You will remember I recently did some videos on Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) with Karen Cryan - there was great interest in the information Karen provided and this continues with great details below. Again it's knowing your labels, know what your eating and empower yourself with knowledge. Olive Oil is an amazing world and it's not just olive oil as we know from daily use but it extends even further to Olive Leaf Extract (that will be another story!). Read on to learn more about EVOO, the FBI of Food and Lamp Oil!
So what is Extra Virgin Olive Oil ?
Extra virgin olive oil is the highest category of olive oil. It is often described as the juice of a freshly squeezed (olive) fruit. Extra virgin oils don’t undergo any type of heat treatment or chemical processing.
In terms of the categorisation and quality of olive oil this is determined through both chemical analysis and sensory analysis (a panel of expert tasters). The tasters check the oil firstly for defects and then for fruitiness, bitterness and pepperiness. If any defect is found in the olive oil, it can’t be labelled as extra virgin.
The official definition of an extra virgin is ‘the median of defects is 0 and the median of the fruity attribute is above 0’ as opposed to the definition of ordinary olive oil is ‘the median of the defects is above 3.5 but not more than 6’.
Oils that are high in bitterness and pepperiness are high in polyphenols - the good stuff, the health giving properties of EVOO. Even so, there are plenty of olive oils out there labelled extra virgin which are, in reality, olive oil or even lampante, which is categorised as ‘unfit for human consumption’ and was used for lighting lamps years ago. When Bill Whittaker of CBS Television sent samples of the three top selling brands of extra virgin olive oil in the United States to the Italian food fraud section (they have 60 specially trained tasters and are known as the FBI of food), they found that none were extra virgin and the top selling brand was lampante. The only real way to know if an oil is extra virgin is to taste it (explained below).
The tips I’ll give you for choosing olive oil and storing it will also enhance your chances of buying and maintaining a quality extra virgin.
And the many health benefits
The health benefits of EVOO are numerous.
Particularly relevant to the modern day is that it has been shown to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. As Judy Ridgway outlined in her book “The Olive Oil Diet’, “it has been estimated that 50ml of extra virgin olive oil rich in oleocanthal polyphenols may provide an equivalent anti-inflammatory effect to 200mg of ibuprofen. Similarly, the presence of this and other natural anti-inflammatories in extra virgin olive oil may contribute to lower rates of arthritis, asthma, inflammatory bowel diseases and other chronic diseases.”
Cholesterol : It also lowers your bad cholesterol (LDL) and brings up your good cholesterol (HDL). The 10 year EPIC study of 40,000 Spaniards found that those who consumed as little as two spoons of extra virgin olive oil per day were 50% less likely to die from heart disease and those who used the most olive oil were 26% less likely to die from any health problem.
Other studies have shown that EVOO can help protect against different types of cancer (including breast cancer), high blood pressure, strokes, Dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, osteoporosis, heart disease and diabetes.
Top Tips to select the right EVOO
Storing your EVOO at home
Heat, light and air are the enemies of EVOO. Storage is very important to your oil, how you store it will determine how stable it remains.
How to taste your olive oil
Darina Allen once said that if you don’t spend money on your food you’ll end up spending it at the doctors. Besides being a fantastic condiment, extra virgin olive oil is excellent for your health. It is worth taking the time to carefully choose your extra virgin olive oil, spend money on it (after all we will spend money on a good wine which will be gone in a night!) and store it correctly.
Karen Cryan is a qualified Olive Oil Taster who has trained in London, Italy and Spain. She is the only Irish member of the Savantes International Olive Oil Organisation and has been a judge at an International Olive Oil competition in Italy. Karen teaches excellent hands on classes on olive oil tasting and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can follow Karen on Instagram: karen_cryan_olive_oil
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