What is the Difference Between Olive Oil and Extra Virgin Olive Oil?
One fine day you finally walk into a supermarket to buy a bottle of olive oil because you are totally convinced with all the wonderful health benefits it provides. But, as soon as you reach the shelf, you are confused to see the diversity of choices. Of course, nobody told you that there are many types of olive oils that are available - from virgin to extra virgin and premium extra virgin. Which one should you buy? Or what is the difference between regular olive oil and the virgin variety? You'll find all your answers right here.
The two most common types of olive oils, you may have heard of them before, are 'refined olive oil' and 'extra virgin olive oil.' Here's how both differ from each other in terms of extraction, nutritional value, use and flavour.
How are both extracted?
Both of them are obtained from the fruit of the olive tree but the way they are extracted differs. Regular olive oil is subjected to refining before being bottled. In this process, it may be treated with some additives and preservatives. It is light yellow in colour. On the other hand, extra virgin oil is the purest form of olive oil. It retains the golden-green hue of the olive fruit as it is not subjected to any industrial processes. It is the first juice of the fruit extracted through the process cold-pressing which is only filtered and then bottled as is.
Therefore, extra virgin oil olive has a stronger flavour and aroma than regular olive oil which might be slightly bitter in taste. The gradation of olive oils is done on the basis of the level of acidity which refers to the content of Free Oleic Acid present in the oil. Regular olive oil has about 3-4% of oleic acid while extra virgin olive oil has less than 1%. The measure of free oleic acid in olive oil shows the degree to which fat has separated into fatty acids.
Is there any difference in nutritional value?
Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is the highest quality of olive oil because of the lesser amount of free oleic acid it contains which makes it a bit lighter. It also contains a slightly higher quantity of antioxidants like polyphenols. It is preferred because of its anti-inflammatory properties and natural olive flavour. All kinds of olive oils are highly rich in nutrients like vitamin E, vitamin K and minerals that make it heart-friendly as compared to other cooking oils. Olive oil (be it regular o extra virgin) is not as heavy as other refined cooking oils like mustard or sunflower oil and is lighter to digest.
Lastly, can they be substituted for each other?
Regular olive oil and extra virgin olive oil are used for different cooking purposes. The primary difference in the use of regular olive oil and extra virgin olive is due to their smoke point. Smoke point is the temperature at which the oil starts producing bluish smoke. The smoke point of refined olive oil is slightly higher than that of extra virgin olive oil which means that it will take a little more time to burn. Therefore, it is better suited for high heat cooking techniques like frying. Extra virgin olive is great in salads as a dressing and can even be used for light sauteing. "The unrefined olive oil is obviously better than the refined one because of its purity and lower oleic acid content but that doesn't make it suitable for deep frying," adds Dr. Madhian.
Armed with your newfound knowledge, we're sure you'll be able to make the best choice, the next you visit the supermarket.