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Olive Oil
Olive is one of the oldest known cultivated trees in the world. It is said that Olive trees are being cultivated before the invention of written language. Olive trees are draught tolerant and are native to eastern Mediterranean region. The trees can survive and bear fruits for a thousand year. Olives are small fruits of the Olive tree. During prehistoric time, people use to grind and drain the pulp of olives to get oil for cooking and lighting lamps. Oil extracted from olives was also used for cosmetic purposes.

Today, olive oil is popular than any other oil for culinary use and health benefits. About 90% of the olive fruit produce goes toward the production of olive oil. The oil is produced by pressing the whole olives and is used for cooking, cosmetics, pharmaceutical uses, and as fuel for certain lamps.

Olive oil used for cooking and eating is broadly classified as extra virgin, virgin, pure, and light. The difference is mainly in the process of production of different verities, due to which they contain different levels of antioxidant and have different smoking point.

Extra virgin olive oil is the best quality and is extracted using mechanical process such as cold pressing and centrifugation. The olives are pressed at normal temperature without the use of heating and chemicals. This method of extraction helps preserve most of the antioxidants and hence, makes the oil of high quality. The extra virgin olive oil smokes at a very low temperatures ranging from 200 to 372 degree Fahrenheit depending upon the quality (the better the quality have higher smoking point). Therefore, extra virgin olive oil is considered cold dishes like salad dressing and dips as well as cooking at a medium heat. You can use the good quality extra virgin oil to sauté vegetables, shallow frying eggs, and meats. It’s not recommended to use extra virgin olive oil for deep frying at higher temperatures.

Virgin olive oil is extracted using the same process as extra virgin. It has same levels of monounsaturated fats, antioxidant, and has the similar smoking point. It’s different from extra virgin because it’s made using relatively ripe olives, which gives it light flavor. The usage of virgin oil for cooking is same as extra virgin oil.

Pure olive oil has the same monounsaturated fat content, but has less antioxidant. Pure olive oil, also called olive oil, is a blend of virgin oil and refined pomace oil (also called refined olive oil). Pomace oil, a leftover during the extraction of extra virgin and virgin oils, is refined before mixing it to the virgin oil. The blend contains only about 5 to 10% of virgin oil. It’s lighter in taste, and has higher smoking point that makes it fit for sautéing and frying.

Light olive oil has the same percentage of monounsaturated fat, but lowest level of antioxidants. It’s basically refined olive oil, manufactured by the using some chemical and heat to get rid of impurities. It’s smoking point is highest and is ideal for high temperature cooking, such as deep frying and baking.

At higher temperatures, required for deep frying, extra virgin and virgin oil lose their antioxidant properties and flavor. Therefore, many cooks use pure or light olive oil for frying. Some views suggest that cooking with extra virgin and virgin olive oil at high temperatures is harmful for health; however, there is no substantial evidence to support such views. This might be a myth or a truth. Therefore, to be on the safe side, it’s advisable to use pure and light olive oil for higher temperature cooking such as deep frying, and use good quality extra virgin and virgin olive oil for cold dishes and cooking at medium temperature such as sautéing.

Because of the higher monounsaturated fat content, all kinds of olive oil lasts longer than other oils. After opening, close the cap or lid completely and store in a cool, dark, and dry place, and use it within 3 – 4 months from opening. Due to the presence of antioxidant substances, extra virgin and virgin oils are more resistant to damage by oxygen in air. However, the chlorophyll in the oil makes them vulnerable to damage by light. Therefore, always store the extra virgin and virgin oil in a dark place away from light. Refrigeration slightly solidifies the oil, which comes back to its liquid state when kept at room temperature, but will lose its flavor.

Olive oil has high content of antioxidants called polyphenols, carotenoids, and tocopherols. It’s high in monounsaturated fat and has low saturated and polyunsaturated fat. This composition makes it healthy for heart and for prevention of many medical conditions like, cancer, high blood pressure, and diabetes. According to some recent research, consumption of olive oil improves calcium absorption; hence, prevents the onset osteoporosis.

You can buy olive oil at any grocery store. It is available at online grocery stores such as Type the kind of olive oil you want to buy on search bar, you will be able to choose from several options.
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