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Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

It’s not called Liquid Gold  for nothing…

At PurpleCarrot we love natural products that not only taste great but are also good for you. And olive oil is definitely one of them. We use plenty of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) to dress our salads but also enjoy it in sauces, dips, cooking and even baking! As our interest in olive oil grew, we teamed up with Cristina Nespoli from Terre de Carmen the award-winning olive oil producer from Puglia. Cristina has helped us understand the olive oil production process better:

“Olive oil is made simply by crushing the olives and extracting the juice but not all olive oils are the same: Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) has no taste defects and has passed strict chemical  tests. It must be produced entirely by mechanical means without the use of any solvents, and under temperatures that will not degrade the oil. Virgin olive oil has modest taste defects and meets somewhat less strict chemical and sensorial parameters. Refined olive oil is industrially refined to remove unpleasant tastes and to bring back the chemical values required by law to be sold. Refined olive oil is produced on a large scale like canola or sunflower oils”

What makes olive oil so healthy?

Firstly, its high concentration of good fats….The good fats in olive oil are known as mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and their health benefits include improving insulin sensitivity and secretion which helps reduce the risk of developing diabetes type 2, helping reduce inflammation, lowering cholesterol and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. and secondly antioxidants galore…EVOO also contains good amounts of several antioxidants including polyphenols that help reduce the level of damaging free-radicals. Additionally, polyphenols and other phytochemicals in EVOO have shown anti-inflammatory properties. EVOO also contains good amounts of vitamin E a powerful antioxidant that helps prevent fats from oxidising and maintains healthy cell membranes.

Olive oil in cooking

Fats can be damaged when heated at high temperatures becoming oxidised which may have negative effects on health. Fats become damaged once they reach their smoke point when they turn rancid.Refined olive oil has a higher smoke point than EVOO which makes it ideal for cooking at high temperatures like roasting or deep frying and its fat content is still mostly health-promoting poly-unsaturated omega-9 fats like that found in avocados and almonds. However, refined olive oil contains lower levels of antioxidants. EVOO has a smoke point of 160C-195C which means I can be used for light frying and baking at low temperatures although this may significantly reduce the levels of antioxidants.

How do we enjoy EVOO?

We love to use peppery and fruity EVOO raw in dips like Mouhammara and salad dressings. As we can’t get enough of the complex flavours found in good quality olive oils such Terre di Carmen, we add it to batters like Cristina’s super light lemon and spelt cake but make sure we bake at a reasonably low temperature to ensure the good fats are not damaged and we preserve as many antioxidants as possible.

Stay tuned…

PurpleCarrot Nutrition has invited Terre di Carmen to join one of our cooking and nutrition workshops next year. You can join our mailing list to hear about our cooking and nutrition events.  For a full version of this article including references, please email pilar@purplecarrotnutrition.co.uk.