EVOO is the acronym of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
In an article, the Washington Post traces the origin of the acronym EVOO to Rachael Ray, an American television presenter. This origin, however, seems to be contradicted by the fact that already, at least in the academic field, the acronym EVOO was present – see for example this article of 2004 -.
According to some, it was Massimo Epifani, an agronomist in Italy, who coined the acronym EVO.
Let’s see what evoo is, the difference between olive oil and extra virgin olive oil, the extra virgin oil nutrition facts, the extra virgin olive oil benefits, how to choose the best extra virgin olive oils, the olive oil smoke point.
WHAT IS EVOO?
The European Community Regulation N. 1513 of 2001 distinguishes between different types of olive oil:
- Virgin olive oils, among which, as further specification, is contained extra virgin olive oil
- Refined olive oil
- Olive oil – composed of refined olive oils and virgin olive oils
- Raw olive pomace oil
- Refined olive pomace oil
- Olive pomace oil
Virgin olive oils are oils that are obtained from the fruit of the olive tree only through mechanical processes or other physical processes, in conditions that do not cause alteration of the oil, and that have not undergone any treatment other than washing, decanting, centrifugation and filtration.
So, evoo is a special kind of virgin olive oil.
Now, let’s see better the difference between generic virgin olive oil and extra virgin olive oil.
What is the difference between olive oil and extra virgin olive oil?
Within virgin olive oils, the law distinguishes between extra virgin olive oil, virgin olive oil, and lampante olive oil.
The classification depends also on the acidity of the oil. With regard to the acidity of the oil, the law establishes the following:
- Extra virgin olive oil: it is necessary that the free oleic acid is less than or equal to 0.8 g per 100 g
- Virgin olive oil: free oleic acid must be less than or equal to 2 g per 100 g
- Lampante olive oil: for olive oil to be classified as lampante it is sufficient that the free oleic acid is higher than 2 g per 100 g
In order to be defined as extra virgin, virgin olive oil must also satisfy other chemical parameters and must pass an exam conducted by a panel of tasters.
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EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL NUTRITION FACTS
The chemical composition of 100 grams of extra virgin olive oil is indicatively – the oils are not perfectly identical to each other – the following (source: CREA – Consiglio per la ricerca in agricoltura e l’analisi dell’economia agraria:
- Lipids (g): 99.9, of which:
- total saturated (%): 14.46
- total monounsaturated (%): 72.95
- total polyunsaturated (%): 7.52
- Iron (mg): 0.2
- Vitamin A retinol eq. (μg): 36 *
- Vitamin E (mg) 22.4
- Water / ì (g): traces
- Zinc (mg): traces
- Copper (mg): traces
- Selenium (μg) traces
* The carotenes are about eighty and have orange-red color. The b-carotene molecule, which is present in evoo, is twice the vitamin A molecule. The enzyme Carotenase present in the liver causes the cleavage of the b-carotene and the production of two molecules of vitamin A. For this reason, the b -carotene is called Provitamin A
Evoo nutritional value: fats of extra virgin olive oil
The nutritional value of extra virgin olive oil has been the subject of several studies.
Evoo consists almost exclusively of lipids, mainly mono and polyunsaturated, and contains no cholesterol.
Fats are an important part of the diet: they are used, for example, for the production of hormones and for the creation and maintenance of cell membranes, and they are the main constituents of our brain; their complete elimination does not contribute to an optimal state of health.
The fats contained in extra virgin olive oil are among the best fats for the body.
The significant presence of monounsaturated fats means that olive oil has good oxidative stability, and therefore good shelf life.
Oleic acid, which is the most abundant fatty acid in evoo (approximately between 70% and 80% of total fatty acids) is a monounsaturated fatty acid considered a valid aid to decrease LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein) cholesterol and increase the HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein) cholesterol.
Extra virgin olive oil nutritional value: polyphenols and their health benefits
Several health benefits of extra virgin olive oil derive from the polyphenols contained.
Thanks to their presence, extra virgin olive oil protects against cardiovascular diseases by acting both as an antioxidant and as a modulator of cholesterol blood levels.
