Extra virgin olive oil: what it is, benefits and use

extra virgin olive oil

Extra virgin olive oil, also known as EVO oil, represents one of the key elements of Mediterranean diet and it is, in fact, the most used condiment in Italy and other countries such as Spain and the United States.
And it is precisely in the Mediterranean basin that, thanks to the mild climate and favorable temperatures, 98% of the world's extra virgin olive oil is produced. Italy, with an annual production of around 350 thousand tonnes of EVO oil, is one of the main producers and exporters, together with Greece and Spain - which holds the record as the largest producer of extra virgin olive oil in the world.

But what are the distinctive characteristics of EVO oil and how does it differ from olive oil?

Differences between EVO oil and olive oil

The difference between EVO oil and olive oil essentially lies in their production processes.

In fact, we speak of extra virgin oil when the olives are not treated with chemical agents, pesticides and fertilizers and their processing takes place solely with mechanical processes. Furthermore, there are specific parameters to be respected in order to classify an oil as extra virgin:

  • it must have chemical parameters within specific thresholds, the acidity - in particular - must be less than 0,8% (oleic acid max 0,8 g per 100 ml);
  • must not present any sensory defects;
  • it must be fruity, that is, have a pleasant vegetal scent of olives and grass combined with a bitter and spicy note.

A further improvement in the quality of EVO oil can be obtained if you choose to carry out cold extraction, a process in which the temperature never exceeds 27°C.

Otherwise, the production of olive oil includes the use of chemical solvents to neutralize the high initial acidity and other serious organoleptic defects. This type of oil, in addition to having a less pleasant taste and aroma, loses much of the nutritional value, which is present in higher quality olive oils.

Now that we have understood the difference between EVO oil and olive oil, let's see what the characteristics and benefits of EVO oil are.

Characteristics of EVO oil

Let us remember, first of all, the high caloric content of EVO oil, which reaches 899 Kcal per 100 ml, due to the fact that the food is made up of 99,9% fat. Precisely for this reason, its use should be moderate: the guidelines indicated for adults and children range from 2 to 4 portions of 10 ml (1 teaspoon) per day.

However, it is important to note that EVOO is cholesterol-free and is the seasoning with the best fat balance. In particular:

  • it is extremely rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (over 77%); we especially underline the presence of oleic acid (76%), which makes the oil particularly resistant and stable at high temperatures;
  • provides 8% polyunsaturated fatty acids: linoleic acid 7,1% and linolenic acid 0,7%;
  • it is low in saturated fats (approximately 15%): palmitic acid 11%, stearic acid 3,2% and arachidonic acid 0,8%.

The optimal ratio between omega-6 and omega-3 makes extra virgin olive oil the best seasoning fat for everyone's diet, from weaning children to adults and the elderly.

But what concrete benefits does the inclusion of extra virgin olive oil in your diet offer? Let's find out together.

Benefits of extra virgin olive oil

Over the years, numerous studies have demonstrated the benefits of consuming extra virgin olive oil. From counteracting the onset of chronic-degenerative diseases, such as diabetes mellitus and arterial hypertension, to increasing longevity; introducing this food into your diet can be a step towards a healthier life.

The high presence of oleic acid, together with essential fatty acids (linoleic and linolenic acid), acts as protection for the cardiovascular system, keeping the so-called "bad" cholesterol (LDL) under control and not providing cholesterol.

EVO oil also has an antioxidant effect; in fact, thanks to the many polyphenols and vitamin E, it counteracts the formation of free radicals - responsible for cellular aging. Furthermore, vitamin E, together with carotenoids and vitamin A, promotes the synthesis of collagen and the formation of new cells, thus helping to protect the skin and make it more elastic.

But the virtues of extra virgin olive oil do not end here. Other benefits of EVOO include: the reduction of the onset of tumors, the protection of the upper respiratory tract and the gastrointestinal tract, as well as its positive influence on the modulation of immune defenses.

EVO oil: raw or cooked?

Now that we have understood the benefits of EVO oil, the next step is to learn how to use it optimally to preserve its nutritional properties. Is it preferable to use it raw or cooked?

The use of raw EVO oil is excellent. In fact, it helps reduce the glycemic load and gives a greater sense of satiety. Furthermore, fats allow you to better absorb vitamin E and other fat-soluble vitamins present in other foods, such as vitamin A and vitamin D.

However, it is also possible to use EVO oil in cooking, as long as some precautions are taken.

It is important to remember that oil - like all foods - reacts to changes in temperature; the more the degrees are increased, the more the structure of the oil changes and, consequently, more and more nutrients are lost.

Cooking oil at low temperatures does not cause particular variations in its nutritional values ​​and, indeed, in some cases and in combination with specific products - for example, with tomato - cooking can increase its antioxidant properties. At temperatures that are too high, however, the unsaturated fats present in the oil transform into saturated fats and, at temperatures above 200-220°C, volatile toxic substances also develop.

In conclusion, extra virgin olive oil is not only a characteristic food of the Mediterranean diet and Italian cuisine, but it is also an investment in your health.

Ultimately, it is a very high quality food which, if used correctly, enriches dishes with taste and nutritional properties.

SOL is the annual event, one of a kind, entirely dedicated to extra virgin olive oil and its use, be it food or non-food. A large international showcase dedicated to all producers who, by participating, have the opportunity to increase their visibility, do highly profiled networking and conclude business with the most skilled professionals in the sector.
Go to the site to find out more about the event.


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