A Beginners’ Guide to Olive Oil: Grades, How to Store and Health Benefits Manisha Sharma September 1, 2012 Cooking & How To views: 8161 With our growing exposure to international cuisine, several Indians today are familiar with olive oil and have tasted it. We even see it on our supermarket shelves. But some of us are still uncertain about how to use olive oil while cooking at home. It took me several years of experimenting, reading and asking around to understand the intricacies of this wonderful, flavorful oil. And now I want to share that knowledge with you. Watch my video and keep reading to find out more. Worth its weight in gold Just so you know, most of the world’s olive oil supply is produced from olives grown in Spain, Italy, Greece, France and California in the United States. Olive oil has a mythical quality associated with it. Since ancient times, this oil has been considered a great natural asset and sometimes worth its weight in gold. This beautiful, aromatic oil can boost the flavor of almost anything you cook. It’s just about knowing when to use what kind. Grades of olive oil There are many grades of olive oils and several types within each grade. However, here we will discuss three basic grades of edible olive oil that are widely available. Extra Virgin and Virgin Olive Oil: It is fruity in taste and varies in color, ranging from pale yellow to bright green. In general, the deeper the color, the more flavor the oil yields. This oil is best suited for use in uncooked dishes where you can appreciate its exquisite aroma and flavor, like salads, on cooked pastas or as a dip for bread. Quick tip – By adding a thin layer of virgin olive oil to your homemade pesto, you will help the sauce retain its green color. Extra Light/Light/Mild Olive Oil: Also called “light” or “mild” olive oil, these oils are lighter in color and flavor. Having undergone a filtration process, this oil can withstand high heat and is perfect for cooking methods like frying or baking. It is best suited for use when you want to prevent your dish from gaining that fruity olive flavor. This oil can be used in combination with “extra virgin” olive oil. Quick tip – Please do not take “lite”, ‘light’ or “mild” to suggest lower calorie content. These terms only refers to the oil’s lighter color and flavor. It contains the same amount of fat and calories as any other olive oil. Mild olive oil is also perfect for Indian cooking, especially when it comes to vegetable dishes. In fact, for vegetables like ladyfinger (okra), brinjal (aubergine) and bitter gourd, where more oil is required, mild olive oil is a great option since it is an excellent source of fatty acids and antioxidants, and thus helps reduce cholesterol. Even though your calorie-intake will remain more or less the same, it is a heart-friendly choice. Pure Olive Oil or Olive Oil: Oils in this classification are a blend of refined olive oil and virgin olive oil. These oils may have limited flavor and aroma because of the presence of virgin oil. In most cases, oils in this category contain about 85% of refined oil and 15% of virgin or extra-virgin. This type of oil too can withstand heat well. Pure olive oil is a good choice for use in high heat, such as frying, baking and cooking vegetables when you want that mild flavor of olive oil to resonate in your dish. It also goes well in roasts, stir-fried vegetables and risotto, where the mild flavor will complement the flavors of these dishes. How to store 1. Olive oil will stay fresh if stored in an airtight container after opening. It will retain its quality if stored in a cool, dark place for about one year. 2. If the bottle or container is unopened, the olive oil will stay fresh for as long as two years. 3. Keep the olive oil away from the stove or other heat-producing appliances like refrigerators and ovens since the heat emanating from them may cause the oil to break down and deteriorate in storage. 4. Preferably, purchase only the amount of olive oil you will need for the next 12 months to prevent its spoilage and keep it fresh. It’s healthy stuff! 1. Olive oil is packed with Vitamins A, D, E and K. It is also rich in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants like chlorophyll, carotenoids and Vitamin E. 2. Scientists have identified in olive oil a compound called oleuropein, which prevents the oxidization of LDL cholesterol. It is the oxidized cholesterol that sticks to the walls of arteries, creating a difficulty in their contraction, which results in heart problems. Replacing other fats in your diet with olive oil can significantly lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of a heart attack. 3. Olive oil is easily digested and gets quickly and completely absorbed by the body. 4. Extra virgin olive oil is rich in an antioxidant called polyphenol, which may be key in reducing blood pressure. 5. Olive oil is also very helpful to diabetics because its consumption is linked with lower triglyceride levels. Many diabetics live with high triglyceride levels, which put them at risk of heart disease. 6. My next post will be on how olive oil can be used as a substitute in cooking and to bring out the flavor of certain dishes. I will also tell you how olive oil can be your key to healthy baking. To stay updated on cooking methods and recipes involving olive oil, including my other posts on food and health, subscribe below! Also check out Malvika’s post on Body Shop Olive Shower Gel.