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Hailed as liquid gold by culinary aficionados and health experts, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is one of the most versatile and beneficial ingredients you can incorporate into your daily diet.

This complete guide covers everything you need to know to purchase, cook with, and reap the numerous wellness advantages of high-quality extra virgin olive oil.

What Exactly is EVOO (Extra-Virgin Olive Oil)?

EVOO stands for “extra virgin olive oil.” It’s the highest quality and purest grade of olive oil you can buy.

Extra virgin olive oil comes from the first cold pressing of olives. No heat or chemicals are used during the extraction process.

To be certified extra virgin, the oil must meet strict chemical and sensory standards indicating freshness and purity.

Extra virgin olive oil has a fruity, peppery flavor and aroma. It has a lower smoke point than more refined olive oils, making it ideal for unheated applications like dressings and dips.

According to Cynthia Kimball, chef and author of The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook, “The ‘extra virgin’ label means you’re getting the freshest, purest olive oil for peak nutrition and taste. It’s the only cooking oil I keep in my kitchen.”

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Is EVOO the same as regular olive oil

EVOO differs from regular olive oil in that it comes from the first olive pressing only. In contrast, regular olive oil may contain a blend of refined and virgin olive oils.

While regular olive oil may be blended and further refined, EVOO contains the highest levels of beneficial plant compounds like polyphenols and vitamin E.

These antioxidants have anti-inflammatory and cell-protecting effects in the body and provide the unique health benefits of EVOO.

The Many Health Benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Extra virgin olive oil is very good for you. Decades of research have uncovered many ways that the nutrients in EVOO contribute to good health:

Heart health

EVOO is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids that can improve cholesterol levels and lower heart disease risk. The antioxidants in EVOO also protect LDL cholesterol from oxidation.

Reduced inflammation

Chronic inflammation contributes to many diseases. The antioxidant phenolic compounds found abundantly in EVOO have powerful anti-inflammatory effects in the body.

Cancer prevention

EVOO may inhibit the growth of cancers including colon, breast and skin cancers. Researchers believe its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity play a role.

Better brain health

EVOO intake is associated with reduced risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties promote healthy brain aging.

Diabetes management

The fat composition and antioxidants in EVOO have beneficial effects on blood sugar regulation and metabolism. EVOO is preferred for diabetics over other oils.

Digestive health

The anti-inflammatory activity of EVOO may relieve discomfort from conditions like IBS or IBD. Some studies show EVOO enhances digestion and gut health.

Longevity

Many aspects of the Mediterranean diet, including EVOO intake, correlate to longer lifespan and healthspan. EVOO’s versatility makes it easy to incorporate daily.

So EVOO provides powerful health benefits from head to toe. But how does it actually compare to other cooking oils?

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How EVOO Compares to Other Oils

EVOO stands out from other cooking oils because of its high levels of antioxidants and monounsaturated fats. Here’s how it compares:

EVOO has a much higher level of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat than vegetable, canola or corn oils. Its fatty acid profile is closer to olive oil.

It contains more antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds than any other oil. These beneficial phytochemicals are lacking in vegetable oil and canola oil.

The smoke point of EVOO is lower than refined olive oil, canola oil, vegetable oil or avocado oil. So EVOO is not suitable for deep frying or very high heat cooking.

EVOO has a green, peppery, rich flavor, while oils like vegetable and canola oil have neutral tastes. So EVOO adds more flavor to dishes.

Overall, EVOO provides more health benefits than other cooking oils because of its unique phytochemical content.

But it’s better suited for low and moderate heat cooking rather than deep frying.

See the table below for a detailed nutrient comparison:

OilSmoke PointFat ProfileAntioxidants
Extra Virgin Olive Oil375°FHigh in monounsaturated fats like oleic acidVery high in polyphenols and vitamin E
Olive Oil390°FHigh in monounsaturated fats like oleic acidModerate polyphenols
Vegetable Oil450°FHigh in polyunsaturated fats like linoleic acidLow
Canola Oil400°FHigh in monounsaturated fats like oleic acidLow
Avocado Oil520°FHigh in monounsaturated fats like oleic acidLow
Coconut Oil350°FHigh in saturated fats like lauric acidLow

How to use extra virgin olive oil for cooking?

You can cook with extra virgin olive oil and it’s one of the most versatile cooking oils out there.

Because of its low smoke point (around 375°F), extra virgin olive oil is best suited for low- to medium-heat cooking.

A staple of Mediterranean cuisine, it’s fantastic for sautéing veggies, roasting potatoes, making salad dressings, and drizzling over finished dishes.

Just don’t use it for high-heat searing or frying – you’ll lose that lovely olive flavor.

Extra virgin olive oil brings its bright, fresh taste to so many dishes. Next time you’re cooking, grab that bottle of extra virgin olive oil!

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Maximize Nutrition by Consuming Raw EVOO

To get the most out of EVOO’s antioxidant content, be sure to also enjoy it raw and unheated.

Nutritionist Rania Batayneh recommends, “Use your best quality EVOO uncooked, such as drizzled over fresh salads, roasted veggies, dips and spreads. This way you maximize the benefits.”

Some delicious ways to incorporate raw EVOO into your diet include:

  • Fresh tomato bruschetta drizzled with EVOO and basil
  • Melon or strawberry salad with EVOO, salt, pepper and mint
  • Puréed white bean dip made with raw EVOO
  • EVOO blended into hummus or pesto recipes
  • Oatmeal or yogurt topped with raw EVOO and fruit
  • EVOO smoothies with berries, greens, or orange juice

EVOO is the best olive oil for salad

When making or dressing a salad, always opt for extra virgin olive oil because it is undoubtedly the best olive oil for salads.

