Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Olive Oil Friend Not Foe

Before I started cooking healthy I rarely used olive oil or extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), and mostly stuck to canola and veggie oil. I had some in the pantry but it was the cheapest money could buy and tasted blah.  After starting on my journey to better health, I quickly learned there is so much more to olive oil. Now I use it in anything that does or doesn’t call for it (too much of a good thing? Maybe.).

There are several types of olive oils. The one I’m focusing on here is EVOO - considered the best of the olive family because it is the least processed, from the first pressing of the olives. 

Note: I’m not claiming to be an olive oil connoisseur here – there is a whole world of high end oils and experts out there – that’s not me! Keep reading if you consider yourself low on the olive oil knowledge scale. 

My Olive Oil 101: 

Here are some basic things I’ve learned about olive oil and some tips for buying for the everyday person, like myself:

1. Don't spend a fortune. Like fine wine, each has their own distinct taste but it’s not only the expensive bottles that taste good. There are some fairly good oils you can get without breaking the bank. Price point: $10-$15 at your local grocery store. 

Here are some you can find in the grocery store I’ve tried and recommend: 

  • Pompeian Extra Virgin 
  • Filippo Berio Extra Virgin 
  • Bertolli Extra Virgin
2. Don’t buy it by the gallon until you try it. Buy a small bottle to start and see if you like it first. 
  • Taste test with bread. Before using the oil in a recipe, taste it with some bread and see what you think. Is the taste too bold or strong for you or not strong enough? A good oil will have a hint of olives in the smell and taste.
3. Extra-virgin olive oil has a low smoke point (the temperature at which the oil begins to smoke), so it’s good for cold dishes, salads and recipes that don’t require much heat. Serious Eats has a great chart to determine the smoke points of oil here

4. Store your olive oil in a cool dark place to preserve freshness. When purchasing look for containers made from a dark glass, tin or or glass that is protected by a box.   

5. Did you know it's healthy too? We often hear that oil is bad for you, but olive oil and other oils (flax seed, grape seed, coconut) have health benefits. 
Olive oil contains heart healthy antioxidants and Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) that are considered a healthy dietary fat, as opposed to saturated fats and trans fats.

Because I’m not the expert, here are two great articles with more facts about olive oil’s health benefits and tips. 

Web MD article here. 
Medical News Today article here. 

If you are like I was before, hanging on to your old bottle of blah store brand olive oil, consider trying something a little more sophisticated, for the taste and your health. 

Try your new olive oil in my balsamic vinegar dressing

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