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  • Sophie Butcher

Choosing the best olive oil for your family's health

I went to the supermarket yesterday to buy some olive oil and I was struck by all the options: extra virgin, extra light, extra mild, delicate, pure, light & mild, and the list goes on…

There are so many available food choices now that it can become confusing about what is actually best for our children’s and our own health.

Olive oil is a main component of the Mediterranean Diet and research has shown that consuming olive oil, as part of your diet can help balance your cholesterol, is associated with reduced cardiovascular disease risk, protects against some types of cancers and may improve insulin sensitivity associated with type 2 diabetes.

But which olive oil should you consume???

The words you find on bottles and sprays before olive oil, such as “extra virgin” or “virgin” or “delicate” or “pure” are referring to the process that made the oil.

Extra virgin olive oil is the gold standard of olive oil. It is made from the cold pressing of olives and does not use chemicals or much heat. This retains much of the bioactive properties and results in a product that is beneficial to your health.

When oils are processed using chemicals and heat, they may be cheaper and have a longer shelf life but they are also not so good for your body. They lack beneficial nutrients and flavour.

Virgin olive oil is produced form a second pressing of olives (second grade), again, by cold pressing without chemicals and a little heat.

Pure olive oil is commercial oil that undergoes a refining process using heat, chemicals, high pressure and filtration treatments. It is then mixed with a small amount of virgin olive oil to restore the colour and add flavour.

Light and extra light olive oils are produced from the last pressing of olives; it is the most refined and lowest quality olive oil. Also remember that “light” refers to the colour NOT the amount of calories in the oil.

The flavour of good quality extra virgin olive oil should be a little bit fruity, bitter and pungent. If your olive oil tastes metallic, flavourless or musty then the oil has been processed and much of the goodness stripped away.

Store your olive oil in a cool, dry, dark place with the lid on.

The best way to use olive oil to enhance the nutrition in your meals is to drizzle it on your salads, vegetables, cooked pasta or bread. Use up to 3 tablespoons per day.

Check out these great recipes to get more olive oil into your daily diet: Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil and California Olive Ranch

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