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Choose The Best Olive Oil

Choose The Best Olive Oil

We love olive oil! Australians are the largest consumers of olive oil per capita outside the Mediterranean. Olive oil is rich in antioxidants. It contains mostly monounsaturated fat, which can help lower levels of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, reduce blood pressure and reduce oxidative stress on the body. Some health practitioners believe this to lower the risk of certain cancers.

An olive oil’s flavour reflects the variety of the olive and the soil, climate and growing conditions of the grove on which it has been raised. Certain oils might be peppery, while others may be buttery on the tongue. The colour of an olive oil is determined by the variety and colour of the olive and is usually not an indication of the quality.

There are about 10 million oil producing olive trees planted across Australia. Our oil has grown in popularity and is now even exported around the world. “Australia produces most major olive varieties. Last year we harvested the biggest crop in the local industry’s history, resulting in 15 million litres of oil” says Paul Miller, president of the Australian Olive Association. Miller believes that local producers are just as well, if not better, equipped than European farmers to harvest olives upon ripening and to process them quickly – two very important factors in achieving high quality extra virgin olive oil.

Supermarket shelves are full of different olive oils, but labels can be tricky. Before reaching for a bottle of olive oil, make sure you know what you are buying:

  • Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) – Obtained from the first pressing of the olives and considered the highest quality olive oil. It has a robust, fruity aroma and flavor and is required to have an acidity level of 0.8% or less. Use it in salads, dressings or near the end of cooking to retain the flavor.
  • Extra virgin (blended) olive oil – Olive oil producers sometimes blend their EVOO with another producer’s oil. This is done to ensure a steady supply or to create a particular flavour.
  • Unfiltered olive oil – Generally thick, green and cloudy, unfiltered oil is bottled immediately after pressing. It is allowed to settle and is especially flavoursome because small pieces of fruit remain. It has a short shelf life and needs to be used quickly.
  • Virgin olive oil – Rarely sold these days, this oil has a higher level of acidity and a less refined flavor than EVOO.
  • Pure olive oil – Described by an olive farmer, Patrice Newell, as “a factory oil, refined, deodorised and re-blended to bureaucratic standards.” It is used for cooking or when a strong flavor is not required, like in mayonnaise.
  • Light or ‘lite’ – Light olive oil has the same fat content as other oils but it is light in colour and flavor. It is used in dishes where little flavor is needed, as well as baking to achieve cakes with a lighter texture.
  • Pomace – The residual mulch of the first pressings is mixed with chemicals to extract pomace, which is considered the lowest grade olive oil on the market. It is mostly used commercially for frying.

Get familiar with the different types of olive oil and read labels carefully so that you know what you are getting. Choose Australian olive oils to support our farmers and reduce food miles.

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