A few different grades of olive oil are available for cooking and using in dips and other dishes. A wise cook will learn the various grades and their best uses. One question is always raised when discussing olive oil – is cold pressed olive oil better? Let’s take a look at the grades of olive oil and settle this question.
How is Olive Oil Graded?
Olive oil is graded by quality, and this is determined by its method of production. There are three basic grades of olive oil, with variations in grade within each class.
Cold First Pressed / Premium Extra Virgin / Extra Virgin
All these grades of olive oil are processed in a low-heat method, not exceeding 80 degrees Fahrenheit, which presses the olives and removes approximately 90% of the juice. There are no chemicals used and cold water is added to ensure low processing temperatures. The finest grade has the lowest acidity level, typically between 0.09% to 0.22%; lower grades of virgin olive oil can have up to 3.00% acidity. The higher the acidity, the lower the flavor profile.
The highest grade of cold pressed, extra-virgin olive oil ranges in color from bright yellow to a pale green and has a light, fruity flavor that is best suited for use in uncooked dishes where its full flavor profile can be enjoyed. Think of dips, salad dressings, or as a final drizzle on cooked dishes. Lower grades of virgin olive oil lack the fuller flavor and are better for cooking.
Olive Oil / Processed Olive Oil / Pure Olive Oil
These lower grades of olive oil are obtained from further processing the already-pressed olives with heat, chemicals, or filtration. These oils are clear, odorless, and flavorless, with an acidity level of greater than 3.00%. Often, this oil is further refined by being mixed with lower grades of virgin olive oil to add some flavor and color.
These oils have already been treated with heat, so they are ideal for cooking. They also have a longer shelf life. This is the grade of product used in foods with the label "packed in olive oil."
What are the Health Benefits of Olive Oil?
Olive oil is high in antioxidants, which are extremely important for good health. It is primarily an unsaturated fat, which is also healthy. The range of vitamins and nutrients contained in olive oil have been shown to help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
One tablespoon of cold pressed olive oil contains:
- 120 calories
- 14 grams of fat (approximately 10 grams polyunsaturated fat)
- 12.9% of the DV of Vitamin E
- 6.8% of the DV of Vitamin K
- At least 30 healthy plant compounds / antioxidants
Of course, the purer the grade of olive oil, the greater the health benefits. In a 2015 news release about the National Consumer League’s review of olive oil products, Brown University research analyst Mary Flynn commented on the health benefits of higher-grade olive oils.
"Extra virgin olive oils contain compounds called polyphenols, which are responsible for many of their purported health benefits. In general, the fresher the olive oil, the higher the polyphenol content. As the oil ages or is exposed to heat, light, or oxygen, the polyphenol content decreases. A number of studies have shown that extra virgin olive oils with higher polyphenol content are associated with greater health benefits."
Is Cold Pressed Olive Oil Better?
This brings us back to our original question, "Is cold pressed olive oil better?" From the information we have shown, the answer is unequivocally yes. Cold pressed olive oil is decidedly better in quality, flavor profile, and health benefits than lesser grades. The heat and chemicals used in further processing already-cold-pressed olives reduce the flavor and eliminate many of the antioxidants and other health properties.
Of course, an important key to obtaining the finest grade of cold pressed olive oil is to locate a reputable source. Olive Oil Divine in Johnson City, TN, carries only the finest, reputably-sourced first cold pressed olive oil products for use in your kitchen. You can explore their full line of products online or drop by their store at 2517 North Roan Street.