The uncontrolled production of oxygen free radicals can cause serious damage to the human organism. Man defends himself partly with antioxidants of a congenital nature and partly with the antioxidants taken with food.
Some foods rich in antioxidant compounds are fruits, vegetables, and…extra virgin olive oil.
Phenolic compounds have been attributed significant effects in primary and secondary prevention of some important diseases related to the excessive presence of free radicals and non-radical pro-oxidants and to their degenerative effects.
Evoo nutritional value: Squalene and other components that are beneficial to health
Another component of olive oil that carries out health-related activities is Squalene.
Squalene plays an important physiological role in the exchange (and therefore in growth), and protects towards particular cancerous forms.
The oil also contains carotenes, which are orange-red in color and among which the most relevant is β-carotene, which acts as a good antioxidant when the oil is exposed to light and is the precursor of vitamin A (because of this it is called Provitamin A).
According to some people, the organoleptic characteristics of the oil positively influence digestion, since the pleasure deriving from the smell and taste of a food influences the composition of the gastric juice, generating a higher concentration of Pepsin, useful for the digestive activity.
100 g of extra virgin olive oil bring 899 kcal
Although as we have seen the benefits of the oil for health are numerous, we must keep in mind that ten grams of extra virgin olive oil – the normal seasoning of a plate of salad – alone contribute three times the calories supplied by the salad itself.
EVOO: EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL BENEFITS
Extra virgin olive oil benefits are the subject of numerous studies, and we often hear of extra virgin olive oil as an integral part of a good, healthy diet.
Extra virgin olive oil is the most widely used condiment in all the Mediterranean area, and as we saw and we’ll see it has interesting characteristics that directly or indirectly help human health.
What is olive oil good for? What are the properties of evoo that make it so special? And which health benefits of extra virgin olive oil are shown in the scientific literature?
Some studies show pharmacological effects of some components of extra virgin olive oil: anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, anti-cholesterol, anti-arthritic, antithrombotic, hypotensive, digestive, neuroprotective effects (Garcìa-González et al, 2008).
Extra virgin olive oil benefits: evoo and inhibition of the action of free radicals
The excessive production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and their insufficient neutralization by the defense systems involve the development of chain reactions that damage various types of biomolecules, and in particular lipids, proteins and nucleic acids, which are fundamental for the cellular functioning and survival.
Evoo and anti-tumor actions
Some of the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil are related to its antitumor action.
The antitumor action of evoo oil is attributed to the high content of phenols with high antioxidant power (Vissers et al., 2004).
Some studies have highlighted the correlation between consumption of evo oil and decreased risk of occurrence of some types of tumors, such as breast cancer (Martin-Moreno et al., 1994; La Vecchia et al., 1995), lung cancer (Fortes et al., 2003), colon cancer (Stoneham et al., 2000), ovary cancer (Bosetti et al., 2002), pancreas cancer (Soler et al., 1998) and prostate cancer (Hodge et al., 2004).
Extra virgin olive oil benefits: evoo and anti-inflammatory action
The anti-inflammatory action is part of the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil.
The production of oxygen free radicals (ROS) is also correlated with inflammatory processes.
The p-HPEA-EDA, also called Oleocanthal, contained in the evo oil, has been shown to have a pharmacological effect similar to that of ibuprofen, which belongs to the class of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (Beauchamp et al., 2005).
Extra virgin olive oil benefits: prevention of cardiovascular diseases
As part of the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil, some studies show that the intake of oil can improve the regulation of blood pressure and the content of cholesterol in the blood; these effects of evoo, together with the inhibition of platelet aggregation and the reduction of LDL oxidation, are relevant to prevent the onset of atherosclerotic plaques and, in general, of cardiovascular pathologies (Bakhturidze et al., 2005; Turner et al., 2005).
Evoo and diabetes risk reduction
The health benefits of extra virgin olive oil also concern diabetes.
Some studies show that the regular intake of extra virgin olive oil can lead to a reduction in the risk of the onset of diabetes (Macciola et al., 2004).
Extra virgin olive oil for skin
Health benefits of extra virgin olive oil also concern skin care.
In ancient Greece, olive oil was used to keep the skin clean and elastic, and in ancient Rome it was present in the thermal baths and in the gyms.
