virgin Olive oil contains roughly 884-900 calories for 100 grams or about 120 calories per tablespoon.
1 tsp (4.5 g)1 tablespoon (13.5 g)100 grams1 cup (216 g)
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 100 g
Saturated fat 14 g
Polyunsaturated fat 11 g
Monounsaturated fat 73 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 2 mg
Potassium 1 mg
Total Carbohydrate 0 g
Dietary fiber 0 g
Sugar 0 g
Protein 0 g
THE TOP MISTAKE YOU’RE MAKING WITH YOUR EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
Now that you know how olive oil benefits your health and what you should look out for when determining what olive oil is best, you don’t want to let it go to waste.
Here are a few tips for how to store your olive oil:
Tip #1: KEEP IT AWAY FROM HEAT
Although it may be convenient to keep your olive oil next to the stove, heat will degrade the olive oil reducing its freshness and health benefits.
Tip #2: STORE YOUR OLIVE OIL IN A DARK BOTTLE
Unless you’re planning on using up your olive oil rather quickly, you’re going to need to place it in a dark glass bottle or a ceramic bottle that doesn’t let light in. This will prevent your olive oil from degrading and allow you to maintain the exquisite flavour that you originally fell in love with.
Tip #3: USE OR LOSE IT
Unlike wine, olive oil does not get better with age. Once you open your bottle you’ll need to ideally use it up within 6 months. In our home, we personally use our olive up within 3 months of opening to enjoy maximum freshness and flavour.
Pro-tip: Your olive oil can be used for more than just salads. Try it for roasting vegetables or add a citrus kick to grilled chicken or salmon with a drizzle of lemon olive oil.
Ready to travel Italy with an Italian Olive Oil Expert?