Olive Oil


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We've become cooking oil-mad, buying more olive oil per capita, apart from Mediterranean’s, than any other nation. But just what do you choose for the trolley… extra virgin olive, light, vegetable oil, sunflower, safflower, oils from nuts, avocado, coconut, sesame seed oil? What's healthiest and what’s downright bad for us?

There are so many oils available at the moment on the supermarket shelves you can see why people get confused and just have no idea of what they'll buy.

Caitlin Reid, Dietician for Australian Healthy Food guide says, watch your intake, oils are high in kilojoules.

“Well oil is pretty much between 90% to 100% fat,” says Caitlin.

But certain oils can be good for the heart. Others full of saturated fats will be a heart risk and stack on the weight.

“You're looking for the type of fat, so you want an oil higher in unsaturated, so higher in poly-unsaturated, mono-unsaturated, and lower in the saturated fat. So you're really looking for something that's less that 20gms per hundred grams in saturated fat,” says Caitlin.

Coconut oil, and palm oil, are saturated fat. Coconut oil will increase your risk of heart disease so definitely one to avoid.

And also unhealthy are trans-fats. They've been banned in some countries, but NOT here. Just look at Coles Canola oil - 4.6% trans-fats ��" that’s high risk!

“If you had 5 oils in the pantry these are the ones. There's a really good variety of oils so for the sunflower you can use that for baking and roasting, the extra virgin olive oil is good for dipping the bread in, salads, roasted vegetables; peanut oil is for the stir fries and Asian cuisines, and canola oil that's good for low to medium temperature cooking, grilling. Don't have too high a temperature, you don't want to fry with that. Light, extra light? It's good for any sort of cooking whether you want to do some frying, shallow frying, putting it over some marinated meat but it does not have as much flavour as the extra virgin so don't put it over salads,” says Caitlin.

Recently the NSW Government, commissioned by the Australian Olive Industry, tested 12 olive oils labelled as "extra virgin" to the international standard. Extra Virgin must be pure, never mixed with other oils, and from the first cold pressing of olives.

The 3 Australian ones, found to be high quality and pure, passed the tests. All 9 imported ones failed… Spanish, Italian and Greek oils by Carbonell, Moro, Isabella, Bertolli, Paese Mio, Woolworths Home Brand imported Olive Oil Spray which contained some canola, and 3 oils from Woolworths "Select" range failed... found to be either poor quality refined oil, or old. In one case rancid, or heat-treated, not olive oil at all.

Mark Troy, former Managing Director of Origin Groves which owns Aussie brand Viva, and Douglas Pollard of Barkworth Olive Groves, have been warning our government about cheap and adulterated imports for years ... 90% of our olive oil is from Spain and Italy.

“Because Italy is famous for olive oil, they think it must be good oil. They think Spanish oil is good but the Spanish oil could well be from Turkey and the Italian oil could well be from Tunisia that smell awful, I wouldn't even taste it. They are trash,” says Mark.

The ACCC is investigating, but some companies are disputing the recent findings, like Spanish oil giant, Carbonell which demanded a copy of the testing.

As for Caitlin and the newer oils, are they good for us?

“They are. You can use them for so many different things. The avocado… dipping the bread is for salads, macadamia, almond, they're good for cooking in high temperatures so put them in a stir-fry as well,” says Caitlin.

But walnut oil can't take high temperatures, so it's for salads only. Peanut oil's best for wok cooking, sesame oil can't take the heat you need.

Final advice?

“Check the labels and make sure you know it does have canola or soya bean, olive, whatever it is. But have a look that the saturated fat is less than twenty grams per hundred.