Currently, olive oil is certainly the most appreciated, alongside with jojoba and avocado oils.
Topical application of olive oil can generate soothing effects and beneficial effects on eczema, superficial wounds and burns (Al-Waili et al., 1999; Poggi P., 2000).
The unsaponifiable fraction is rich in active ingredients with sebum-regulatory and moisturizing properties, as well as emollients.
The skin senescence is strongly accelerated by the influence of external factors. Skin aging is strictly correlated with oxidative stress, since the skin is rich in elements susceptible to the action of free radicals.
The polyphenols contained in evoo have an antioxidative action, reducing the damage due to oxidation caused for example by smog or the sun.
Vitamin E also has an antioxidant effect, and helps prevent skin irritation and aging.
Vitamin A contained in the extra virgin olive oil has regenerating properties and, in addition to protecting the skin against aging, helps to maintain its softness, smoothness, stability and elasticity.
Moreover, the unsaponifiable fraction of evoo exerts a good photoprotective effect against the skin exposed to UV rays.
To avoid possible irritations, it is recommended to mix the oil with zinc ointment.
Extra virgin olive oil for hair and nails
Health benefits of extra virgin olive oil include hair and nails.
Extra virgin olive oil helps keep the scalp soft and nourishes the brittle hair.
Extra virgin olive oil can also be useful to untangle the most disordered hair, thus giving relief to curly and dry hair; it also adds softness, volume, brightness, and it repairs some of the daily damages due to the sun, the hair dryer and the brush.
Extra virgin olive oil, then, strengthens the nails, preventing flaws and broken nails.
BEST ITALIAN EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OILS
If you are looking for the best Italian extra virgin olive oils, for high-quality evoo, here you can find some useful information.
Label: indications concerning the quality of evoo
Here are some indications to recognize good quality extra virgin olive oil and authentic Italian extra virgin olive oil:
- First of all, check that the oil label clearly shows the Italian origin of the oil, for example through the words 100% Italian oil, 100% Italian product, 100% Italian extra virgin olive oil. By law, extra-virgin olive oil can be indicated as Italian (for example with words such as ‘Italian product’ or ‘product of Italy’) only under these two conditions:
- the oil is produced only with olives harvested in Italy;
- and the oil is produced in an oil mill located on the Italian territory.
- Look at the color of the bottle: the extra virgin olive oil is damaged by light, which accelerates the oxidation, and it is, therefore, important that it be kept in bottles that do not let much light pass through (such as green glass bottles or cans).
- Check if the year of production of the Italian extra virgin olive oil is indicated. If the bottle contains only oils of a specific year, this vintage must be indicated by law. The oil, if well preserved, maintains good properties for a long time. However, it is better to choose an Italian extra virgin olive oil produced during the last olive oil campaign
- Check, if possible, if it is an Italian fruity evoo, medium fruity or light fruity. Understanding this is also useful to know which dishes it best pairs
- See if the varieties of olives used for production are indicated; knowing the different varieties of olives is somehow part of the experience of fruition of the good evoo
- Check that the price is not too low
Moreover, to evaluate the quality of the extra virgin olive oil, it is desirable to know the values relating to acidity, peroxides, polyphenols, wax content, and ultraviolet absorption.
The level of acidity expresses the degradation of oleic acid. The lower it is, the higher the quality of the olive oil is.
There are also other values that it would be good to know:
- The number of peroxides indicates the level of oxidation. By law, the value cannot exceed 20 milliequivalents of active oxygen per kilogram of oils – a good value is, however, less than 10 -. The number of peroxides is, therefore, an indicator of the quality of the evo oil
- The absorption of ultraviolet, measured through spectrophotometric analysis, identifies oxidation and possible refining or mixing with refined oils
- The quantity of waxes, which are contained in the skins, is measured to verify that no pomace oil has been added
Best Italian evoo: aromas and flavors of extra virgin olive oil
To evaluate the quality of the extra virgin olive oil, the best thing is to start by putting it in a tulip-shaped glass and bring it to body temperature.
At this point, you will experience the aromas and, tasting a little, the flavours.
