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Is olive oil good for health?

Q: What is the best way to have olive oil - cooked or uncooked? Is it beneficial?

A:Olive oil is fruit oil obtained from the olive (Olea europaea; family Oleaceae), a traditional tree crop of the Mediterranean Basin .Although more expensive than other oils, olive oil has many health benefits. It has the highest percentage (about 77%) of monounsaturated fat among commonly used oils. Studies have found that consumption of olive oil can lower the risk of heart disease by reducing blood cholesterol levels and blood clot formation. It also contains many antioxidant phytochemicals that have many health benefits. This oil is extracted by pressing or crushing olives and comes in different varieties depending on the amount of processing involved. Varieties include:

  • Extra virgin: Considered the best, this oil comes from the first pressing of the olives.
  • Virgin: Comes from the second pressing.
  • Pure: Undergoes some processing, such as filtering and refining.
  • Extra light: Undergoes considerable processing and only retains a very mild olive flavour.
Olive oil is great oil for cooking. When cooking with olive oil, save your extra-virgin expensive oils for salads, dressings and vinaigrettes. You can also drizzle it over slices of crusty bread or onto open-face sandwiches. Use it on a baked potato or add it to mashed potatoes instead of butter. Extra virgin olive oil tastes great on cooked vegetables or brushed onto fish or meat before serving. When sautéing or frying, use either a combination olive oil (one that is simply a blend of extra virgin and regular olive oil) or a straight olive oil. For deep frying, the olive oil grade olive oil, is excellent because it has a higher smoke point (410º F) than virgin or extra virgin oils and doesn’t degrade as quickly as many other oils do with repeated high heating. When buying olive oil, it is best to select the extra virgin variety. In order to get maximum benefits, olive oil should be used to prepare salad dressings, as a seasoning for soups, for sautéing vegetables or for grilling. Resist the temptation to place your beautiful bottle of olive oil on the windowsill. Light and heat are the number one enemies of oil. Keep olive oil in a cool and dark place, tightly sealed. Oxygen promotes rancidity. Olive oil is like other oils and can easily go rancid when exposed to air, light or high temperatures. Excessively heating olive oil will evaporate the alcohol and esters, which make up its delicate taste and fragrance. Heating olive oil will not change its health aspects, only the flavour. Hence, olive oil can be used uncooked as well as for cooking.


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