What's the most common oil that you use in your cooking? For many of us, it's olive oil. It's one of the most popular, tasty, and healthy ones out there. It's better for you than vegetable oil and sunflower oil, and can be used in so, so many of your nightly dinners. Want to find out more? Here we've outlined everything you need to know about this fabulous cooking (and salad dressing) oil, from the benefit to the abbreviations.

Origins of Olive Oil

Olive oil comes from the olive tree in the Mediterranean Basin. People have been known to gather wild olives since the 8th millenium BC. It is thought that the olive tree originated in modern Turkey, and while it isn't clear where cultivation first took place, many argue that it was in Crete.

Originally, olive oil was used by athletes in ancient Greece for medicinal purposes. The trees themselves are known to be strong and hardy, living for centuries, and is popular with producers as gathering olives is quite straight forward.

What throws off many of us about this oil is that olive oil, by nature, is pure fat. However, it qualifies as a "good" fat. It is healthy for the body and it can be stored for up to a year without going stale. There are also many different types of olive oil, each created from a different type of olives that are black, green and have distinctive tastes. Some of these different types of olives include:

-Lugano

-Manzanilla

-Kalamata

-Nicoise

Olives that are fully ripe are black, whereas ones which aren’t re usually green. Different regions will grow different types of olives, and therefore the olive oil that you buy will vary in quality and taste depending upon the type of olives.

Health Benefits of Olive Oil

One of the main reasons why olive oil has become extremely popular over the past decade is because it's known to be good for the body. It can help:

-Control and maintain good levels of cholesterol within the body

-Prevent heart disease

-Reduce the chance of colon cancer developing

-Keep the skin healthy

These are just some of the top health benefits you can expect. Olive oil is packed full of healthy monosaturated fats, which can control the amount of good cholesterol within the body while eliminating bad cholesterol. Reducing your cholesterol levels will in turn reduce the risk of you developing heart disease. Just two tablespoons of olive oil each day can help you to fight off heart disease.

If you choose extra virgin olive oil then that will contain more antioxidants than other types. It will particularly have a lot of phenols and Vitamin E. Unlike sunflower oil, which has been shown to increase a person's risk of colon cancer, studies have shows that olive oil can reduce this risk.

Olive Oil Abbreviations

Confused when shopping for olive oil in the grocery store? We have a breakdown of all of the abbreviations to clear things up for you:

EVOO

EVOO stands for "Extra Virgin Olive Oil," which is supposedly the healthiest type of olive oil on the market. It is the first pressing of the olive and it contains the greatest levels of antioxidants and health benefits. You will find that it has a richer flavor than many other types, and it is also one of the more expensive types of olive oil.

VOO

VOO stands for Virgin Olive Oil. The difference between VOO and EVOO is that VOO comes from the second pressing of the olives. While it still contains a lot of health benefits, the flavor is slightly different to EVOO.

Refined

Refined olive oil is a processed variety. It will have a very mild flavor in comparison to VOO and EVOO varieties, and is still healthier for you than sunflower oil.

Pure

Pure olive oil will have been slightly refined.

The type of olive oil that you choose to use in your cooking should depend upon a number of factors. Your budget will obviously make a difference as to which type you opt for, as well as how you plan to use it.

Using and Cooking with Olive Oil

You can use olive oil in many different types of cooking, or as part of a salad dressing. If you plan on using it in or as a dressing, we recommend the Extra Virgin varieties since it will have a much stronger flavor. If you plan on using it for cooking, you can afford to use a lesser-quality olive oil, since it won't make a big difference in overall taste, and will save you money.

When deciding on what kind of olive oil to choose for your meals, determine what you will use it for most before going grocery shopping. If you're new to trying different olive oils, you'll notice that for the most part, this oil has a slightly nutty, rich flavor. Switch to olive oil for the health benefits, as well as the delicious taste -- and really, who doesn't love some crusty bread dipped in a favorite olive oil from time to time!?


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