The extra virgin olive oil has a rich flavour, ranging from light fruity, as in the case of Ligurian or Garda oils, to the intense flavor of Southern oils. If the oil is excellent, after tasting the mouth remains clean.
The choice of the extra virgin olive oil also depends on the use that you intend to make of it: for a bruschetta, for example, normally you will choose a more intense oil than you would choose to season a fish dish.
While for cooking also oils without particular organoleptic qualities are good, in the raw seasonings the aromas and flavors of extra virgin olive oil can significantly improve the dishes.
Best Italian extra virgin olive oil: awards
There are several competitions and guides dedicated to the best Italian extra virgin olive oil. Some competitions or guides, in addition to awarding a prize for the best extra virgin olive oil, propose a ranking of the best Italian extra virgin olive oils in different categories. For example, the Gambero Rosso rewards:
- Best light fruity Italian extra virgin olive oil
- Best medium fruity Italian extra virgin olive oil
- Best Italian fruity extra virgin olive oil
- Best Italian monocultivar extra virgin olive oil
- Best organic Italian extra virgin olive oil
- Best Italian extra virgin olive oil blend
- Best DOP (PDO: protected designation of origin) Italian extra virgin olive oil
- Best IGP (PGI: protected geographical indication) Italian extra virgin olive oil
- Best quality/price ratio Italian extra virgin olive oil
Among the olive oil contests for the best extra-virgin olive oil dedicated only to Italian evo oils we find, for example, the L’Oro d’Italia award.
There are also competitions open to extra virgin olive oils from all over the world, such as Flos Olei.
Remember that to season it is sometimes better to look for the evoo that pairs best with the dish than to the “absolutely” best extra virgin olive oil. The best extra virgin olive oil to season a soup could be different from the best extra virgin olive oil to season a fish-based course.
Storage of extra virgin olive oil: maintaining the quality
The best way to store extra virgin olive oil, keeping the evoo we have at home as intact as possible, is to keep it away from sources of heat such as oven or stove and from damp places. Closing well the bottle prevents it from oxidizing in contact with air and, and dark glass protects it from light.
Extra virgin olive oil tends to last longer than virgin olive oil because it contains more antioxidants. If stored in an optimal way, an extra virgin olive oil can last for 18 months or even longer from the time of packaging.
EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL FOR COOKING: CAN YOU COOK WITH EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL?
To better understand if evoo is a good oil for cooking, we first have to understand a little about the oil composition.
Oils consist mainly of particular fats called Triglycerides.
Triglycerides are composed of three fatty acids linked to a glycerine molecule.
In addition to the fatty acids linked to the glycerol molecule, the oils can also contain a small part of free fatty acids. The amount of free fatty acids varies from one oil to another, and contributes to the definition of the quality of the oil.
The fatty acids present in the oil, either as part of a Triglyceride molecule or free, can be saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated.
The most stable fatty acids are saturated ones; then there are the monounsaturated fatty acids and, finally, the polyunsaturated fatty acids, that are the most prone to oxidative damage.
Olive, hazelnut or peanut oils are mainly composed of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid.
As we said, extra virgin olive oil also contains a small part of free fatty acids; and free fatty acids are more easily damaged than fatty acids linked to the Glycerine molecule.
Frying puts a strain on the stability of the oil: the exposure of oil to oxygen and the presence of food can lead to rapid oxidation and the formation of substances harmful to health.
So, can you cook with extra virgin olive oil? Let’s see.
Olive oil smoke point
The smoke point of is the temperature at which the oil produces a bluish smoke and toxic substances to the body.
The smoke point is a lower temperature than the boiling temperature.
The smoke point depends on the type of fatty acids and, above all, on the quantity of free fatty acids, the acidity of the oil.
Extra virgin olive oil is obtained by mechanical extraction and does not undergo any refining. For this, it contains a small percentage of free fatty acids and other impurities that can negatively affect the smoke point.
The normal frying temperature is typically between 175°C (347 °F) and 195 °C (383 °F).
If the acidity of evoo is high, the smoke point may be less than 180 °C (356 °F) and therefore be unsuitable for frying. If the acidity of the extra virgin olive oil is low, however, the smoke point can exceed 190° C (374 °F), a temperature high enough to fry at not too high temperatures.
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