The Mediterranean Diet and Olive Oil

By: Kim Beavers Email
By: Kim Beavers Email

The Mediterranean diet has been studied for over 50 years. Certain Mediterranean eating patterns contribute to improved health outcomes. One of the first things that comes to mind when we think Mediterranean diet is olive oil--although olive oil is only one component of this eating style.

Extra virgin olive oil is a great source of monounsaturated fat, which, when replacing saturated fats in the diet, can help lower cholesterol. In addition, extra virgin olive oil is an ant-inflammatory agent and contains a variety of antioxidants.

Shopping for olive oil is rather difficult; after all, you can't really taste it by looking at it in the bottle. I can only tell you the ones I have tried and like, but my tastes and yours may be different. That is also the point: a good olive oil is like a good wine. If it tastes good to you, then it is good. There are a few basics to keep in mind, though.

There are different grades of Olive Oil. Good grades of olive oil are those that have not been refined, deodorized or furthered processed.

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO): The highest grade, with < 1% acidity. The finest of these oils are the ones with <0.5% acidity. EVOO has distinctive colors and flavors.

  • Virgin Olive Oil: Acidity level of 1.5% - 2%. Has less taste and are relatively okay to cook with. Just not anything that needs very high heat.

  • Olive Oil: is usually a blend of refined oil (canola) and a virgin oil. The blend can be in different ratios. This oil can withstand higher heat.

  • Light Olive Oil: Light refers to color and flavor in this olive oil, it goes through an extra fine filtration process and has a more neutral flavor.

Kim’s quick picks: Note that I have certainly not tried all the olive oils available but these are moderately priced and I find them flavorful. Try different brands until you find one you like best.

  • Newman’s own: Extra virgin olive oil

  • Private selection Organic Extra virgin olive oil

  • Luccini Italia Extra virgin olive oil

Once you purchase olive oil, it is important to store it properly.

  • Store oil in a cool dark place (like a pantry, not above your stove).

  • Do not store oil in the refrigerator. The condensation (water) mixing with oil “breaks” the oil.

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