When it comes time to try a new diet or nutrition plan, one of the first foods to hit the trash are refined foods like canola oil or margarine. Most diet books advocate using coconut oil or olive oil to cook which since both have been shown to have numerous health benefits such as lowering bad cholesterol, increasing good cholesterol, stabilizing blood sugar and providing healthy antioxidants (1).
So when you go to the store and see multiple options and different types of olive oil, how do you know which one you should pick? Confusing but let’s try to clear it up.
For starters you can eliminate everything that doesn’t have a “extra virgin” or “virgin” label since those young olives taste the best and have the most health benefits. Olive oil is just the oil that is extracted from the olives as they are picked off the trees. Nothing more or nothing less. The differences start with the type of olive that is picked and how the oil is extracted. Unfortunately,we also have to worry about the additives used as well or other olives that are mixed in which is why I always advocate organic extra virgin olive oil to ensure quality.
Once an olive is picked and the oil is extracted, it is either refined or unrefined which means that it is not treated and has a stronger flavor. There’s a trade off, while refined oils are processed, they contain no bitterness but also do not have as much of an olive aroma, flavor or color. It really becomes consumer dependent.
Extra virgin olive oil is always unrefined olive oil. In order to meet the standards of “extra virgin”, the olives must have the classic olive taste and it must contain all the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants found in olives. Organic extra virgin olive oil is the not treated with chemicals or pesticides.
Virgin olive oil is one step lower on the ladder and it is also unrefined and produced very similar to extra virgin olive oil but is very hard to find online or in stores. Then we have regular olive oil which is refined and treated with chemicals and additives and lower quality than extra virgin olive oil. If you want the benefits from olive oil, choose organic extra virgin.
The Calories In Olive Oil
I want to address a popular trend online to discuss calories versus the quality of the food. Numerous research studies show that if you just choose a quality food you will lose more weight than if you were concerned with the quantity, or calories, of food (2). Olive oil is regarded as a “healthy” fat and is actually really hard to over eat considering that you are just putting it in your frying pan or cooking with it other ways. Every single time I talk to people about a new fad diet or nutrition plan I always point out that any eating plan must be sustainable for daily activity.
Let’s not be concerned with the calories and just focus on choosing quality foods.