I guess you use EVOO in every recipe you make, but you don’t know its history and secrets! What is EVOO? Today I will explain why it is such a fine food!
EVOO oil is one of the most important foods in the Mediterranean diet and has been since ancient times… Spain is the main producing country and has held this supremacy for a long time, but right after it we find no less than Italy, followed by Greece, Portugal and France. In recent years, North African countries such as Tunisia and Morocco are also approaching the European production.
In short, as we can see, EVOO oil is now used all over the world for all kinds of preparations. But it is often not given the value it deserves, namely that of being a very precious and healthy food!
In fact, there are a lot of false myths about EVOO oil, pushing people to limit usage when it is not necessary, such as when frying… How many times have you heard “EVOO oil should not be used for frying, it is bad for you” or “EVOO oil is fat and should be limited”? Of course there are situations when these statements may be true, such as if it is used incorrectly when frying or if you are following a low-calorie diet, but many times these rumours are absolutely false!
In this article, I will help you discover what EVOO is and how it differs from other types of oil. We will go over all its benefits together and I will help you understand why it is considered a real medicine!
I will also give you tips on how to taste it in the places where it is produced or even take part in the olive harvest and discover first-hand how olive oil is produced. So, follow me and I will take you on a discovery of what EVOO oil means and why it is good to consume it regularly! 👇
What is EVOO?
To help you better understand the meaning of EVOO oil, I will start with an explanation of this acronym. EVOO stands for extra virgin olive oil and is used to distinguish this from other less valuable types of olive oil.
The acronym was created by Stefano Epifani, a famous Italian agronomist. Seeing the general confusion that existed, he decided to take matters into his own hands and clearly distinguish this product from others.
In the following paragraphs, I will tell you about all the characteristics that a consumer should know in order to make an informed use and appreciate this exceptional food.
Differences between olive oil & extra virgin olive oil
1. EVOO OIL
The quality of this food comes from the steps that take place during its production. These give rise to the purity that distinguishes this kind of oil from all others.
EVOO oil is obtained by pressing olives using mechanical processes that do not alter its properties. Moreover, it is virgin as no solvents or chemicals are used and no other types of oil are added. For all these reasons, therefore, this type of oil is an exclusively natural product!
The characteristics that we find in high quality EVOO oil are: a slight spiciness, a little bitterness and a fruity taste on the palate.
Moreover, the main characteristic that distinguishes it from all other types of oil is that its acidity must never exceed 0.8%.
As for the production steps for EVOO oil, these involve pressing the olives after they have reached the right level of ripeness. Then, they are processed by cold pressing, using specific machinery. It is this cold-pressing mechanism that keeps the acidity low and ensures that all the vitamins and healthy fatty acids are not lost due to the high temperatures.
The last step in the production of EVOO oil is filtering, through which the product is made completely pure. All impurities are removed and this allows the extra virgin olive oil to have a longer shelf life. In fact, an unfiltered oil risks expiring sooner than a filtered one.
You should now have a clearer idea of what EVOO oil is and why it is a food that is absolutely not harmful to our health… But let’s see the difference with olive oil instead!
2. OLIVE OIL
Unlike EVOO oil, this type of oil undergoes a process that involves mixing with refined oil, i.e. oil produced through the use of chemical agents such as benzene. These and other steps mean that this food cannot be considered exclusively natural in the first place, and also that its quality is partly lost and the acidity rises sharply, even up to 2%.
In the next section, we will discover the differences between the different kinds of olive oil and their uses.
Other types of oil
VIRGIN OLIVE OIL:
It is a less pure type of oil than the previous one and, for this very reason, is considered of inferior quality. In fact, it is obtained from olives that may have defects and from blends of oil types that undergo different processes.
But the big difference, as I told you before, lies in the acidity of this oil. In this case, it cannot exceed 2%.
In spite of this, it is still considered an excellent food. In fact, to be defined as virgin it must not have undergone any treatment that could lead to alterations, other than washing, decantation, centrifugation and filtration. Therefore, it is in no way treated with solvents or chemical processes.
LAMPANTE VIRGIN OIL
Lampante oil is an oil that is classified as virgin because it is produced by mechanical extraction of the olives. However, this food has got high levels of acidity (above 2%) and is absolutely unpleasant to the taste and smell, so much so that lampante oil is inedible.
It takes this name because, in ancient times, it was used as fuel in domestic lighting lamps. Today, this oil can only be made edible, and thus intended for food use, after it has undergone a rectification or refining process, becoming refined olive oil, through processes of deacidification, decolourisation and deodorisation… But let’s look at them in detail!
