Little is currently known about U.S. consumer knowledge, beliefs, habits and motivations to use extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), but researchers at the University of Palermo (Italy) are attempting to change that by conducting a survey on consumer attitudes about EVOO. In fact, they asked to host a giveaway to our readers for participating in their 2-minute survey – a link to the survey will be at the bottom of this post! You can win a $50 Amazon gift card by completing it!
EVOO is made simply by crushing olives and extracting the juice. It is the only cooking oil that is made without the use of chemicals and industrial refining. Even though EVOO has been a key staple of the Mediterranean Diet for centuries, its consumption in the U.S. represents a mere 8% of all available fats and oils.
The major producers of olive oil in the world are Italy and Spain. Greece takes third place, and first place in olive oil consumption. Among the EU non-producing countries, Germany and the UK are the main consumers, although the US is the most important market outside the Mediterranean basin. In the US, interest in and consumption of olive oil has been growing exponentially over the last 20 years. Indeed, the US ranks fourth in olive oil consumption after Italy, Spain and Greece. US consumption went from 88,000 tons in 1990 to 260,000 tons in 2009; an increase of 228% (International Olive Council, 2008).
Could it be that the growth in consumption is due to increasing awareness of the health benefits of EVOO? In fact, Mediterranean Diet studies have long associated olive oil intake with a decreased risk of heart disease. That’s right, an oil that actually decreases the risk of heart disease! This is a great website that outlines all of the amazing health benefits of EVOO: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=132. It truly should be considered a superfood: it’s so rich in healthy fats and cancer fighting properties.
Additionally, the quality of olive oil production—especially the stage of pressing—really makes a difference when it comes to health benefits. Recent studies have compared the anti-inflammatory benefits of EVOO obtained from the first pressing of the oil to the anti-inflammatory benefits of virgin olive oils (non-EVOO) obtained from later pressings. What researchers found was an ability of EVOO to lower inflammatory markers in the blood when non-EVOOs were unable to do so. This ability of EVOO to help protect against unwanted inflammation is not surprising, since EVOO is known to contain stronger concentrations of phytonutrients (especially polyphenols) that have well-known anti-inflammatory properties (Mateljan, whfoods.com).
EVOO can be used much like any other oil for sautéing, browning, stir-frying, deep frying, as an ingredient in marinades and sauces such as mayonnaise, pesto, or romesco, and as a condiment, drizzled over various dishes. It is of course always appreciated as a bread dipper or simply dabbed on a toasted piece of bread that has been rubbed with a clove of garlic. Think about olive oil as you would wine in terms of its value – the higher quality the olives and production the better the taste.
Use different olive oils for different purposes. Strong and robust extra virgin olive oils can be used for cooking fish, meat, to make marinades, or to drizzle on strongly flavored ingredients like peppers or garlic. A medium intensity, well-rounded EVOO is great on mozzarella or for bread dipping. We love it in vinaigrette or sprinkled on various steamed vegetables and on baked potatoes. A mellow late harvest extra virgin oil could be used in baking a cake or to make mayonnaise. Olive oil or virgin olive oil are good for frying and sautéing.
We would recommend a very high quality olive for anything where it will not be cooked or blended well with other ingredients – for example when it is part of a simple dressing or used as a drizzle or as a dipping sauce because the flavor of the olive oil will be more apparent. Also, when cooking with olive oil, keep in mind that it has a slightly lower smoke point of around 405° F (for a high quality EVOO). This is a point of caution because heated past its smoke point, that fat starts to break down, releasing free radicals and a substance called acrolein, the chemical that gives burnt foods their acrid flavor and aroma meaning your the oil your food is cooked in will have an overly bitter flavor.
Now for the Giveaway! One lucky winner will receive a $50 Amazon gift card just by completing this very brief survey about olive oil from the University of Palermo. So just complete this survey: https://surveyplanet.com/57458b291d4404c559a46103, then come back here and leave a comment letting me know you completed the survey! That’s it!! You could buy a lot of olive oil with $50 to Amazon! 🙂
This giveaway is open to anyone in the US and will close on July 8th at 12:00am EST. Winner will be notified via email.
A researcher at the University of Palermo sponsored this post and giveaway, but all opinions are our own! We love supporting these types of things and the products that we use regularly, so thank you for supporting the brands and products that support this blog. As always, we only recommend products we think will be good for our readers!