Olive oil has come into a lot of popularity thanks to the growing awareness among the general public about its heart healthy properties. Dietician and Doctors alike are recommending olive oil for regular cooking because of the significant amount of monounsaturated fats present in this oil, that help reduce the LDL (bad cholesterol) count and increase the HDL (good cholesterol) count, thus aiding your heart health. But one must keep in mind that there are many types of olive oils available, depending on the procedure followed while producing them, and to get the best benefit it’s important to know what is the healthiest olive oil of the lot. That’s what will be discussed in this article.
Are Virgin Olive Oils the Healthiest?
The reason why olive oils gained popularity is because of the presence of heart healthy mono-unsaturated fats in their composition, but that’s not the only health benefit you get from these oils.
Olives contain a strong phytochemical called “Oleocanthol”. This antioxidant is known to have anti-inflammatory properties and helps sooth inflammations (like ulcers) in the body. These phytochemicals also serve to increase the HDL count and reduce your blood pressure, ensure elasticity of the arteries and improve blood circulation.
Olives also contain several anti-oxidants that prevent the oxidation of the LDL cholesterol, thus preventing plaque formation on the arteries. These anti-oxidants also prevent the onset of cancer and serve to heal tumors and inflammations.
As you can see, olive oil can provide several health benefits due to the presence of anti-oxidants and phytochemicals, but these compounds get destroyed, or reduced, when the oil is treated chemically or heat pressed. So refined olive oil or pomace olive oil (which are chemically treated and heat pressed) will have a significantly reduced composition of these beneficial phytochemicals. Virgin olive oils are cold pressed, and they are not treated chemically, so they retain all their natural compounds thus ensuring the highest health benefit.
Extra Virgin olive oils and Virgin olive oils are both healthy, with the extra virgin oil being the healthier of the two, simply because it’s obtained through the first cold press itself and has an acidity level of less than 0.8%. Virgin olive oil is obtained through a second level cold press and has less than 2% acidity. But the difference between the two oils is marginal and both can be consider just as healthy for you.
What is the Best Olive Oil for Cooking?
Extra virgin olive oils are the healthiest but that does not mean that they are well suited to all forms of cooking. Using extra virgin olive oil for deep frying, or even normal frying, purpose can lead to burning up of several of these phytochemicals and lead to toxicity in the oil. The best olive oil for cooking, at high temperatures, would be “pure olive oil” or refined olive oil. Pure olive oil usually contains a mix of refined and virgin olive oils, while refined olive oils are obtained by chemically filtering virgin oils, to remove any free acids present in it. Refined olive oils have a high smoking point and are used in most restaurants for deep frying purposes. This makes it one of the best deep frying oils.
Extra virgin olive oils have a strong flavor and are best used on salads or for dips. Using them for cooking can offset the taste of the vegetables or meat being cooked in it. Refined olive oils don’t have a strong flavor, in fact they are bland in taste, and hence can be used in cooking without tampering the taste of the vegetables or meats being cooked.
Refined olive oils will present all the heart healthy benefits related to the presence of mono-unsaturated fats in them, but they will not be able to provide the anti-oxidant benefits of an extra virgin olive oil. So if you are asking – what is the healthiest olive oil then the answer is the “extra virgin” one, but if you are looking for the best olive oil for cooking you are better off going in for the refined one.