A RAFT OF RESEARCH suggests that olive oil – which is a key component of the Mediterranean diet – is associated with heart health and an array of other benefits.
There are several olive oils typically available on U.S. store shelves, including:
Extra virgin olive oil.
Olive oil, also sometimes known as pure olive oil.
Extra light olive oil.
These three are the main labels consumers will see in the U.S., says Alexandra Kicenik Devarenne, an international olive oil consultant based in Petaluma in Sonoma County, California. She’s also CEO of Extra Virgin Alliance, an international association of producers dedicated to olive oil quality.
Extra virgin and olive oil are both grades of olive oil. Extra light is a marketing term used for a lighter tasting version of olive oil, but it’s not a grade, Devarenne says. Olive oil, pure olive oil and extra light olive oil are all blends of refined olive oil and virgin olive oil.
Extra virgin olive oil is clearly the healthiest olive oil, because it’s the one that’s the least processed, says Jack Bishop, chief creative officer of America’s Test Kitchen. “Extra virgin is the industry standard,” he says. Using heat and chemicals to process olive oil can degrade its nutritional value; extra virgin olive oil is, by definition, cold-pressed.