We’re constantly told how beneficial olive oil is for our health and why it should be in every single kitchen cabinet. Several studies have found that olive oil can prevent heart diseases, diabetes, among other ailments. Other than that, olive oil also has beauty benefits as it can help in moisturising your hair, fighting against dandruff and also protect your skin. After all, it is an extremely rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E and antioxidants. However, not many of us are aware of the different kinds of olive oil available and which type should be used for cooking or your skin and hair. Before you invest in olive oil and use it for a while before finalising on a product. Also, it is important to know about the different types of olive oil and what they should be used for. ‘Olive oil is expensive and if not used properly, it won’t have any beneficial effects,’ says Deepshikha Agarwal, Dietician and Sports Nutritionist.
‘Now-a-days, there are various combination olive oils as well, like soy olive oil blends, among others. However, I don’t recommend that for any of my clients and advise them to stick to the traditional olive oil,’ adds Agarwal. These are the four most common types of olive oil found in India that Agarwal says you should know about before making any decision about adding olive oil to your diet and beauty routine:
Extra virgin olive oil
This is the most expensive type of olive oil as it is also of the highest quality. Extra virgin olive oil is completely unrefined and has the lowest acidity level as compared to other types of olive oil. It is also very rich in antioxidants and has the highest amount of minerals and vitamins found in olives. Save this expensive oil only for salads, as it has a very low smoking point as compared to other oils. This means even if it is cooked at very low temperatures, it could burn. ‘Use extra virgin olive oil to make dressings for salads or just drizzle it on top of cold dishes or add it to some of your bread dips. If you use extra virgin olive oil even for sautéing vegetables, the vitamins can get destroyed,’ says Agarwal. Extra virgin olive oil is usually golden-green in colour and adds a distinct flavor to your food.
Virgin olive oil
After extra virgin olive oil, virgin olive oil is the next best thing. It is also an unrefined type of olive oil which means no chemicals or heat is used while extracting the oil. The only difference between extra virgin olive oil and virgin olive oil is a slightly higher oleic acidity level. Agarwal says that virgin olive oil can be used for sautéing vegetables and also for cooking your favourite Indian sabzi. Virgin olive oil can also be used for baking. However, avoid using olive oil for deep frying food. ‘Using olive oil for deep frying food is not recommended as it has a low smoking point. If you have to deep fry food, opt for rice bran oil as it is low in saturated fatty acids,’ says Agarwal.
Refined olive oil
Refined olive oil is commonly found in most Indian grocery stores and is also cheaper than virgin olive oil. However, as compared to extra virgin or virgin olive oil, it is inferior in terms of vitamins, nutrients and even taste and flavour. As it lacks the antioxidants and important anti-inflammatory properties of virgin olive oil, you won’t notice any bitterness in taste either. However, it is suitable for cooking purposes and can also be used to make Indian dishes.
Pure olive oil
Pure olive oil is a blend of extra virgin and refined olive oil. It is also lower in nutritional value as compared to virgin olive oil and Agarwal recommends using it as a hair and skin oil instead of cooking purposes. ‘It is not preferable to use pure olive oil for cooking because when it is heated, it has a distinct smell that is not appetising. However, it is great for your scalp, hair and skin,’ she adds. You can use olive oil to get rid of dandruff, frizzy hair and dry skin.