Published on August 28th, 2013 | by Joe Starks0
Fitness Jargonbuster: Olive Oil
Olive oil is one of the most widely used oils in the kitchen. It is produced by juicing the fruits of the olive tree, a plant native to the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea and those with similar climates. It is a widely spread opinion that Olive oil is the tastiest oil to eat and that it is superior to all other oils in nutritional value. Some go even as far as to attribute medicinal attributes to the oil, saying it is good for healing wounds and strengthening the body. But what is Olive oil really? When is it extra virgin and when not? Does it have any medicinal properties at all and is it really that healthy as they say? These and quite a few more questions we’ll answer in this Jargonbuster article.
What is Olive Oil?
The olive tree, which produces the fruit used to extract olive oil from, is a sturdy little plant that requires very little water and attention. There are amazing varieties of olive trees and olives ranging from pitch black to very light green and everything in between. The sizes of the olives vary just as much from tiny, like little almonds, to large ones, the size of a prune. Olive oil can be made using only a single variety of olives, or a mix of various types of olive. The taste of the resulting oil varies a lot and there are clear preferences about which olives are better for oil and which should best be consumed whole as is.
When the resulting oil is unadulterated and has a measurement of oleic acid less that 0.8 grams per 100 grams, then the oil is considered extra virgin and it usually has a superior taste. I say usually because extra virgin is not enough to prove quality, it is important to know what type of olive was used to be certain you’ll get tasty oil.
What are the positive effects of olive oil?
All fats we use in cooking are actually mixtures of different fat molecules. Olive oil, like all oils that are liquid in room temperature, has more unsaturated types of fat molecules in it, which scientists have proven is better for the health of the cardiovascular system than saturated fats.
Olive oil has a very special and unique taste that can’t be found in any other fruit and oil. Many foods can only be made with it to taste right and it is an integral part of Mediterranean cuisine. Since it gives so much flavor, olive oil is ideal for “simple” recipes that don’t add too many spices and other flavors to the food. This usually means you will get more flavorful food without needing to add many extra ingredients (and calories). By itself, Olive oil is a perfect dressing for salads.
What are the downsides of eating olive oil?
Olive oil is a fat and thus has a lot of calories per tablespoon. Eating a lot of olive oil is bound to cause weight gain and all the positive effects of eating less saturated fat are lost when you are very heavy.
It tastes pretty bad when used for frying. Olive oil has such a strong flavor that food fried in it has a rather weird, unpleasant taste. Olive oil is always best consumed raw or lightly cooked. Add olive oil last in your recipes to keep most of the flavor and quality intact. This is the same reason olive oil does not taste good in most sweet dishes and pastries. When using olive oil in cooking, all other ingredients must compliment its taste.
Olive oil does not have any special medicinal value. Other than offering plenty of energy olive oil has no health benefit whatsoever. It is simply a delicious choice when you want to eat some raw oil in your food.
So, do we like it?
From what we can see in the Olive oil industry, yes, we love it a lot. Olive oil sales have risen immensely in the last years and more and more cookbooks implement it in raw and simply cooked meals that usually help people lose weight. Just remember that a tiny teaspoon is enough to offer all the taste and as few calories as possible to your meal. A good idea is to keep your Olive oil in a non-transparent spray bottle, so you can get lots of flavor covering your food with the least possible amount of oil used. As long as you calculate the portion correctly, you should keep on enjoying this tasty oil.