Difference between Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Virgin Olive Oil

Updated on February 24, 2018

With so many cooking shows and people getting more and more into intricate dishes and healthy food, it’s hard to stay away from the kitchen. They all make it look so easy and to tempting that you just cannot help but try your own hand. But what do you do when they start throwing around names of ingredients you thought were basic? Like, do you know the difference between extra virgin olive oil and virgin olive oil? Can choosing one over the other affect the taste and outcome of your dish or is it just a fancier way of cooking?


Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is unrefined oil made from the very first pressing of a batch of freshly picked olives. It is supposed to not have any additives and it does not undergo any kind of industrial processing. Extra virgin olive oil is extracted by mechanical means only, at temperatures that cannot degrade the oil. The process is known as cold pressing. This is the most expensive kind of olive oil and it should have the taste of fresh olives. Olive oils are graded based on their acidity. Extra virgin olive oil has an acidity level of 1%.

Although the taste of the olive oil can vary according to the variety of olives used, their ripeness can also play an important role. Ripe fruit can give the oil a buttery, mild aroma, whereas greener fruit are bitter, pungent and herbaceous. You can tell whether the olive oil is rich in nutrients if it gives a peppery sensation in the mouth and throat.

Among the many benefits of extra virgin olive oil consumption we can mention the anti-inflammatory benefits and the possible cancer prevention attributes due to the presence of antioxidants. It also regulates insulin levels, slows down the aging process, and helps with osteoporosis and in cases of skin damage. Extra virgin olive oil is best consumed raw as it tends to lose many of its properties at higher temperatures.

One way to make sure that the product really is extra virgin olive oil is to check for the North American Olive Oil Association (NOOA) stamp of approval, or that of the International Olive Council (OIC). These organizations test the oils before putting them on the market and decide what category they go in. You can also test it yourself by pouring a few drops on a white plate and looking for color, consistency and smell. Extra virgin olive oil smells and tastes like fresh olives. Also, you must feel a slight burn at the back of your throat from the antioxidants it contains.

Virgin olive oil (non – EVOO) is unrefined oil obtained when fresh picked olives are first pressed. No heat or chemical processes are used in the process. It too maintains the purity and taste of fresh olives but it is not subjected to strict chemical parameters. This translates into it potentially having some taste defects which are virtually impossible to notice, depending on the quality. Virgin olive oil has an acidity level of 3%. The price of virgin olive oil is higher than that of non virgin olive oil (oil which may have had flavor or color added, or oil which has been obtained other than by cold pressing). If you intend to cook with olive oil, virgin olive oil is better for heating.

Olive oil in general is beneficial to the body and is a healthy fat. It is good for the cardiovascular system, it is thought to help in the prevention of cancer and it reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. It is great for diets because its rich taste gives you the sensation of feeling full early on.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil vs Virgin Olive Oil

So what is the difference between extra virgin olive oil and virgin olive oil?

Although extra virgin olive oil should meet stricter taste and chemical parameters than virgin olive oil, most producers will simply label virgin olive oil as extra virgin olive oil just to charge higher prices. It is said that virgin olive oil is hard to come across in stores, people usually having the option of buying extra virgin olive oil, regular and light olive oil. However, in reality, it is the virgin type you get with the extra virgin olive oil labels.

Technically, extra virgin olive oil and virgin olive oil consumption should have the same health benefits. However, extra virgin olive oil, by being closer to the natural state of the fruit, can pack more nutrients. Also, in order to get most of it, raw consumption is best advised in this case, while virgin olive oil is better for cooking.

The shelf life of extra virgin olive oil and virgin olive oil is two years. Special care must be put into storage as oil can degrade. Unfortunately, by lacking the strict name usage regulations other products have, many producers can slap the extra virgin olive oil or the virgin olive oil label on a bottle of what can also be rancid oil and sell it at the price of the nutritious substance. One common practice is to say that the product was bottled in Italy, Greece or Spain. This does not imply that the olives were harvested there. Also, not having a harvest date on the label should be a sign of a fake. This is why an official stamp of approval is important.

Comparison Chart

Extra Virgin Olive OilVirgin Olive Oil
Must meet very strict taste and chemical parametersMust meet less strict taste and chemical parameters
Has a 1% acid levelHas a 3% acid level
Is the most expensive type of olive oil on the marketIs the second most expensive type of olive oil on the market
It can lose some of its properties when cookedIs good for cooking at low temperatures
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