Olive oil is a staple ingredient in many kitchens. With so many different types available it can be confusing to know which one is better. Understanding the differences between cold-pressed olive oil vs regular olive oil will help you make an informed decision.
As a Registered Dietitian and health fanatic, I keep a variety of olive oils on hand. So let’s dive into the olive oil options and when it’s best to use them, shall we?
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Olive Oil: The Basics
Olive oil is predominantly made up of healthy fats called monounsaturated fats. Liquid at room temperature, monounsaturated fats may help lower your total cholesterol levels, especially your LDL, or “bad” cholesterol.
Saturated fats, on the other hand, are solid at room temperature and tend to raise total cholesterol and LDL.
Olive oil also contains a small amount of another healthy fat, polyunsaturated fat. These are liquid at room temperature, but will begin to turn solid when chilled. Polyunsaturated fat may also reduce total cholesterol and LDL levels.
About 73% of olive oil is monounsaturated, 11% is polyunsaturated, and 14% is saturated.
Cold-Pressed Olive Oil: The Mediterranean’s Liquid Gold
For the true culinary enthusiast, nothing matches the allure of cold-pressed olive oil. Dubbed as “liquid gold,” this oil is the epitome of purity and quality.
Extracted using a mechanical press, this oil encapsulates the purest form of the Mediterranean diet in every drop.
Unlike other oils produced under high temperatures, the cold pressing ensures the preservation of powerful antioxidants and nutrients, which is akin to sipping pure olive juice.
Regular Olive Oil & Light Olive Oil
While cold-pressed olive oil finds its niche with gourmet enthusiasts and health aficionados, regular olive oil and light olive oil cast a wider net.
These olive oils have a higher smoke point, which makes them perfect for cooking at high temperatures, be it for roasted vegetables or a quick stir-fry.
Light olive oil, with its more delicate olive undertones, is perfect for those dishes where you want the benefits of olive oil without the dominant flavor. It’s ideal for baking or blending in with other ingredients where a strong olive flavor is not desired.
What About Extra Virgin Olive Oil?
Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), is distinguished by its vibrant hue, intricate aroma, and multifaceted flavor palette, spanning from fruity essences to grassy undertones, sometimes punctuated by a peppery zest.
While many EVOOs are associated with cold-pressed methods, not all are produced this way. However, cold-pressed EVOO is often regarded as higher quality, as it retains its full spectrum of flavors, antioxidants, and nutritional value.
Extra virgin olive oil isn’t just a fancy name; it represents high quality and health benefits. Made from the first pressing of olives, it’s full of antioxidants and heart-friendly monounsaturated fats. Its low acidity, typically below 0.8%, highlights its superior quality.
Unpacking the Health Benefits of Olive Oil
To say olive oil is healthy might be the understatement of the century!
Every type of olive oil, from the cold-pressed variants to the regular ones, is brimming with health benefits. They offer a veritable shield against heart disease and some cancers, thanks to their healthy fatty acids and natural antioxidants (1).
Olive oil, especially extra virgin, is rich in antioxidants and monounsaturated fats that combat inflammation and lower bad cholesterol, helping prevent heart disease.
Its phenolic compounds have also shown potential in disrupting the growth of cancer cells, particularly in breast and colon cancers. Adhering to a diet rich in olive oil, as seen in the Mediterranean lifestyle, has been linked to reduced risks of several chronic diseases (2).
Oleic acid, a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid, is most commonly associated with olive oil but is also present in avocados, nuts, and seeds.
Its potent antioxidant properties combat cell damage caused by free radicals.
Additionally, oleic acid has anti-inflammatory effects, making it effective in reducing the risk of chronic diseases.
The health benefits of Oleic acid are extensive. It helps lower bad cholesterol levels and regulate blood pressure, contributing to heart health. Moreover, it helps prevent obesity, supports brain health and mental sharpness, and reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Hydroxytyrosol is an exceptional compound known for its broad spectrum of health benefits. It stands out as a powerful antioxidant, actively combating oxidative stress and thus safeguarding your cells from potential damage.
Beyond this, research has highlighted its role in heart health. It helps reduce LDL (“bad” cholesterol) and prevent the formation of blood clots, which are pivotal for cardiovascular health.
Moreover, hydroxytyrosol plays a role in apoptosis – the self-destruction process of unhealthy cells. This is a key factor in it’s potential to help prevent cancer.
Oleocanthal, a polyphenol found in olive oil, has powerful anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing properties.
When removed from olive oil, it has been shown to act as a potent non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID), similar to aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen.
The ibuprofen-like action of oleocanthal may help prevent or manage brain inflammation, thus preventing cognitive decline and other inflammatory brain conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.
Oleocanthol may also promote apoptosis. Thus, it can help prevent and slow the growth of cancer.
Navigating the Olive Oil Aisle: Making the Perfect Choice
Stepping into the olive oil section of any major grocery store in the United States can feel overwhelming. With a myriad of olive oil bottles touting “extra virgin olive oil” to “pure olive oil,” the choices are bountiful.
Consider the type of dishes you frequently prepare and the nuanced flavors you wish to achieve.
Looking to craft top-tier salad dressings or delve deep into Mediterranean-inspired culinary masterpieces? Then cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil is the preferred choice.
Owing to a meticulous extraction process that preserves the integrity of the oil, it boasts a robust and authentic flavor profile. This high-quality cooking oil excels in dishes where its unique character can be showcased, especially when used at a lower temperature.
In contrast, if your culinary adventures steer you towards high-temperature methods like sautéing or frying, regular olive oil is the more apt candidate.
It’s able to withstand higher temperatures, making it less susceptible to degradation under intense heat. Its subtle and accommodating flavor ensures it seamlessly melds with a dish’s ingredients rather than overshadowing them.
This adaptability, combined with its higher smoke point, cements its position as a versatile cooking oil, ideal for a variety of kitchen tasks.
Cold-pressed vs Regular Olive Oil: Which is Better?
Choosing the right type of olive oil depends on your specific needs and preferences.
Cold-pressed olive oil, with its full-bodied flavor, is ideal for drizzling over pasta sauces, salad dressings, and dips.
Regular olive oil’s milder profile makes it versatile for sautéing and everyday cooking.
Light olive oil, with its neutral taste, is perfect for baking and frying where you don’t want to taste the flavor of the oil.
Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), rich in aroma and taste, shines best when used in salad dressings, for finishing dishes, or simply as a bread dip.
Why not try them all?
Check out these other articles on healthy eating:
- Printable Food List for Anti-inflammatory Diet
- Alfalfa Sprouts vs. Broccoli Sprouts: A Nutrition Comparison
- Beet vs Radish: Which is Healthier?
Pam is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a Master’s of Public Health and a Certificate in Integrative and Functional Nutrition. Passionate about the science of health and nutrition, she loves to share her knowledge to help others live healthy, vibrant lives. When not working, Pam can be found hiking, traveling, and enjoying great-tasting, nutritious food.