REFINED OLIVE OIL:
Refined or rectified olive oil is obtained by refining lampante or virgin olive oil. This product undergoes three processes:
- deacidification through the use of soda ash to lower the acidity;
- decolourisation with vegetable charcoal or other substances;
- deodorisation to eliminate any odour.
After refining, olive oil presents itself to the palate as a fatty matter devoid of
of smell and taste. So, before it can be packaged, it must be mixed with an extra virgin or virgin olive oil to give it colour and flavour.
CRUDE OLIVE POMACE OIL:
Pomace is the paste that remains after the first pressing of virgin and extra virgin oil. This material, despite being waste, is still rich in oil and this can be further extracted through certain treatments, using solvents or through physical processes. The result is crude pomace oil, which undergoes a further refining process in order to become edible.
The Nutritional Values of EVOO oil
As we know, extra virgin olive oil is a high-calorie food. It consists of 99% fat and has as many as 824 kcal per 100 ml.
But be careful not to be mistaken by these values! In fact, 73% of these fats are monounsaturated fatty acids, i.e. good fats! It is also an excellent natural source of antioxidants, most notably tocopherol, and vitamin E, which protects your cells from the formation of free radicals and premature ageing processes.
We also find another valuable molecule contained in EVOO oil, namely, squalene. According to some research, it plays a protective role against skin cancer.
The Benefits & Properties of EVOO oil
Thanks to the studies carried out to date, we know that EVOO oil is a real liquid gold, a panacea! It can bring exceptional benefits to our health, if consumed in adequate quantities!
Among its functions, we find firstly that of reducing bad cholesterol (which is deposited in the arteries) and increasing good cholesterol (which protects against certain problems)!
Continuing with its beneficial qualities, we find the ability to lower blood pressure, preventing heart attacks and strokes. It can also help curb blood sugar peaks in people with type 1 diabetes mellitus.
Studies have also shown that it is also effective in decreasing the risk of cancer, particularly breast cancer. Finally, as if that were not enough, it also seems to have effects in delaying the development of diseases such as the Alzheimer’s!
If you don’t believe all this, know that it was the FDA, i.e. the US Food and Drug Administration, which, after thorough research, decreed EVOO oil to be a real medicine, capable of providing exceptional health benefits.
Having told you what EVOO oil is, I am here to give you a few tips.
The first one I would like to give you is to take the time to taste EVOO oil, to fully savour all its characteristics and to discover all the differences between one oil and another… A real experience that you can have with us at Italia Delight:
Or other activities that I recommend are: taking part in cooking classes, guided tours including multi-media or museum tours, picnics, aperitifs or dinners in olive groves, or picking olives directly at farms. These are all fun ways to get in touch with its true nature and to taste all the characteristics that make it the precious ingredient we all love!
- Cooking classes with extra virgin olive oil
- Day trips to discover olive oil
- Olive oil-themed foodie breaks!
To conclude this article, I will provide you with some information, also trying to discredit some false myths, such as the fact that EVO oil cannot be used for cooking (in particular, frying).
Not only is this not true… On the contrary, due to all its characteristics and its smoke point (up to 210 degrees), which is the highest compared to all other types of oil, it is preferable for frying, since it is well known that high temperatures are reached while frying! EVOO is perfect for frying as it remains stable and does not start producing substances that are toxic to our health.
As far as the price of EVOO oil is concerned, it is around 10 to 15 euro if you buy a good product... I advise you to be wary of oil sold at 5 to 6 euro. The price may go up if you choose a particular type of oil or you prefer organic extra virgin olive oil, to be sure of its purity!
To the question of whether filtered or unfiltered oil is preferable, I reply that the answer is strictly a matter of personal taste. But filtering makes the oil brighter, more delicate and allows it to last longer.
In the choice between PDO and PGI, the answer is simple: they are both exceptional quality labels, so you cannot go wrong!
As for storage, the ideal place is away from light and in a cool place (around 18 degrees is the perfect temperature).
I conclude with a curiosity, telling you that the best Italian EVOO oil is of Umbrian origin and is the Umbria PDO extra virgin olive oil. Or at least, that is how it appears in the Gambero Rosso’s guide to Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil 2021.
My guide on what EVOO oil is ends here, I hope I have won you over and made you realise how lucky Italy is to be one of the main producing countries of this exceptional food!
So, what are you waiting for? Run and taste the different types of Italian EVOO… I recommend it on some wonderful home-made bruschetta bread! Enjoy your meal 😉