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Myth: Light olive oil has fewer calories or fat than Extra Virgin Olive Oil

TRUTH: The claim “light” doesn’t have anything to do with the calories or fat content; what they’re really talking about is the way the olives are processed.  First, let me say that there is huge variety in the flavor of oils, and though you think you might not detect a difference, I encourage you to try.  You can either do your own tasting or, if you’re in the NYC area, you can head to Fairway, for a free sampling of their brands.

Anyway, there are 3 categories of olive oil:

Extra Virgin – it’s the yield from the first pressing of the olives (it’s extra virgin because the olives have never been pressed before).

  • Most: flavorful and best quality
  • Least: acidity is less than 1%
  • Select a cold-pressed oil because a heat-intensive process can change the oil

Virgin – still from the first pressing, but it has slightly more acidity than Extra Virgin Olive Oils

  • Acidity: up to 2%
  • Quality: mediocre.  Not as good as the extra virgins.

Pure Olive Oils – these are oils that are refined more than once but “pure” because they don’t have other types of oils added.  They are blends of different quality oils that yield the lowest quality olive oil and are often used for cooking or foods labeled “packed in olive oil”.

  • Longest: Shelf life
  • Least: pure

So you may have noticed that “light” olive oil is not in this list.  The reason for that is because making an olive oil “light” is an additional process that could be done to any extra virgin, virgin, or pure olive oil.  Basically, it’s just a super fine filtration process that removes a lot of the olive color, smell, and taste.

BOTTOM LINE: “Light” only refers to the color and flavor, not to the nutritional content of an olive oil.  The advantage of having this alternate is for cooking or baking when you don’t want an olive-y taste to your food.

Lastly – you might be wondering about color (green or golden) and quality.  But you shouldn’t be worrying about it because it’s merely a difference between unripe olives (green) and ripe olives (golden).  The green tends to have a stronger taste, but are not necessarily any better or worse than their golden, mild counterparts.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

  1. Check out the Olive Oil Times, which has a ton of fascinating info about olives and oils.
  2. Worlds Healthiest Foods: an in depth look at the health benefits and nutritional content of Extra Virgin Olive Oils

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