featuring guest authors; crafting tips and projects; recipes from food editor and sleuthing sidekick Cloris McWerther; and decorating, travel, fashion, health, beauty, and finance tips from the rest of the American Woman editors.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Do you know the difference between the various types of olive oils and when to use them? I’ll be the first to admit that I stand in front of the olive oil selections and scratch my head. Should I always use EVOO because it’s the healthiest, or are there times when another variety of olive oil is preferable? Food editor Cloris McWerther and health editor Janice Kerr team up today to tell all. -- AP

Thanks, Anastasia! Ever hear of the Mediterranean diet? People who adhere to it have a lower risk of heart disease. That’s because their diets are rich in olive oil, a monounsaturated fat that keeps HDL or good cholesterol high and LDL or bad cholesterol low. Extra virgin olive oil is best for your health because it’s highest in phenols.

Olive oil is derived from pressing the oil from ripe olives. There are different pressing methods which account for the different types of olive oil. Cold pressed olive oil is oil extracted without the means of heat or chemicals. Estate olive oils refer to oil made from olives of a single farm. Unfiltered olive oil is oil that wasn’t siphoned through filters to remove sediment.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) Extra-virgin olive oil is taken from the first pressing of the olive. It has less than 1% acidity and must be extracted through mechanical means without the use of any chemicals. This is the most flavorful of olive oils, but it should be used in dishes that don’t require high heat because of its low smoke point. Use it in salad dressings and marinades. Add it to sauces. Use it in place of butter, drizzled over crusty bread, baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, and cooked vegetables. If you choose to sauté or fry with extra virgin olive oil, do so with medium heat only.

Virgin Olive Oil
Virgin olive oil is also from the first pressing with only mechanical means, but it can have acidity levels of up to 2%. Use this variety for sautéing, pan-frying, or broiling. It can also be used as a condiment or for baking bread.

Olive Oil After the olives are pressed the first time, more oil can be extracted using a combination of heat, pressure, and chemicals. This produces the more refined olive oil. The acidity is higher, as is the smoke point, which is about 410 degrees. This makes it ideal for high heat cooking such as frying.

Lite Olive Oil Because of its high smoke point, this oil can be used with any type of high-heat cooking method. Use it in place of butter or other oils when baking. The subtle flavor won’t overpower the flavor of the baked goods. When using for baking, substitute three tablespoons of mild or light olive oil for a quarter cup of butter or margarine.

Thank you Cloris and Janice! Now I won’t feel like such a dimwit the next time I’m in the oil aisle. -- AP

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