What’s the difference between olive oil and extra virgin olive oil?

We’ve all been there in the supermarket, idly glancing around the oil aisle hoping to spot something that is yellow and oily which will make the dinner tonight. Sounds like a simple task on the face of it, but when you see the oil aisle everything changes.

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Masses of glass bottles, all with different names, different labels, and HUGELY varying prices. Now of course, no-one wants to spend more than they need to, but the real question is – is it worth paying sometimes 70% more for Extra Virgin Olive Oil, or should you just lump with basic Olive Oil? Take a look and see how very different these two oils really are…

Olive Oil

What’s the difference: in processing?

Oil is started in the same way for both olive oil and extra virgin olive oil, with whole olives being pressed until their fat is extracted into a paste. Once the paste is formed, it is slowly churned so that the oil droplets come to be. Like curds & whey during cheese production, the oil is separated from the water and olive remnants by pressing.

Olives used in basic olive oil are of a lower grade than extra virgin olive oil. ‘Lower grade’ traditionally means it degrades more quickly, and has higher levels of acidity which make the oil go rancid sooner. Basic olive oil is typically given some form of chemical treatment to speed along the mechanical processes of pressing the olives.

Related posts: What’s Healthier: Almond Butter or Peanut Butter?

What’s the difference: in taste?

In taste tests, tasters have stated that whilst Virgin oils taste fruity and full of flavour, basic Olive Oils lack flavour and can be quite tangy and bitter.

What’s the difference: in nutrition?

As the fatty acids are given less time to be extracted, a lot of fatty acids remain in the final product, meaning the overall product is fattier, but still contains some essential properties such as flavonoids which help promote a healthy heart and good skin.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

What’s the difference: in processing?

Whilst chemical treatment can happen in olive oil processing, virgin olive oil and extra virgin olive oil doesn’t use any chemical treatment and extracting the fats from the whole olives is a much longer process. ‘Virgin’ indicates no heat or chemicals have been used and the oil is the purest you can find.

What’s the difference: in taste?

Extra Virgin Olive Oil is considered more fruity and fuller in flavour than basic olive oil, with much less fatty residue.

What’s the difference: in nutrition?

Virgin oils have greater levels of polyphenols, the antioxidants which promote a healthy heart, which is why Virgin Olive Oil and Extra Virgin Olive Oil are so commonly associated with the ‘heart healthy’ Mediterranean Diet.

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One thought on “What’s the difference between olive oil and extra virgin olive oil?

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