Olive oil is a combination of 75% monounsaturated fatty acids (in the form of oleic acid), 13% saturated fatty acids, 10% polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-6 linoleic acid), and 2% polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-3 linolenic acid). It:
- tends to be liquid at room temperature
- is relatively stable; does not go rancid easily
- can be used in cooking at moderate temperatures
- is rich in antioxidants
“Extra-virgin” olive oil is extracted through the first, gentle crushing of ripe olives between stone or steel rollers. This is a gentle process that preserves the molecular integrity of the fatty acids and the oil's antioxidants. Lower quality olive oils (those not bearing the “extra virgin” title) should be avoided, as the processes uses to extract remaining oils from the olives are not so gentle, thereby rendering the oils more unstable and less nutritious.
Extra-virgin olive oil, if packed in opaque containers, will retain its freshness and nutritional viability for years. Cloudiness indicates that the oil has not been filtered, which is a good sign. A golden yellow color to the oil signifies that the oil was pressed from ripe olives.
Extra-virgin olive oil is ideal for salads and cooking at moderate temperatures. One should not use extra virgin olive oil for deep frying, or high heat frying.
To ensure that your extra-virgin olive oil was extracted from olives grown without the use of pesticides or herbicides, one should purchase and seek out organic, extra-virgin olive oil.
Other foods containing oils which are primarily monounsaturated fatty acids: almonds, pecans, cashews, peanuts, and avocados.
This information is a summary of the helpful fatty acid particulars presented in the book, Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon Morell, pages 8 through 19 (New Trends Publishing, ©1999 and ©2001).
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