Not all virgin olive oils are equally quality oil and healthy due to different factors that affect their nutritional quality. Get to know them!
Virgin olive oils are one of the best oils you can consume, as it has been shown in numerous studies that they contribute favorably to our health. But are all virgin olive oils the same? In this article, we will clarify it for you.
Healthy qualities of virgin olive oils
Virgin olive oils are obtained from the olive fruit by mechanical or physical procedures under conditions, mainly thermal, that do not produce any alteration.
Olive oil is a fundamental element in the Mediterranean diet. Numerous studies, one of them PREDIMED, show how virgin olive oil, especially extra virgin olive oil, prevents cardiovascular diseases.
Thanks to its nutritional composition, it also helps prevent:
- Skin oxidation.
- In pregnancy, the fetal state improves.
Nutritional composition of virgin olive oils
The main nutritional characteristics and virgin olive oil are in its high oleic acid content. Furthermore, the relationship between linolenic acid and alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E) is a much more balanced diet than that of seed oils.
The composition of oil presents certain variations according to its point of origin, variety of olive and quality of it. Virgin olive oil is made up of approximately 99% of a mixture of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids; the remaining 1% is made up of secondary components.
Phenols are found in this 1%. They are antioxidant compounds responsible for the healthy properties of virgin and extra virgin olive oils, as well as their organoleptic properties and oxidative stability.
Phenols have beneficial effects on certain physiological parameters, such as plasma lipoproteins, oxidative stress, inflammatory markers, and antimicrobial activity.
But numerous factors, which we will see below, can influence the concentration of phenols in virgin olive oils. Therefore, not all virgin olive oils are equally healthy.
How do various factors affect the quality oil of olive oils?
The phenolic content depends on factors such as the variety of olives, the agronomic conditions, the process of obtaining and the storage conditions of the final product.
The variety of olive oil
There are numerous varieties of olives, but there are certain varieties that have greater availability for the production of healthy olive oil, such as Picual, Hojiblanca, Picuada or Cornicabra.
One of the most important factors is irrigation. Phenolic compounds are formed in the fruit in response to stress conditions. Therefore, water stress favours the accumulation of phenols in the fruit and, finally, in the oil.
The production process
Monitoring in the production process is essential, since any error before, during or after harvesting can decrease the phenolic content.
Special care must be taken with:
- Protection of the fruit in the field against pests and diseases.
- Optimum harvest time associated with the appropriate maturity index.
- Maximum hygiene.
- Use of low temperatures in the extraction process.
- Climatology during the collection period.
Virgin olive oil is a product in continuous evolution. The best way to guarantee its stability over the months is to avoid exposure to light and high temperatures. Although we keep it in good condition, the phenolic content decreases over time.
What difference is there between virgin olive oil and extra virgin?
Extra virgin and virgin olive oil are top quality oils. They are 100% of the juice of the olive. But extra virgin olive oil is of superior quality, obtained from olives at their optimum ripeness, and only through mechanical processes. The virgin suffers some degradation in the obtaining process.
Another difference is their degree of acidity, since they have a minimum degree of acidity, below 0.3 º while the virgin does not exceed 2 º.
Therefore, regarding its nutritional composition, the extra virgin is of higher quality than the virgin.
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