Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO). We know it. We eat it daily. And we love it. But why is it so good for us?
By Marianna Devetzoglou
EVOO plays an integral role in our daily diet – the famous Mediterranean Diet, which was once again voted as the world’s healthiest diet for the year 2020. And at the heart of it, is the almighty EVOO. Although there are several olive oil grades, EVOO is the one we should always prefer, due to its strong health benefits and gastronomical profile.
What makes EVOO so different from other oils? A number of characteristics actually!
To begin with, contrary to other oils, olive oil is a natural juice which means it comes directly from the olive fruit. There is no chemical or industrial processing taking place. It is produced from the crushing of the olives at the olive mill, much like orange is squeezed to produce orange juice. This, in itself, makes it a very healthy food to consume, as we enjoy the bioactive compounds in their natural raw form.
Moreover, EVOO is one of the best sources of unsaturated fatty acids, and antioxidants such as polyphenols, a-tocopherol, carotenoids etc. has the ability to deliver important health benefits to various health aspects. On the area of cardiovascular health, its high content in monounsaturated fatty acids in combination with the antioxidants, decrease the risk of arteriosclerosis, thrombosis, high blood pressure and coronary heart disease. The strong antioxidant properties of olive oil constituents contribute positively to the body’s ability to resist oxidative stress, combat inflammation and promotes a healthier neurological and cellular function. Epidemiological studies show encouraging results in that olive oil consumption, as part of the Mediterranean diet, can help manage diabetes type 2 and reduces the risk of cancer, as well as cognitive and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
The health benefits of EVOO are accumulative, making the consumption of EVOO a lifelong, health investment and not a one-off medicine. So, it’s important to consume EVOO on a daily basis. And how easy is that? It is easier than most think!
EVOO is best consumed raw in salads but is also a good option to cook with and fry in because it is more stable in high temperatures than other frying oils. To increase daily consumption, EVOO can be added in raw salads, boiled or roasted vegetables, in pasta once it’s ready, and, of course, in baking- to replace butter.
There are many different varieties of EVOO, depending on the olive trees, and the EVOOs that are produced can be delicate, mild or robust. Each variety gives a different profile – delicate aromas or robust pungency, mild bitterness or intense fruitiness. There are basically two distinct ways to pair olive oil with food: complementary and contrasting. In complementary flavours, two similar ingredients are blended, without overpowering primary flavours, such as fish, mushrooms, seafood paste and baking. In contrasting flavours, each ingredient is tasted separately, so adding a robust EVOO can add some interest. You can easily use a robust EVOO in barbeque meat, a mild EVOO in pasta, and a delicate EVOO in baking as a butter replacement.
Food pairing and the gastronomic combinations are endless with such a unique and versatile product and exploring the different varieties of olive oil, flavours, aromas and intensities open up a new world of possibilities in creativity and culinary activities, all without compromising on your health! So, cheers to EVOO!
Olive Oil Sommelier