We can say this with almost complete certainty: there is not a kitchen to be found that doesn’t have a bottle of olive oil in it. Would you agree? Over more than 2000 years, it has gradually established itself as a household staple and it’s now impossible to imagine our diet without it: it is part of our culture, our way of life, our roots.
Despite this, it’s remarkable that there’s still so much ignorance about EVOO or, to put it another way, there are still a great many myths surrounding it that taint its good —and well-deserved— reputation.
Below, we set the record straight on a few of those myths:
You can’t use extra virgin olive oil for frying. False. In fact, it is the best option for frying since it is more resistant to thermal oxidation than other oils. What’s more, it has been proven that, even at high temperatures, olive oil retains compounds such as polyphenols, which are natural antioxidants.
Olive oil with high acidity can cause heartburn. False. When we talk about acidity in olive oil, we refer to the quantity of broken bonds between the carbon molecules measured as a percentage. Gastric acidity, on the other hand, depends on totally different factors, mainly associated with food and nutrition.
However, acidity is related to the quality of the oil: a lower percentage of acidity indicates higher quality. In fact, for an olive oil to be considered extra virgin, it cannot surpass 0.8% acidity. This is one of the essential requirements confirmed through laboratory-based physical-chemical analysis.
Olive oil tasting is subjective as it is a human process. False. The tasting or sensory analysis of virgin olive oil is a science. This analysis establishes whether the virgin olive oil is of superior quality, or EXTRA; or, on the other hand, if it does not meet the established minimum requirements and must be sent for refining.
Bitterness and spiciness are flaws in an olive oil. False. The bitter taste comes from oleuropein, an antioxidant found in olives. The spiciness comes from oleocanthal, an ester with anti-inflammatory properties. Provided they are moderate and balanced, the bitterness and spiciness are usually associated with organoleptic qualities considered highly positive for culinary uses of the oil.
All olive oils have the same healthy qualities. False. Virgin olive oils are composed of approximately 97-98% triglycerides and 2-3% minor elements, or the unsaponifiable fraction. This fraction —only found in virgin and extra virgin olive oils— although small in volume, consists of more than 250 compounds, among which are vitamins, antioxidants, chlorophylls, glucosides and carotenoids, among others. These compounds are the ones that give the oil its colour, aroma and taste. In the refining process, these minor elements are removed.
After this enlightening read ... Would you admit to having believed some of these myths?