The Best Choice for Health and Taste
The complex flavors of extra virgin olive oil deliver great taste and an excellent nutrient profile that make it an enjoyable part of a healthy diet. From lowering the risk of heart disease to delivering an abundant supply of cancer-fighting antioxidants, the health benefits associated with extra virgin olive oil continue to grow. Cultures that consume olive oil regularly such as those eating a Mediterranean diet are often cited as having some of the best health in the world.
Dietary advice around fats in the U.S. is changing. In previous decades, Americans were encouraged to consume a low fat diet, but research has pointed to the dangers of that advice and to the health benefits of consuming specific dietary fats. Today, more Americans are heeding the advice to include more health-promoting fats in their diets such as the monounsaturated fat found in extra virgin olive oil.
A Minimally-Processed, Whole Food
Extra virgin olive oil is derived from the unprocessed fruit of the olive tree. During processing, the fruit is simply crushed to extract the oil content at a temperature no higher than 86 degrees Fahrenheit, thus preserving both its nutritional benefits and complex flavors. By contrast, canola, corn, soybean, and vegetable oils need to be chemically-extracted, refined, bleached and deodorized. With its minimal processing, extra virgin olive oil is essentially a fruit juice.
Excellent Fat Profile
Extra virgin olive oil contains uniquely high levels of oleic acid, about 75%, compared to 60% in canola and corn oils. This monounsaturated fat helps reduce overall blood cholesterol levels by lowering LDL (often referred to as “bad”) cholesterol levels in the blood while maintaining and, even increasing, HDL (often referred to as “good”) cholesterol levels.
A diet rich in monounsaturated fats, like those found in olive oil, nuts, and seeds, plays a protective role against many diseases, including heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
High in Antioxidants
One characteristic that sets extra virgin olive oil apart from other oils is its extremely high levels of polyphenols. These compounds act as antioxidants and protect cells against unwanted inflammation and disease, including various types of cancer and atherosclerosis. Extra virgin olive oil contains more polyphenols than other olive oils.
High levels of the antioxidant vitamin E in olive oil also protect cells from damaging free radicals. Vitamin E is often recommended to support skin health and reduce aging effects. Another antioxidant in olive oil, oleocanthal, is the same substance found in the drug ibuprofen and is thought to be responsible for the pungent taste in olive oil.
Cooking and Storage for Optimal Nutrition
By storing extra virgin olive oil in a cool, dark place in a closed container, the high nutrient levels are preserved longer. The fresher the oil, the higher its nutrient profile. Extra virgin olive oil should be purchased within 12 to 18 months of its harvest date. Look for the harvest date embedded in the COOC Seal or notated somewhere on the bottle. Once opened, most olive oils should be consumed within 6 months. Because extra virgin olive oil can be safely used in a wide range of cooking applications, including sautéing, baking, grilling, or simply drizzling over foods, it shouldn’t linger long on your kitchen shelf!
Good cooks have used olive oil liberally for centuries, perhaps knowing that its great flavor also carried numerous health benefits. For recipes and ideas, visit our recipes section.