On many occasions I have commented that extra virgin olive oil is the star product in the Mediterranean diet, thanks to its long list of benefits. However, just as with any other food, we need to consider a few aspects that determine the quality of olive oil (and hence the enjoyment it causes and its contribution to our health). Take note of the tips below:
1. CHOOSE EXTRA VIRGEN OLIVE OIL OVER PLAIN VIRGIN OIL
You cannot harbor any doubts here. The health benefits are many when you consume an EVOO as compared to virgin or plain olive oil. EVOO has a high content of monounsaturated fats, mainly oleic acid, it contains polyphenol and is rich in vitamin E (as tested by the European Food Safety Authority – EFSA - and authorized by the European Commission).
What does this mean? These qualities make it an essential product for your diet and the benefits are way greater than those of any other type of oil.
2. CHOOSE OIL FROM THE LATEST HARVEST
Extra virgin olive oil does not have a 'best before' date, but this does not mean that its quality lasts forever. EVOO is a living product that loses qualities over time. Always choose an extra virgin oil that is as close as possible to the harvest date, in the same way that you would look for any other fresh product, for instance when buying fish--the fresher the better.
The sooner it is consumed after being harvested, the more properties it will contain. This is important when buying it, so make it a point to check the label to confirm it is from the latest harvest. This will ensure you get better quality oil.
3. ONCE YOU'VE BOUGHT IT, CONSUME IT SOON
As mentioned in the previous tip, olive oil's properties dissipate over time. Because of this, it is advisable to consume it quickly in order to reap all the benefits of a product that should be a key part of your diet.
Another trick is getting the bottle size right at the time of buying it. If you aren't going to consume a lot, it's better to buy a smaller bottle. If you know it will not last long (for instance, if several family members use it), then it makes sense to get a larger bottle.
4. ALWAYS STORE OLIVE OIL AWAY FROM LIGHT SOURCES
Light is olive oil's worst enemy, because it speeds up its deterioration incredibly. Always keep oil stored away from the sun's ultraviolet rays and from light bulbs. Ideally it should be kept in a closed cupboard or cabinet, sheltered from light, and in a dark colored glass bottle.
5. KEEP OIL AWAY FROM HEAT SOURCES
Temperature is crucial when conserving oil. Too much heat (even if it's just because the bottle is near the stove when you are cooking) causes a quick deterioration of the oil, which will lose its properties. The best temperature for conserving olive oil is between 18 and 20°C (64 and 68°F). In other words, there's no need to keep EVOO in the refrigerator.
6. COLOR DOES NOT STAND FOR QUALITY
You may find extra virgin olive oil in different shades of green, but also with gold or yellow hues. This means nothing as far as the quality of the product is concerned. Why are there different colors? It's simply because different olive varieties yield oils that differ in color. Another factor is that younger oils have a slightly higher chlorophyll content. This provides a deeper green hue, but it doesn't change the flavor or quality of the oil.
7. LOOK FOR THE RIGHT SENSATIONS IN YOUR MOUTH
Last but not least, whenever you taste olive oil, focus all your attention on your senses and always choose oil made from an early harvest, because it will contain more polyphenol and hence greater health benefits. You will also notice a fresher taste and aroma<./p>
Bear in mind these parameters:
- Fruity: ranging from ripe to green depending on the ripeness of the olives at the time of harvest.
- The less ripe, the greener the impression.
- What your nose and mouth detect should be a pleasant natural or vegetable aroma. Something along the lines of a salad or banana.
- Flavor: ranging from bitter to spicy, due to the polyphenol level.
- The higher the polyphenol content, the spicier it will taste.
- You can taste the bitterness in your mouth and feel the spiciness in your throat.
Put these tips into practice to make the most of your extra virgin olive oil. It is well worth your while in order to enjoy the star product of the Mediterranean diet. Try it, you'll love it.