Olive oil, in particular extra virgin olive oil, is a fundamental food of the Mediterranean diet . It is used everywhere and in every meal. It is particularly appreciated on bread bruschetta , which some even eat during breakfast.
The theme of the next lines will deal with this food that some consider a condiment. We will especially focus on its use in a diet situation!
To understand the importance of oil I start from its characteristics, the effects on the body, the advice on use and the mistakes to avoid.
Sit back and take a moment to reflect, we’re about to talk about a fairly controversial topic in the dietary field.
Olive oil: what it is
Extra virgin olive oil is a high quality edible oil extracted from olives solely by mechanical processes (as opposed to seed oils which need a solvent, and therefore a chemical process, to be extracted). In the next few lines I will refer to this typology.
Its nutritional characteristics make it unique. It is mainly made up of triglycerides ( about 98% ), it is a glycerol molecule linked to three fatty acids. Without going into too much detail, it’s all about fat.
You’ve probably already heard of fatty acids and how they are categorized:
The body needs all three types, preferably in the following ratio.
I wrote about: ” How to increase good cholesterol “.
Read it! A light bulb will light up and you will understand the different dietary fats.
The breakdown of fatty acids present in the composition of olive oil is very similar to that required by the human body. That’s why, compared to many other fatty toppings, it’s one of the best from a health perspective.
Beyond the purely fat composition, the remaining 2% is rich in other exceptional substances: tocopherols, beta carotene, phytosterols, polyphenols, etc.
All antioxidants that protect against disease and aging.
Which one to choose
The recommendations for use are different.
Not all oils are the same : the better the quality, the better the benefits.
How to choose a quality extra virgin olive oil?
If you turn to local producers, trust in the producer is assumed. It must be frank on the type of olives, the method of harvesting and the methods used by the mill to obtain the product.
In general, the season of the year for the olive harvest is autumn , but the right time to proceed can vary within a period from October to December.
The factors that can determine the harvest date are many, but the three that must certainly be evaluated are the variety of the olive , the geographical area of origin and the climatic conditions .
In addition to the right period, another aspect to pay attention to when harvesting is the technique used. The final product can take on different organoleptic characteristics depending on the method chosen.
Browsing is certainly the best method, it consists in picking the fruits manually directly from the tree . As you can guess, however, it is very expensive and not everyone is able to operate like this, so there are machines that overcome harvesting quite well, with excellent quality compromises and saving time and manual effort.
The only method that I would advise against is picking, that is, harvesting the olives when they have now fallen to the ground through nets, the risk is to get olives that are too ripe and moldy.
I almost forgot, once harvested, the olives must be ground in a very short time ( usually 6/12 hours , in any case never more than 24 hours). In fact, from the moment the fruit is detached from the tree, its decay begins: the sooner the processing takes place, the better.
Here is finally the olive arriving at the mill.
The production of olive oil is an ancient art, therefore the methods used are many. Food technology is often frowned upon . As if grinding the olives with a stone and then collecting the juice is the absolute best way to process the olive.
Let’s get out of prejudices. The technology has moved on and if the systems have evolved it is to improve the quality of the product. Once the muller was used for the pressing of the olives and the press for the extraction of oil.
These methods have now been replaced by technologies that allow the olives to be processed at controlled temperatures, without the product ever coming into contact with air and light.
Remember, even when you have to decide how and where to store the oil; extra virgin olive oil has three great enemies: oxygen , heat and light , all factors that favor the oxidation of fats, therefore the qualitative deterioration of the product.
To preserve a good extra virgin olive oil for as long as possible it is therefore necessary to protect it from light (this is why the glass must be very dark), avoid prolonged contact with air (never leave containers open) and avoid sources of heat.
How do you know all this information?
Ask your supplier. Hoping he returns your trust, analyze what has been written so far.
For large-scale distribution you can rely on the origin ( 100% Italian ) and certifications: one of these is the DOP (Protected Designation of Origin).
