There’s a lot of talk in the nutrition world about olive oil. So I thought I’d speak a little about how I enjoy it and why I think it is so fab.
The Mediterranean Diet (which favours olive oil for, well, everything!) is full of this liquid gold. More and more research is coming out in support of the Mediterranean Diet as a healthy way of eating. Essentially it involves a diet abundant in vegetables, fish, nuts and legumes, olives (and olive oil!), some fruit and small amounts of meat and dairy. Don’t forget moderate portions of sweets, a little red wine and a people eating together with loved ones around a table. Emma Stirling from Scoop Nutrition sums up the encouraging research from the PREDIMED study in her post on The Mediterranean Diet (link here).
This is good news for my nut and olive oil loving self. I really encourage clients to use olive oil for their cooking, particularly extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), and it’s great that so many of them are already using olive oil in the kitchen. Here’s a bit more information for you:
- Extra Virgin refers to the processing of the oil which, when extra virgin, happens as soon as possible after harvesting the olives (within hours) and is crushed using minimal heat and without chemical solvents. It is the purest form of olive oil, literally olive juice. Extra virgin olive oil is the good stuff. It is loaded with polyphenols, antioxidants that have really powerful anti-inflammatory action in our bodies.
- This is in contrast to olive oil that isn’t labelled “extra virgin”. Regular olive oil and lite olive oil have been refined, they’re not the pure stuff. And they do not contain the high levels of antioxidants found in extra virgin (and hence are not as good for us). You can see how this is true, the flavour of quality extra virgin olive oil is like nothing else – rich, dark in colour, fragrant, it’s divine!
- Yes, you can cook with extra virgin olive oil. For years it was thought that you couldn’t heat olive oil (extra virgin), but now we now know that extra virgin olive oil is in fact an oil that can withstand heat and remain quite stable. Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fats, which helps the stability situation (some fats high in polyunsaturated fats like flaxseed oil oxidise/go rancid quickly, and cannot be heated). Also note that the better quality the extra virgin olive oil, and the lower the free fatty acid content, the higher the smoke point. Plus, we don’t tend to need to heat our oil too excessively in home kitchens.
- Think of EVOO as medicine. With all the reported health benefits, such as reduced inflammation and disease risk, I most certainly see it as a fantastic health investment. Spend money on quality EVOO and enjoy the health benefits. I favour Cobram Estate, a great Australian brand that is widely available in Supermarkets.
- Store your olive oil in a dark bottle or tin, in a cool place away from light. This will help protect the oil and stop it from going rancid. Don’t buy oil that’s in a clear, plastic bottle and go FRESH! Australian extra virgin olive oil is the way to go, folks.
- How do I use it? I have a bottle of Australian Cobram Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which I keep at work and drizzle on my salads. And then I might I dip my sourdough bread in extra virgin olive oil my friends gifted me from Sicily. Extra virgin olive oil (together with lemon juice or red wine vinegar), a little sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, makes a great, simple salad dressing. And nothing finishes a bowl of pasta (or any meal, really) like a fine drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
Here are a couple of recipes using extra virgin olive oil: