Understanding the Different Types of Olive Oil

Olive oil in a jar
Smabs Sputzer/Flickr/Creative Commons

You may have recently read the story about a woman in Israel who claims to be 120 years old. One of her secrets to living to such an advanced age is that she drinks at least one glass of olive oil a day. While that may not be to everyone’s liking, it is easy to make olive oil a part of your daily diet in more tasty ways.
The health benefits of this friendly fat have been known for some time now, but it has recently garnered more attention due to the Mediterranean Diet and people looking to live a more healthy lifestyle. Before you run out to your local supermarket and grab a bottle for yourself, be aware that there are different variations of olive oil, all with different tastes. So which one is best for you? Read on to find out the differences between the different olive oils and how they can play a beneficial part in a healthy diet.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

The most commonly used and heard of olive oil is extra virgin. Extra virgin, along with the standard virgin olive oil, is extracted directly from the olive fruit by grinding the olives in thermal conditions, which preserves the natural taste. The method for extracting the oil is what is known as “cold pressed,” which keeps the oil from losing its flavor that can be lost when exposed to high temperatures.
Extra virgin olive oil is produced naturally, meaning that the oil is not made from any sort of chemical treatments. Virgin oil is also an indication that the oil is not refined, that they are of a higher quality and retain their natural flavor.

Pure Olive Oil

Pure olive oil is another oil, but the name can be misleading. Pure is actually a blend of either extra virgin or virgin olive oil and olive oils that are refined. It is used mainly when extracted olive oil is of poor quality and the refining process helps it to have a better flavor.
Many times, refined olive oil is used when frying as the taste is not as remarkable as the virgin oils. A product labeled simply Olive Oil, is nearly the same as something marked Pure Olive Oil in that it is refined with lack of taste.

The Health Factor

Though considered a fat, olive oil is one of the healthiest oils due to its high monounsaturated fat content and relatively low saturated fat content. Studies have shown that olive oil helps the body’s heart remain healthy and aids in regulating cholesterol levels.
The health benefits are widely recognized, and it is actually part of the food pyramid as followed by the Mediterranean Diet. Aside from consuming olive oil, some people swear by its benefits from using it topically on the skin. In 1997, the record holder for the longest lifespan, a woman from France, used olive oil daily not only in her diet but by rubbing it on her skin.
Whatever it is used for, the health benefits of olive oil have been researched and proven. Oil is such a commonly used product today it only makes sense to opt for the healthiest one on the market. It is also one of the most flavorful oils and is the perfect addition to many meals.
If you would rather not drink a glass a day, try it next time on your favorite dish. It would be worth it to try if we could all live to 120!

Article Sources
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  1. Berrougui H, Ikhlef S, Khalil A. Extra Virgin Olive Oil Polyphenols Promote Cholesterol Efflux and Improve HDL Functionality. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:208062.  doi:10.1155/2015/208062