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Extra virgin olive oil or olive oil: Which is healthier?

Extra virgin olive oil

Have you ever gone into the oil aisle at the store and been instantly overwhelmed?

There are so many choices now, including:

  • vegetable
  • canola
  • olive
  • hempseed
  • walnut
  • avocado
  • sesame
  • coconut
  • virgin olive
  • extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • oil infused with herbs or seasonings

The list seems to go on and on. But how do you know which to use? Do they actually taste different? Is one healthier than the others? Here's how to navigate the oil aisle.

Is olive oil healthy?

Different oils have different uses. Olive oil is relatively heat-stable for cooking. It has great flavor for eating unheated. But olive oil has recently started to fall from grace. Is it healthy or not? And if it's OK to use, which type is best?

The main type of fat found in olive oil is monosaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) found in olive oil is monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), which are considered a healthy fat. What does "healthy fat" mean, since it sounds like an oxymoron?

It means that if you replace other fats in your diet - trans fats and saturated fats - with MUFAs, you can lower your risk of heart disease. You'll raise your HDL ("good" cholesterol) and lower the oxidized LDL ("bad" cholesterol) in the bloodstream.

The pros of buying extra virgin olive oil:

  1. It has fewer chemicals and free radicals than regular olive oil.
  2. It's full of good fats.

Olive oil or extra virgin olive oil?

Most of the modifiers that go before olive oil, such as "virgin" or "extra virgin," are referring to the process that made the oil. For example, extra virgin olive oil means it's been touched the least. But why does that matter?

Vegetable oils are pretty fragile as far as food goes, which is why your foodie friend will have a few different types of oil. They'll decide what to use depending on what they're cooking and at what temperatures.

Certain oils will go rancid when stored at the wrong temperatures or for too long, and others will become unstable when cooked at higher temperatures, losing nutrients and flavor.

When oils are processed, they're cleaned with chemicals and then heated. These things prolong the shelf life, which is great for the food industry, but not so great for your body. These processes also strip away a lot of the oil's flavor.


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