That is a great question! We all want to use healthy olive oil in cooking but can be confused when looking at the varieties available on the supermarket shelf.
There are many terms on the label of olive oils – which one to choose?
Knowing which one to buy can depend on how you will use the olive oil in your recipes.
Different types of olive oils will have variations in flavor as well as a big difference in price.
The majority of olive oil is produced in the Mediterranean. The US produces only a small fraction of the supply.
Extra virgin olive oil or EVOO is the one we hear the most about on cooking shows as the one we should be picking. It is the most flavorful depending on area of the world in which the olives were grown. It is best to use this type when you are adding it to salads or recipes where you want added flavor.
There are marketing terms you will read on the label including first press, cold pressed or cold extracted which describes how the olives were pressed to extract the oil. If no heat or chemicals were used in the process you will see these designations and it is cold pressed.
Interesting to know that all EVOO is made by mechanically pressing the olives without heat or chemicals so knowing it is cold pressed shouldn’t persuade your choice.
You might also read the region where the olives were produced. Similar to wines, each region could impart a distinct flavor that you may or may not prefer.
Different types of olives create different hues in the olive oil and thus color is not an indicator of quality. EVOO is best when yellow or green in color.
Olive oil is a blend of different kinds of oils such as refined olive oil and virgin olive oil. Refined oil has been treated while pure or virgin oil is untreated.
Olive oils from the US might also say classic, pure, or light on the label. If it says light then there is very little virgin olive oil in the blend and it will have a subtle (bland) flavor. When it has a milder flavor, it would work well as a substitute in cooking for vegetable oils where the flavor distinction isn’t needed or desired.
Light on the label refers to the flavor NOT the nutritional content.
Health Benefits of Olive Oil
Olive oil is considered a healthy fat and substituting it in our recipes for unhealthy fats is a good choice.
- EVOO contains antioxidants.
- Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat which is better for our heart than saturated fats found in butter, shortening and even the better than polyunsaturated vegetable oils.
- No matter the type or label names, all olive oil will have a very similar fat and calorie content.
- To retain more of the nutrients naturally contained in the olive, it is better to use a virgin or unrefined oil in your recipes.
It is important to remember that olive oil can go bad quickly so pay attention to the date on the label including the harvest date and purchase one that is the farthest away. Use olive oil within a few months of opening and store in a cool, dark place.