Superfood of the Week: Olive Oil

Self Magazine
Healthy Living
February 19, 2013

Sarah-Jane Bedwell,SELF

Olive oil doesn't get its reputation as a superfood for no reason -- not only does the stuff possibly ward off cancer (thanks to its powerful antioxidants like Vitamin E), but it's also anti-inflammatory and delicious, too. Unlike the solid, artery-clogging fats in butter, olive oil is packed with healthy monounsaturated fats that may actually lower your risk of heart disease; healthy fats can actually promote good cholesterol and help to regulate your blood sugar. But before you buy your next bottle, make sure you know what you're getting -- and that you're purchasing the right one for your particular needs.

See more: Lose 2 Pounds a Week!

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil comes from the first pressing of olives, making it the highest quality olive oil, containing less than one percent acidity. Known for its perfectly balanced aroma and superior taste, this type of olive oil has a light, delicate flavor thanks to minimal processing. You don't want to cook with this kind, though, since high heat can damage the flavor and nutrients. Instead, when you want to focus on flavor, for example in salad dressings, soups, marinades, or for dipping hunks of crusty bread.

Virgin Olive Oil
comes from the second pressing of slightly riper olives. "Virgin" actually refers to the fact that the olives haven't had much handling and manipulating, either. It has a bit higher acidity and thus costs less than extra-virgin, but is still known to have a pretty good taste. Use this oil for lightly browning or sauteing vegetables or meat.

See more: 20 Superfoods for Weight Loss

Regular (or Pure) Olive Oil
, also known as commercial olive oil, has a blander taste and lighter color than its virgin counterpart. This baby has been chemically refined to neutralize the high acid content and strong flavors. This is one of the least expensive types of oil with the lowest nutrient levels. It's thought of as an all-purpose cooking oil and is best for deep frying or stir-frying due to its higher smoke point.

Light Olive Oil
has the exact same fat and calorie content as virgin oil. It's simply a less pure, more chemically refined mixture of lower-quality oils with some virgin oil added back in. Since it's virtually flavorless, it works well when baking any sort of #NomNoms.

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