The high quality and freshness of EVOO means it contains the highest levels of beneficial antioxidants like polyphenols and vitamin E compared to other olive oils.

These compounds provide anti-inflammatory benefits and help your body absorb the protective carotenoids in salad veggies.

EVOO also has a naturally green, fruity, peppery flavor that livens up salad greens beautifully.

More refined or processed olive oils lack EVOO’s nutrient content and taste. The higher-quality monounsaturated fats in EVOO are also more stable and less likely to oxidize than vegetable or canola oil dressings.

Aim for at least 1-2 tablespoons of high quality extra virgin olive oil per day in your cooking, salads and other preparations.

EVOO is fat, so moderation is still key. But this amount can help lower inflammation, oxidative stress and chronic disease risk based on clinical research.

What is evoo
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How to use EVOO as a salad dressing

One of the tastiest ways to incorporate EVOO into your diet is to make your own salad dressings with it.

Whisk together 3 parts EVOO to 1 part vinegar or lemon juice. Add garlic, dried herbs like oregano or basil, a touch of mustard, and sea salt and pepper to taste.

This simple vinaigrette comes together in seconds and puts that high quality EVOO to good use. Make a batch and keep refrigerated for up to a week.

EVOO also combines deliciously with balsamic vinegar for dressings.

Get creative with additions like honey, diced fruit, maple syrup, or spices when making EVOO vinaigrettes.

Drizzling salads with EVOO-based dressings helps you absorb more fat-soluble antioxidants from the fresh veggies.

Can EVOO be used for baking?

Extra virgin olive oil is a delicious and healthy choice for baking. The bold, fruity notes of EVOO pair wonderfully with chocolate, citrus fruits, and herbs like rosemary, oregano, and basil.

The subtle olive undertones add depth and complexity to baked goods.

From cakes to cookies to muffins, substituting EVOO for other fats like butter or vegetable oil results in more flavorful baked goods with a moist, tender crumb.

When baking with EVOO, keep oven temperatures under 400°F, since EVOO has a lower smoke point than more refined oils.

Carefully measure the EVOO, as its density is slightly different than other oils. For every cup of oil called for in a recipe, use about 3/4 cup EVOO and make up the volume difference with unsweetened applesauce or mashed banana.

This compensates for EVOO’s higher fat content per volume. With a bit of care taken to account for its unique properties, EVOO can be used successfully in place of any other oil or fat in your favorite baking recipes. T

The resulting goodies will be infused with delicious EVOO flavor and nutrients.

Creative Ways to Use EVOO Beyond Cooking

Besides sautéing and dressing, there are many ways to incorporate EVOO into your daily diet:

  • Add a tablespoon of EVOO to smoothies for a dose of healthy fats and phytonutrients. The flavor combines well with berries and greens.
  • Use EVOO topically by rubbing onto cracked heels or cuticles before bedtime to moisturize skin.
  • Oil pull with EVOO by swishing 1-2 teaspoons in your mouth for 10-20 minutes to draw out toxins and whiten teeth.
  • Mix EVOO with pure aloe vera gel as a nourishing overnight hair mask. The fatty acids help strengthen and soften hair.

With its many nutrients and uses, EVOO is truly a multitasking superfood. Get creative with EVOO to reap the wellness benefits!

Buying Quality EVOO Matters

When looking to buy extra virgin olive oil, it pays to seek out quality cold-pressed EVOO.

Not all EVOOs are created equal. Finding high-quality extra virgin olive oil ensures you get the full health benefits:

  • Choose dark bottles – Light degrades EVOO, so purchase it in dark green, brown or black bottles.
  • Check the harvest date – EVOO is freshest and most nutritious within 1-2 years of harvest.
  • Seeking certifications – Look for EVOO certified by organizations like COOC, PDO or DOP to ensure quality standards.
  • Avoid “light” olive oils – These undergo processing that degrades the delicate nutrients in EVOO.
  • Buy domestic – Imported oils may be old or diluted. Purchase EVOO from California, Texas or other US regions.
  • Shop small – Visit local specialty stores and family farms for the freshest, purest EVOO.

Seeking out high quality extra virgin olive oil ensures you can maximize the many nutritional and culinary benefits of EVOO.

Extra virgin olive oil truly earns its “superfood” status

Consuming EVOO regularly provides science-backed health benefits for your heart, brain, digestion and more.

EVOO’s versatility makes it easy to incorporate into cooking and eating daily. Put this antioxidant-rich oil to work for you by sautéing, blending into dressings and drizzling it abundantly on salads and veggies.

With quality EVOO as a staple in your pantry and some creativity in the kitchen, you can readily enjoy the many health and flavor benefits of one of nature’s healthiest oils.

Frequently Asked Questions About EVOO

How long does EVOO last?

Stored properly, EVOO will stay fresh for 2-3 years from the harvest date. Keep it in a cool, dark place like the fridge. Oils kept near heat or light will become rancid more quickly.

Does EVOO need to be refrigerated?

Refrigeration is best for long-term storage, but isn’t required. For daily kitchen use, store EVOO in a cool, dark cabinet away from heat sources. Return to the fridge after opening.

Can EVOO help you lose weight?

EVOO can help promote weight loss because its fatty acids boost satiety. Paired with a Mediterranean style diet, EVOO helps burn fat. But calories still need watching – EVOO is 120 calories per tablespoon.

Does EVOO have Omega-3?

No, EVOO does not contain omega-3 fatty acids. It’s rich in omega-9 monounsaturated fats and some omega-6. For omega-3s, eat fish, walnuts or flax. EVOO offers different health benefits.

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