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A Guide to Olive Oil

September 21, 2012 Emily Murray Boston 0 Comments

A Guide to Olive Oil

With all of the back and forth from health and nutrition “experts” regarding fats and oils, it’s difficult to know what is good for you and what is bad for you. One area of agreement, however, are the benefits of quality monounsaturated fats found in fish and olive oils. Olive oil is high in anti-oxidants and omega-3 fatty acids that can provide a number of health benefits including:

  • Lower blood sugar
  • Lower LDL cholesterol
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Decreased risk of heart disease
  • Increased skin health
  • Decreased risk of certain cancers, including breast, prostrate, and digestive tract

Recent studies are finding additional health benefits associated with olive oil consumption. Despite all of the favorable health benefits, however, this cooking school in Massachusetts recommend preparing meals with olive oil because it tastes better than just about any other fat that you can cook with.

Grades of Olive Oil

If you’ve ever gone to the olive oil shelf at your local grocer, you’ve probably been overwhelmed by the choices available to you. In addition to the number of brands available, there are also several grades from which to choose. So how do you know what to buy and how to use it? Take a look below for some insight:

  • Olive or Pure Olive Oil
    This is typically a combination of virgin and refined olive oils. Refined oils have been treated with heat and/or chemicals to improve the flavor of lower quality oils. Because it has a lower fat content, pure olive oil is best used in high heat application like sautéing and frying.
  • Virgin Olive Oil
    Virgin olive oil is defined as oil that is obtained only through mechanical or other physical methods. There is no heat or chemical extraction involved. Virgin oil is more flavorful than pure olive oil and is best used in cold preparations or low-heat cooking methods.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    While still virgin oil obtained only through mechanical processes, extra virgin oil is the lowest in fat content and the highest in flavor. Extra virgin olive oils are used almost exclusively in salad dressings and other cold preparations. It is commonly used at the table for dipping and adding to soups, stews, vegetables, and fruits.

Other labeling you will see may include:

  • Extra-Light – just another name for refined oils
  • Cold pressed – means that the oil was not heated above 80 degrees F in the extraction process
  • Organic – meets all of the standards for organic designation by the FDA
  • Imported – Imported oils aren’t always made in the countries from which they are imported. The olives may not have been grown there either. As always, caveat emptor

Whether you buy for the health benefits, the flavor, or both, your favorite recipes will reap the rewards of cooking with olive oil. Just adding this simple ingredient to your recipes will have your meals tasting like they have been made by a graduate of culinary school.

 This article is presented by Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Boston. Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Boston offers culinary arts and pâtisserie and baking training programs in the Boston, Massachusetts area. To learn more about the class offerings, please visit Chefs.edu/Boston for more information. 
Find disclosures on graduation rates, student financial obligations and more at www.chefs.edu/disclosures
Le Cordon Bleu® and the Le Cordon Bleu logo are registered trademarks of Career Education Corporation. Le Cordon Bleu cannot guarantee employment or salary. Credits earned are unlikely to transfer.

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