Extra virgin olive oil is a staple in the Mediterranean diet that has been proven beneficial to the health of the people in the region who have been cultivating olives and using the oil for thousands of years. Though those in the Mediterranean have been aware of its many health benefits for a long time, it wasn’t until this century that scientists investigated and acknowledged the health-boosting qualities of this liquid gold.
The health benefits of extra virgin olive oil are as follows:
- It aids in weight loss.
Numerous studies have found that replacing other types of fats in the diet with those in EVOO helps people lose weight, even without exercise and additional food restrictions. Additionally, it contains monounsaturated fatty acids that promote cardiovascular health by decreasing the amount of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol in the body without reducing the amount of HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
- Extra virgin olive oil benefits the whole body.
It isn’t just cars that benefit from an oil change; the functioning of the entire human body is helped along by the many beneficial nutrients in EVOO. Apart from improving cardiovascular health, it also improves glycemic control, supports the digestive organs, fights certain types of cancer, and strengthens the immune system. It also improves mental agility, keeps skin looking young, and helps prevent osteoporosis.
- Extra virgin olive oil helps relieve pain.
Oleocanthal, a chemical found in EVOO, has anti-inflammatory properties that allow it to inhibit pain and prevent certain chronic diseases.
Should extra virgin olive oil be used for cooking?
There have been a lot of contradictory statements from food experts, chefs, nutritionists, and chemists about whether or not EVOO should be used for cooking. Many now suggest that it should only be used raw or slightly heated.
The main issue is the smoke point of EVOO, which is not as high as other cooking fats such as lard or coconut oil. The smoke point is the temperature at which the oil burns, becomes rancid, and releases free radicals that act as carcinogens in the body. For this reason, many suggest that it should not be used for cooking. They claim that it is safer when used for making vinaigrettes and marinades, drizzling over vegetables, and finishing off dishes.
However, if one is careful not to let the oil reach its smoke point when cooking, then there should be no problem.
Extra virgin olive oil cooking tips
The trick to using the oil for cooking is to never allow it to reach its smoke point. This entails knowing when the oil is ready to cook with and knowing when it is about to reach the critical temperature. Here are some more tips in cooking with EVOO:
- Use only the highest quality extra virgin olive oil you can find.
- Do not use it for deep frying (even if it’s of high quality).
- Do not start with a hot pan or pot. Avoid burning the oil by heating it gradually.
- Do not heat it beyond 375 F.