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Olive Oil – Pure, Virgin, Extra Virgin – What’s the Difference?

As you’ve often heard, it is recommended that you use olive oil wherever possible when cooking (with the exception of baking) instead of other cooking oils. Why? Olive oil is higher in monounsaturated fats and lower in saturated fats than other oils and as a result is a healthier choice when trying to reduce the risk for heart attacks and strokes.

The confusing part is, which type of olive oil should you use? To start with, color is a excellent indicator of the flavor. The straw colored oils have a mild, neutral flavor making them more suitable for blending with other ingredients. The greener oils have a rich, fruity flavor and are best used over salad greens. If you insist on deep frying it is best to use another vegetable oil with a higher smoking point. Excessive heating will not change the health benefits of olive oil but will change its taste and fragrance.

So, what’s the difference between Extra Virgin, Virgin and Pure Olive Oil? All Olive oils are made from green olives. The flavor, color and consistency vary because of the olive varieties used, where the olives were grown and weather conditions while they were growing. Whether an oil is considered to be extra virgin, virgin or pure olive oil is in the oil’s acidity. The acidity has more influence on taste than on nutrition although the lower the acidity the higher the antioxidant content.

Extra Virgin comes from the first pressing of the olives and contains no more than 0.8% acidity. It is said to have superior taste. Virgin has less than 2% acidity and has a “excellent” taste. Neither virgin nor extra virgin olive oils may contain any refined oil. Refined means it has been chemically processed. Plain Olive Oil is a blend of virgin and refined olive oil and may contain no more than 1% acidity but, it lacks a strong flavor and is usually labeled as 100% Pure Olive Oil. The better grades contain the word “Virgin” on the mark.

The terms “Light” and “Extra-Light” refer to the color—not a lower stout content and are a mixture of refined olive oils that are derived from the lowest quality oils available through chemical processing. All oils have 120 calories per tablespoon.

Olive oil should always be stored in a cool, dry, dark place. Heat, light and air are the largest enemies of oil. Never keep it by the stove. Keep it in a dark colored bottle (glass, porcelain or stainless steel—never plastic) with a tight fitting cap. If stored properly, it will keep for up to 2 years after opening. If your oil has a buttery taste, it has probably gone rancid. Refrigerating or even freezing it will not harm it and will greatly extend its shelf life. Waxes in the oil may turn the oil cloudy or crystallize out into needles when the oil is chilled but will disappear when warmed back to room temperature. When buying your oil, look for brands that date their oil.

Our goal at A Measure In Thyme is to be the source for all of your small kitchen appliances, cookware and culinary needs as well as a place to find information to help you live a healthier, more pleased life. We hope you will delight in browsing through our store. From time to time we will be adding tasty recipes – most tried and approved in our own kitchen, tips on how to use and care for the “tools” you use in constructing your family meals and information on how to make your meals more flavorful without adding calories or as flavorful while cutting calories. We will be adding more products in the future but only if they are quality, name brand items that we can offer at an affordable price.

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