There are many varieties and qualities of olive oils and it is not always clear-cut how to identify these oils by the nomenclature or the qualities described on the packaging label.
The different types of Olive Oil are classified according to their variety, extraction methods and sensory (flavour and aroma) and physicochemical characteristics.
The first approach to the types of olive oil will be from a marketing perspective. In other words, the oils which can be found in our regular place of purchase are the following:
This classification corresponds to the four marketing categories of olive oil recognised in the European Union legislation (Regulation (EC) 1019/2002).
The Extra Virgin Olive Oil, synonymous with the highest quality, is that oil which preserves intact all its sensory characteristics and health benefits. It may be considered as an olive oil with no additives or preservatives given that it is obtained by means of mechanical procedures, extracting the juice from the olive fruit, in the same manner as is undertaken with orange juice. Its free acidity content, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 0.8 g per 100 grams, and the other characteristics of which comply with those laid down for this category.
Virgin Olive Oil without the adjective “Extra” is still an olive oil with no additives or preservatives, but has some type of defect, however slight. It is a virgin olive oil whose free acidity content, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 2 g per 100 grams, and whose other characteristics of which comply with those laid down for this category.
Occasionally, due to unfavourable climatic conditions or production process deficiencies, virgin olive oils have a high degree of acidity or a defective flavour or aroma. These oils do not meet the quality criteria laid down for their category (virgin or extra virgin olive oils) and, therefore, under these conditions, are not considered fit for consumption.
Lampante olive oil must undergo a refining process (physical and chemical process) to correct its defects. Thanks to this process, the level of acidity is reduced and the defective flavour and/or aroma are eliminated. Finally, Lampante Olive Oil is a virgin olive oil of defective flavour or whose free acidity content, expressed as oleic acid exceeds 2 g per 100 grams, and/or whose other characteristics of which comply with those laid down for this category.
It is obtained as a result of the refining lampante olive oil process, obtaining refined olive oil, a product that preserves the olive oil’s chemical structure but has no colour, aroma or flavour and whose excesses in physicochemical parameters are adjusted so as to be fit for human consumption.
It is an olive oil obtained by blending refined olive oil and virgin olive oils other than lampante oil, whose free acidity content, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 1g per 100 g and whose other characteristics of which comply with those laid down for this category.
Pomace Olive Oil comes from the olive just like any other olive oil, but with the difference of the time and the method of extraction, being considered as the second best vegetable oil which may be consumed. It is an oil obtained by blending refined olive-pomace oil and virgin olive oils other than lampante olive oil, having a free acidity content, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 1 g per 100 g and whose other characteristics of which comply with those laid down for this category.
The acidity of olive oil is a subject as widespread as misinterpreted by consumers and including professional chefs. The acidity determines the amount of free fatty acids present in an oil, expressed as oleic acid (%).
The fat, biologically synthesised, is neutral, that is, the oil contained in the healthy olive that is on the tree has a 0% free acidity content. The presence of free fatty acids is, therefore, an anomaly resulting from the handling of the fruit. The worse the handling of the fruit is subjected to, the higher the acidity number which will be obtained.
According to Commission Regulation (EC) No. 1989/2003 of 6 November 2003, amending Regulation (EC) No. 2568/91, on the characteristics of olive oil and olive-pomace oil and on the relevant methods of analysis, stipulates that:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO): Its acidity must be less than or equal to 0.8 grams.
Virgin Olive Oil: The acidity of this oil must be less than or equal to 2 degrees.
When the virgin oils have a greater acidity of two degrees these oils are classified as lampante olive oils.
Acidity has no direct relationship with flavour.
It is a widespread error to think that olive oils with a lower degree of acidity correspond to mild flavours, in the same way that it is mistakenly thought that the most intense flavours are typical of oils with a higher degree of acidity.
Early Harvest Extra Virgin Olive Oil owes its name to the fact that the olive is harvested from the olive tree early, prior to having “produced” its maximum/optimum quantity olive oil. That means that a fruit with different organoleptic properties is obtained. Basically resulting into a lesser quantity of oil per olive (or in other words, a greater quantity of olives are required in order to obtain olive oil), but richer in flavours and aromas.
