When to Use Olive Oil

As healthy as it is, extra virgin olive oil isn’t always the smartest choice.

Monica Reinagel, M.S.,L.D./N
4-minute read
Episode #14

What kind of oil is in your kitchen right now? You’ve probably got a couple of different kinds, and I’m hoping one of them is olive oil. Olive oil is the king in terms of health benefits. First off, of all the different kinds of oil, it’s highest in monounsaturated fat, which is the “heart-healthy” kind of fat. Eating olive oil promotes healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels.

Secondly, olive oil is rich in polyphenols and antioxidants, which protect your cells against damage that can lead to cancer and heart disease. Olives also contain a newly discovered compound called oleocanthal, which has fairly potent anti-inflammatory effects. Eating anti-inflammatory foods like olive oil can help slow down the aging process, both inside and out, and even make it easier to lose weight and keep it off.

But when you go to buy olive oil, you’ve probably noticed that there are lots of different kinds. You’ve got your low-end, pale green stuff, which is often labeled 100% olive oil. And then you’ve got all kinds of high-end, bright green stuff, usually called extra virgin olive oil. Which kind should you buy? Both!

Why You Need Two Kinds of Olive Oil

To make olive oil, you basically squeeze olives and the oil drips out. Dissolved in the oil are aromatic compounds from the flesh of the olives. The same olives are then squeezed, or pressed, a number of times. But that first pressing, which produces what we call extra virgin olive oil, contains a much higher proportion of these plant extracts. That’s why it is so much darker and more flavorful than oils that come from later pressings. It’s also more expensive.