Myth: A Light Olive Oil Is Better Than Regular Olive Oil
An oil is an oil. It will always be 9 calories per gram of fat. In fact, no oil is light.
Marketing companies are trying to trick your mind. When people see light, they think it is better for you. As we all cook with oil now, it is important to know how oils are manufactured. In the same way you have switched your white refined flour to whole flour, and the same way you have switched your white refined sugar to raw cane sugar, and your white salt to sea salt, now it’s time to switch your refined oil to an unrefined virgin oil.
There are different manufacturing processes. You want your oil to have been transformed as little as possible. Virgin, first-cold-pressed oils have been pressed at cold temperatures, slowly, to maintain all the good properties and vitamins in the oil.
Some other oils are processed really fast (creating heat in the high-speed process), which affects the properties of the oil. Manufacturers also add solvents to make the seed sweat more and to extract more oil from it. They press the seed over and over until there is nothing left in it. Then they need to remove that solvent.
The process used to remove that solvent is called the refining process. They remove the solvent, of course, but they also remove good things such as essential fatty acids (EFAs) and vitamins (if they are not already dead because of the heat applied) that may have survived in the oil. Once refined, the clear, drab oily substance is then given some artificial color and taste (otherwise you would not believe that it is actually sunflower or canola oil). It is at that stage that the word light comes in. So a little bit of flavor added becomes a light olive oil. It does not mean it’s lower in fat. It means it has less taste. So more than likely, light oil means that it has been refined and had less taste in the end of the process.
Myth: An Extra-virgin Oil Is Better Than A Virgin Oil
A virgin oil is an oil that has not been refined, and still has all its good properties.
What about extra virgin? Is it more virgin than just a virgin oil? No. The word extra refers to many taste characteristics that describe the quality of the fruit that is pressed (mainly olive). One of these elements is the amount of acidity in the olive. If the acidity is below 0.8, then an olive can enter to become extra virgin olive oil. This only refers to olives.
Some marketing companies have started to put the word extra on many different types of oils (such as canola, sunflower, and coconut). They are just trying to trick you as you have heard the words extra virgin and they think that you will think their oil is better because of that word. So now that you know, don’t get fooled again. The words extra and virgin are two different things. A virgin oil means that the oil is unrefined, first-cold-pressed or cold-extraction. These are all synonyms. That adjective can be applied for canola, sunflower, walnut, sesame, hazelnut, etc. An extra virgin oil is first virgin—see above—and also extra, which refers to olive oil only and is mainly a measure of acidity and taste.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)
You have most likely heard about the Omega 3, 6 and 9. We call them essential fatty acids because our body needs them and can’t make them. So we need to intake them in our diet. You need to make sure that the oil you are about to buy for your kitchen still has them and that the EFAs are still alive and will give you the benefits you need. In order to recognize an oil that is more likely to have healthy alive EFAs in it, you must know that they are fragile. They are affected by air, time and heat.
Look for the words virgin, first-cold-pressed, cold-extraction. These are affected by heat, so you want to make sure that the oil was extracted without heat. If you see for example the mention of mechanically pressed or expeller-pressed, it doesn’t tell you that it was extracted without heat. All it tells you is that a machine extracted it—so avoid these.
Look for a dark glass bottle that protects the oil. What would be the point of extracting an oil at very low temperature and then putting it in a plastic see-through bottle that could compromise the integrity of the EFAs? You can eliminate lots of players right in the oil aisle at the grocery store just by looking at the bottles. If it’s a clear plastic bottle, consider this a red flag.
The EFAs are alive because they have been preserved in the manufacturing process. The bottle you buy also needs to have an expiration date because the product is alive. You want to know when it will die. Would you buy milk if it had no expiration date on it? If you buy an oil with no expiration date, chances are it is already dead—and contains no good properties for you.
For more information about healthy first-cold-pressed oils: La Maison Orphee www.maisonorphee.com