Extra virgin, virgin, light. The list goes on. Olive oil is pretty awesome. But do you know the difference between them all? Did you even know that there was more than one type? You’re not alone if you don’t fully understand the difference between regular virgin and extra virgin compared to extra light. It all depends on your needs as to which olive oil to choose.
Olive oil is best known for its high antioxidant content like Vitamin E and is also anti-inflammatory and of course, delicious, too. It is high in healthy monounsaturated fats that may actually lower your risk of heart disease. Healthy fats can help promote good cholesterol and regulate your blood sugar. But before you buy your next bottle, make sure you know what you're getting - and that you're purchasing the right one for your particular needs.
Types of Olive Oil
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Comes from the first pressing of olives with a mechanical process at cold temperatures (you might be familiar with ‘cold pressed’ on the label), meaning that there is no heat or chemicals used to extract the oil from the olives. This makes it the highest quality olive oil, containing less than one percent acidity and less than one percent fatty acid. Known for its perfectly balanced aroma and great taste, this type of olive oil has a light, delicate flavour thanks to minimal processing. You don't want to cook with this kind, though, since high heat can damage the flavour and nutrients causing it to become a trans fat. Instead, when you want to focus on flavour, for example in salad dressings, soups, marinades.
Virgin Olive Oil (not often sold in the common supermarket) comes from the second pressing of slightly riper olives and is also cold pressed. ‘Virgin’ actually refers to the fact that the olives haven't had much handling and manipulating, either. It has a bit higher acidity and therefore costs less than extra-virgin but is still known to have a pretty good taste. Use this oil for lightly browning or sautéing vegetables or meat as it is more heat stable.
Regular (or Pure) Olive Oil Is a blend of extra virgin, virgin and/or refined olive oils that are mixed together to create an all-purpose product. It generally has a blander taste and lighter colour than its virgin counterpart. This baby has been chemically refined to neutralise the high acid content and strong flavours. This is one of the least expensive types of oil with the lowest nutrient levels. It's thought of as an all-purpose cooking oil and is best for deep frying or stir-frying due to its higher smoke point.
Light Olive Oil Is often thought of having less fat and calories, but it actually has the exact same fat and calorie content as virgin oil. It's simply a less pure, more chemically refined mixture of lower-quality oils with some virgin oil added back in. Since it's virtually flavourless, it works well when baking any sort of Nomnoms!