A question consumers often ask themselves when they face dozens of bottles of olive oil in a supermarket is what olive oil should I buy? The answer is simple: extra virgin olive oil from first cold extraction. There are two good reasons for this: organoleptic – that is, determined by taste and aroma – and nutrition.
But what does it mean that an oil is extra virgin? For an olive oil to be considered extra virgin it must meet two conditions: one of a chemical nature, which refers to the percentage of acidity, and another of an organoleptic nature. An extra virgin oil must have an acidity less than or equal to 0.8º. As for its aroma and flavor, that is, its organoleptic characteristics, these are checked by tasting: for an oil to be extra virgin it must be free of defect and have a fruity flavor.
Another factor that determines the quality of the extra virgin oil is the temperature at which it is extracted. The best extra virgin olive oil is extracted under pressure at temperatures below 27ºC (80.6ºF), which is known as cold extraction. This method benefits extra virgin oil in several ways:
- the volatile elements responsible for flavor and aroma are preserved, which tend to volatilize when the temperature increases: the more extraction temperature, the more volatile escape from the oil and, as a result, the oil loses intensity in aromas and flavors.
- the cold extraction oil has lower acidity because low temperature reduces the pulp’s oxidation rate. The oils that have a lower acidity will have more quality than others with a higher index.
Another aspect influencing the olive oil quality is the olive collection time. When harvest is carried out early (mid-October to mid-November, in the northern hemisphere), the olive has not yet reached its peak of maturity, but its flavor and smell are more pronounced. This type of oil is called Premium and consumed in a salad or simply raw with bread is an authentic delicacy. It is worth mentioning that in the early harvest, less oil is extracted, due to the fact that the olive has not fully matured, which has an impact on the final price of the product, but we must not forget that its quality is higher.
Benefits of extra virgin olive oil for health
In addition to its privileged flavor and aroma, extra virgin olive oil offers consumers a large number of health benefits of which we highlight:
- contains unsaturated fatty acids very beneficial for the heart. It is considered preventive of myocardial infarction.
- it has a high content of vitamin E, which has a great antioxidant effect, reduces LDL or bad cholesterol and increases HDL or good cholesterol.
- it has polyphenols that exert antioxidant action and prevent cellular aging.
- it helps to lower the sugar level, so it is especially recommended for diabetics.
- favors the absorption of calcium, which helps hardening of bones, so extra virgin olive oil is especially recommended for children and the elderly.
On the other hand, olive oil is the one that best resists heat without modifying its composition or producing toxic substances, unlike other oils, which produce hydrogenated fats at lower temperatures. In addition, frying produces a transfer of the phenols of extra virgin olive oil that enriches the food and therefore increases its nutritional values.
With all these beneficial properties and incomparable flavor and aroma, there is no doubt that we must incorporate extra virgin olive oil in our daily diet. Our senses, our health, our body will thank us.