This new method for obtaining a type of oil which is very rich in flavours and aromas are truly comparable to Extra Virgin Oils that we already knew. We are talking about a type of Extra Virgin Oil with different characteristics.
Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, mostly oleic acid. This oleic acid, unlike saturated fats, has numerous benefits for the body among which it can be highlighted that it helps reduce cholesterol. Virgin olive oil has a high number of antioxidant components called polyphenols. These polyphenols help reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
As extra virgin olive oil is the olive’s juice, obtained from healthy fruit at their appropriate ripeness, under conditions of particular care so that their characteristics are not altered. Having all the minor nutritional interest components as well as an extraordinary composition in fatty acids and offers a wealth of sensory nuances, which make it unique among all oils and fit for both raw consumption and other culinary uses such as fried foods. It is one of the essential elements of the Mediterranean diet.
Olive oils are very rich in antioxidants and are linked to a reduction in the oxidation of LDL. Soybean and sunflower oils are rich in omega 6 fatty acids, which are considered pro-inflammatory fatty acids but must be balanced with omega 3 fatty acids to maintain a proper inflammatory balance that maximises health. Therefore, it is recommended to consume less omega 6 and a higher consumption of extra virgin olive oil and omega 3, according to María Hernández, Biochemist Nutrition and Public Health specialist and co-founder of Futurlife21.
The colour of the extra virgin olive oils bears no weight on its quality. Colour is not a parameter of quality. Accordingly, oil of any colour from green to yellow, may have similar qualities. It should be noted that the professional tasting glasses are of certain colours which prevent the taster from viewing the hues of the oils so as to avoid colour conditioning.
Extra virgin and virgin olive oils are the olive’s juices, it is not processed or treated, that is why its flavour and characteristics depend to a great extent on the variety of olives which have been used to produce these oils and the area of origin. Olive oil may come from a single variety of olives or from a blend of different varieties (coupages). The main producing country of olive oil is Spain, and the principal variety of olives is the picual.
Olive oils may be used for whatever our heart desires in the kitchen. These oils are used for frying as it protects the food and preserves its properties, and even for dressing salads, given that when raw has the most benefits for the body.
All olive oils, from the extra virgin to the olive oil, change over time, fundamentally oxidising with atmospheric oxygen, being able to produce a lengthy transformation to the rancidity. The time of use depends on several factors, the variety, the type of oil and olive etc. The extra virgins are, in general, more resistant than the refined olive oils, the method of conservation in the establishments and subsequently households etc. For this reason, all oils must have a label specifying the “best before….” date. The oils must be consumed within the period specified by the packer, as it is when their freshness is guaranteed; although later these oils remain fit for consumption, but will have lost their organoleptic properties.
It should not be poured down drains. There are companies in cities which remove the used oil for the purposes of being recovered industrially. Attempt to contact with this type of companies or Town Hall.
Differences between fats
Type of oil or fat
Professor Martin Grootveld and his team at the University of Montfort in Leicester, England, conducted an experiment in which oils and fats at high temperatures, such as for frying were heated.
The products analysed included sunflower oil, vegetable oil, corn oil, refined olive oil and extra virgin oil, canola oil, lard, butter or pork fat and goose fat.
When frying or cooking at high temperatures (approximately 180ºC) a change occurs in the molecular structures of the oils and fat which are used.
Subjected to a process called oxidation, by which the oils and fat react with the atmospheric oxygen to form aldehydes and lipid peroxides.
Olive oil reduces the production of aldehydes because they are richer in saturated fatty acids.
Similarly, both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids foster the reduction of LDL or bad cholesterol in the body and favours the increase of HDL or good cholesterol, which is also therefore, the fats to choose for a healthy diet.
Therefore, trans fats are the fats which must be avoided if one wishes to protect his/her health, as they have an oxidising and proinflammatory effect.