The price is another important variable, but here it also depends on the use you intend to make of it: if you are referring to an oil for cooking, you can use cheaper types.
The cooking processes in fact slightly degrade the oil, so it would be useless to use very high quality oils if you will not be able to fully appreciate its characteristics.
Your bruschetta , on the other hand, deserves a more important oil. So I suggest you have two options at home: one to use for cooking and the other to eat raw.
For the former, you can find a 750ml bottle of good oil for between 5 and 8 euros, while for the latter, you can buy the same bottle between 10 and 15 euros.
Producing oil costs money , so lower prices inevitably lead to qualitative sacrifices, even if higher prices do not necessarily lead to higher quality products. There you will be the one to determine if the game is worth the candle, a good oil can only be recognized by tasting it.
Refine your palate and prepare your evaluation!
Olive oil in the diet
“If you want to lose weight, everything changes. All fatty seasonings, including olive oil must be avoided like the plague. “
Nothing more wrong.
There are many dietary strategies and the use of olive oil must be carefully planned according to each of them to avoid failure.
Generally in diets with a high carbohydrate content it is good to pay attention to the quantities of olive oil. If the latter are too high, you will not be able to position yourself in the low calorie range .
The calorie count is necessary to understand how much topping to add and a calorie counter or, better yet, a professional in the sector can help you.
In diets with a low carbohydrate content (such as hypo-glucose or high-protein), you may be less drawn in using the dressing. Obviously , it is always the calorie count that indicates the quantities to be used.
That’s why calorie counting is important for weight loss.
The main macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins and fats. The first two contain about 4 kcal / g, while fats reach 9 kcal / g . If you remember well the olive oil ev is made up of about 98% of fats.
This is why taking too much is bad for anyone trying to lose weight.
Measuring oil in tablespoons is useful for managing quantities without going crazy.
A standard tablespoon contains approximately 13.5g of oil. On average 100g of extra virgin olive oil corresponds to 880 kcal, so the kilocalories contained in a spoon are just over 114.
The concept indicated is that of caloric density. You can find out more by reading: ” How to lose weight based on time “.
Recommendations for use
We are in Italy and extra virgin olive oil is essential in our kitchen.
My grandmother uses more oil than water during lunch. Before dressing the salad, he always tells me: “Tell me just enough”.
I nod and she starts pouring with her thumb partially blocking the bottle hole.
In my mind the second counter starts, one, two … “Stop” … three, four … “enough grandma, thank you!” … five, six.
At the seventh stroke of my brain, Grandma finally seems satisfied.
Maybe my grandmother, like a good southern woman, exaggerates a little , but most people have a heavy pulse when it comes to pouring oil.
With oil and salt, even a boot is good.Proverb
So let’s see some tricks to make your dishes at the same time tasty, but not too heavy.
- Use other lower calorie liquid condiments as an accompaniment such as balsamic vinegar , soy sauce or citrus juice. One tablespoon of the first corresponds to about 15 kcal, of the second 8 kcal and of the third 3 kcal.
- Add smells and spices to flavor: both help to stimulate the taste buds, moreover their combinations stimulate the imagination in the kitchen avoiding boring the palate.
- To dose the quantities do not go by eye and help yourself with a spoon , but you already understood this.
- Take advantage of types of cooking where oil is not needed during preparation and can be added at the end.
Regarding the last point, I suggest you read: ” Cooking methods: evidence against the main methodologies “.
We have come to the end. The time has come to take stock.
Take home message
Extra virgin olive oil is an exceptional food. To enhance its qualities it is important to pay attention to the characteristics with which it is produced .
Remember that a quality product, as well as being tastier, will positively affect your health.
Be careful not to apply the “ more is better ” philosophy.
The fact that it’s a great food doesn’t mean you have to use it indiscriminately. Especially if you have decided to go on a diet, you will have to limit the quantities, because it provides a lot of calories and limiting calories is essential for losing weight.
Do you pay attention to the quality and quantity of extra virgin olive oil?
Let me know your experience in the comments.