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A Guide to the Different Types of Olive Oil

What Are the Benefits of Olive Oil?

  • Olive oil is rich in healthy monounsaturated fats
  • Contains antioxidants and polyphenols
  • May reduce risk of certain cancers

Numerous health benefits have been linked to olive oil, a healthy source of fat. It is rich in monounsaturated fats that have been shown to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. The oil is also abundant in antioxidants that protect against inflammation and oxidative damage. Research suggests that consuming olive oil may reduce the risk of specific cancers, such as breast, colon, and prostate cancer. Additionally, it may have anti-inflammatory properties that reduce the risk of chronic diseases, including Alzheimer's and arthritis.

Types of Olive Oil:

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the highest grade of quality
  • There are 4 categories of olive oil defined by Codex Alimentarius
  • Free oleic acid content is highest in Extra Virgin Olive Oil, lower in Virgin Olive Oil, and lowest in ordinary Olive Oil

There are several types and grades of olive oil that vary based on the method of extraction and refinement. Extra virgin olive oil is the highest quality and most flavorful type, extracted from the first pressing of the olives without heat or chemicals. It has a fruity, slightly bitter taste and is perfect for use in dishes where its flavor can be appreciated, such as dressings and dips. Virgin olive oil is similar in quality to extra virgin but has a slightly lower taste profile. Refined olive oil is processed using chemicals and heat, which results in a milder flavor and higher smoke point. It's great for high-temperature cooking like frying and roasting. Pure olive oil is a blend of virgin and refined oils and has a less intense flavor. Lastly, olive pomace oil is made from leftover pulp and pits after the first pressing of the olives and is processed using solvents and heat. It has a high smoke point and neutral taste, making it ideal for deep-frying and other high-temperature cooking techniques.

Extra Virgin and Virgin Olive Oils:

  • Extra virgin olive oil has a free fatty acid level of 0.8 percent or lower
  • Virgin olive oil has a fatty acid level of between 0.8 percent and 2.0
  • Extra virgin olive oil has more antioxidants than regular olive oil

Extra virgin olive oil is the highest quality and most flavorful olive oil, and it’s best used in dishes where its flavor can shine, such as salad dressings, dips, and drizzled over finished dishes. It’s often sold in dark glass bottles to protect the oil from light and air, which can cause it to go rancid.

Virgin olive oil is similar to extra virgin olive oil, but it has a slightly lower quality and flavor. It’s still a good choice for dressings and dips, but it can also be used for sautéing and light cooking. Virgin olive oil is typically sold in the same way as extra virgin olive oil, in dark glass bottles.

Refined and Light Olive Oil:

  • Refined olive oil is virgin olive oil that has been processed and refined to create a mild, light tasting, and more stable oil
  • Light olive oil is a refined oil that has a neutral taste and a higher smoke point
  • Light and extra light olive oils are the lowest grade of olive oil

Refined and light olive oil are two types of olive oil that have undergone processing to remove impurities and improve their shelf life. Refined olive oil is processed using chemicals and heat, which removes some of the flavor and nutrients, but has a higher smoke point than unrefined versions. It is best used for high-temperature cooking such as frying and roasting. Light olive oil, on the other hand, is a blend of refined olive oil and other oils, such as canola or vegetable oil. It has a milder flavor and is often marketed as a healthier alternative to other types of oil. However, it's important to note that the term "light" refers to the oil's mild flavor and not its calorie or fat content. Both refined and light olive oil can be used for cooking, but they are not as nutritious as extra virgin or virgin olive oil, which are less processed and retain more of the olive's natural flavor and nutrients.


Olive oil is a rich source of healthy fats and antioxidants that offer numerous health benefits. Research suggests that consuming olive oil regularly can help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancer. It may also improve brain function, reduce inflammation, and help manage blood sugar levels.

The best type of olive oil to use for maximum health benefits is extra virgin olive oil. This type of oil is made from the first pressing of the olives and is not subjected to heat or chemical treatments, which helps to preserve its natural flavor and nutrients. It has a fruity, slightly bitter flavor and a lower acidity level than other types of olive oil. It is also high in polyphenols, which are antioxidants that help protect the body against damage from free radicals.

When buying olive oil, it's important to choose a high-quality product that is authentic and minimally processed. Look for olive oil that is cold-pressed, unrefined, and comes in a dark glass bottle to protect it from light. Avoid oils that are labeled as "light" or "pure," as these are often highly refined and contain fewer nutrients.

Overall, incorporating extra virgin olive oil into your diet can be an easy and tasty way to boost your health and protect against disease. Aim to consume at least one to two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil per day, whether used in cooking, as a salad dressing, or drizzled over vegetables or whole grains.