Olive oil is best recognized for its health benefits. Being rich in monounsaturated fats it is regarded as a heart-friendly oil that keeps the arteries clean. Studies reveal that a diet rich in monounsaturated fats help increase levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, which in turn help in maintaining cardiovascular health. The oil is also a rich source of vitamin E and many disease-fighting, antioxidant phytochemicals. The presence of saturates in olive oil is minimal, making it an excellent oil for heart health. It is believed that incidents of heart disease in Mediterranean countries are low because of a diet rich in olives and olive oil. According to studies olive oil is also packed with antioxidants that fight cancer cells, control high blood-pressure and keep bacterial infections at bay.
There are different types of olive oils available in the market – pomace olive oil, extra virgin olive oil, light olive oil, extra light olive oil, and virgin olive oil etcetera. Selecting the right oil can be quite confusing. Since, olive oil in its purest form is the best, when shopping, look for one that has not been processed much – as it would contain the least amount of chemicals and the process would not have involved too much heat that could have altered its composition.
The best buys would therefore be –
• Cold pressed olive oil
• Extra-virgin olive oil
• Virgin olive oil
There is a marked difference between extra-virgin olive oil and virgin olive oil. If the label says 'Virgin Olive Oil' the contents would be the unrefined oily extract of the fruit. It is acidic in nature and contains roughly 3 grams of free oleic acid in every 100 grams of oil.
Extra virgin olive oil on the other hand is not as acidic as any of the other variants. The oleic acid level in this oil is not more than 1 gram in every 100 grams of oil. Extra virgin olive oil is highly valued. Of all the variants of olive oil that you can buy, Light, Extra light and Pomace are the most refined. These oils do not offer any of the health benefits associated with olive oil.
The price of olive oil depends on a number of factors, namely:
• Whether it is virgin or refined – refined varieties are cheaper, but have little health benefits
• Where the olive was sourced – Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal and other Mediterranean countries oils are costlier
• The brand marketing the oil – some brands like Figaro, Farrell and Borges are known for their quality and are priced higher
Extra-virgin olive oil can cost close to Rs.1,000 a litre.
In India olives are successfully being cultivated in parts of Rajasthan.
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