Olive oil, a staple of the Mediterranean diet, is a common topic in the area of nutrition and health these days. Olive oil is approximately 70% oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that has been studied as an anti-inflammatory fatty acid. According to the American Heart Association monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids can provide many benefits including decreasing inflammatory conditions like heart disease, cancer and diabetes and positively affect cholesterol levels. The benefits of olive oil go beyond the healthy fats. Over 30 plant components found in olive oil are thought to contribute to the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties.
But what about the buzz that olive oil can be harmful? When oil is repeatedly used for frying, the healthy components can be denatured and we lose some of the benefits from the essential fatty acids and tocopherols. By using a fresh drizzle of olive oil each time we stir-fry we can avoid denaturing the oil. Olive oil is high in unsaturated fatty acids, when we use olive oil at high temperatures (over 400 degrees F) oxygen is added to the double bonds and the oil becomes more saturated. Olive oil can safely be used at lower temperatures and for shorter cooking times. The unique flavor of olive oil can make it undesirable for baking and you may wish to substitute another oil like canola oil.
When choosing olive oil, choose extra-virgin olive oil. Products labeled “olive oil” are more refined, which affects fatty acid content and the acidity of the oil. Also, look for a certification seal on oil labels to guarantee that the oil meets the U.S. grading standards. Store olive oil in a dark, room-temperature cabinet or refrigerator to slow down degradation. Remember that oil olive is a concentrated source of calories and should be used in moderation. This summer instead of wine tasting, look for olive oil tasting sites and explore the many flavors of olive oil.