Gabrielle Lifestyle Presents Extra Virgin Olive Oil: The Healthiest (and Safest) Cooking Oil

GC Napa Valley Olive Oil As an adjunct to being the Winemaker at O’Connell Family Wines in Napa California, I take our olive oil seriously. After completing the Olive Oil Taster curriculum at UC Davis, an intensive program on tasting olive oil to detect flaws, which would demote olive oil from Extra Virgin to lower grades (refined “Pure”), I began educating regional chefs on the uses, storage and quality of olive oil. Then on to uncover a historic site of an original Mission olive grove in California, long forgotten, but now restored. Then to planting our own grove and making oil- both GC Napa Valley Estate Extra Virgin and GC Napa Valley Estate Meyer lemon olive oil, all grown and processed organically. Please view our video about the certified organic O’Connell Family Vineyard Garden Olive Grove.

Olive oil is a passion at O’Connell Family Wines. Just as we carefully nurture grapes grown at O’Connell Family Vineyards into wine, our Mission olives are handpicked, then rushed to the certified organic mill for pressing into fresh olive oil. The faster the pressing, the better for oil quality, as oxygen is the enemy. Oxidation decreases and compromises the flavor and the health giving attributes. Our macerated (that means the herbs, citrus and jalapeno are crushed with the olives, not flavored) adds that finishing touch to elevate a dish easily. No extra cooking steps, just a drizzle and done. Link to olive oil shopping
Join our O’Connell Family Wines Decanter Society Foodie club link to info pg to receive quarterly recipes, exclusive olive oils, infused sea salts, honey and herbs, containing certified organic Napa Valley Estate O’Connell Family Vineyard Gardens ingredients for our GC Napa Valley artisan culinary products. Plus, the wine to pair with the menu. Perfect for at Home entertaining.

Our gift boxes are an opportunity to give gifts that are luxurious but sustainable, produced in house by our staff, every step is under the watchful eye of Gabrielle herself. This ensures quality and authenticity. Containing ingredients grown at the certified organic O’Connell Family Vineyard Garden, our gifts nurture and indulge. Select from our Culinary, Healthy Home, Pooch and Spa.

When visiting Napa Valley, I invite you to book a guided olive oil tasting at GABRIELLE COLLECTION taste+.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT OLIVE OIL

Long heralded as the healthiest on Earth, the plant-based Mediterranean diet, rich in whole foods with a “heavy emphasis on extra virgin olive oil,” has become popular. New research has found that elderly people who maintained this diet for as short as 12 months saw improved brain function, reduced inflammation, and a significant reduction in the risk for other chronic illnesses, like heart disease and cancer. Extra virgin olive oil, a cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet, is a powerhouse of nutrients and has topped the charts for healthy culinary oils for years. However, people still hesitate in reaching for a bottle of EVOO when turning up the heat, wondering whether it is safe to cook with it. Worry no more. Recent research has dug into this quandary and revealed that, not only is extra virgin olive oil safe to cook with, it is actually the healthiest and most stable high-heat cooking oil. Our O’Connell Family Wines Decanter Society Foodie recipes heavily rely of cooking with olive oil, both lightly heated and not, for high flavor dishes. So good for the body and the taste buds!

What Makes Extra Virgin Olive Oil Special?

O’Connell Family GC Napa Valley olive oil strictly follows the International Olive oil Council (IOOC) regulations on olive oil extraction. Due to the cold press extraction process, extra virgin olive oil tops the list for healthy oils, containing 30 types of phenolic compounds, giving it a far greater antioxidant content than any other cooking oil. Diets rich in antioxidants are more capable of neutralizing free radicals, which have been linked to increased cellular aging as well as cancer. In addition to this, extra virgin olive oil is largely composed of monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fatty acids, including omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Diets rich in monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fatty acids have been found to reduce the LDLs (“bad” cholesterol) and increase the HDLs (“good” cholesterol), which lowers the risk of heart disease and stroke. These have also proven to be effective anti-inflammatory compounds, which reduce the risk for cancer, heart disease, stroke, and other chronic illnesses.

The Extraction Process for Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)

Olive Oil extraction processThe extraction process I select for O’Connell Family GC Napa Valley extra virgin olive oil & olive oil is critical in maintaining the naturally existing health benefits of the olive. Simply put, olive oil is oil extracted from an olive (including the seed), but olive oil falls into two categories – refined and unrefined. Refined olive oils have been extracted using heat and with chemicals to remove “flaws,” resulting in an oil that has no olive flavor, aroma, color or the original health benefits. This grade is confusingly called Pure. Unrefined olive oils are extracted without the use of heat or chemicals and remain untreated. If this oil passes the taste test for taste defects, it is call Extra Virgin. When pressing olives with fresh herbs or fruits, the cold press extraction process is the same, but due to the inclusion of ingredients other than olive, must be called just Olive Oil, not Extra Virgin.

The extraction process for unrefined olive oil begins by sorting and cleaning the olives before grinding them into a paste. This olive paste is then mixed with warm water (in a process called malaxing) to allow oil droplets to combine into bigger droplets. This step is widely regarded as the most critical in the extraction process, as it will largely determine the quality of the finished oil. After malaxation, the oil is separated from the water and solids using a centrifuge before being placed in nitrogen blanketed stainless barrels or tanks, where time will allow any remaining solids and water to separate.

Extra virgin olive oil is produced from the first pressing of the olives, within the first 24 to 72 hours after harvest, using only mechanical methods for extracting the oil. Further, to be classified as EVOO, the oil’s natural acidity level must be less than 1%. Virgin olive oil will have higher acidity levels, ranging from 1% to 3.3%. The refining process, using heat and chemicals to remove impurities from the oil, not only removes the taste, aroma, and color of the olive, but also greatly reduces the antioxidant content of the oil. One study comparing the antioxidant content of various cooking oils, found that “EVOO” grade antioxidant content is as high as 5,972, while the “Virgin” grade olive oil has a content of 4,949 and “Pure” grade olive oil 3,281. Despite the negative effect the refining process has on the antioxidant content of olive oil, it is still 350% higher than the next highest cooking oil – avocado measuring in with a content of just 936. This is why EVOO is the gold standard and a staple of any healthy diet and O’Connell Family Wines GC Napa Valley Savory & buttery Extra Virgin Olive oil follows the strictest of standards.

The Myth About Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Nutritionists and food scientists have long since agreed on the importance of using “good” oils in cooking, citing concerns over the release of harmful, cancer-causing compounds from certain oils in certain cooking applications. Extra virgin olive oil is without question the healthiest culinary oil. However, in years past, some have raised concerns over whether EVOO retains its nutritional value when cooking heat is applied. Many cooking oils that are high in polyunsaturated fats, most notably soybean and canola oil, can become damaged when exposed to high heat. When overheated, oils high in polyunsaturated fats can form harmful compounds, including lipid peroxides and aldehydes, both of which have been linked to an increased risk of cancer. A recent study examining which culinary oils produced the most of these, however, showed that olive oil performed markedly better and released the least amount of these harmful compounds.

Another concern related to a degradation of the nutritive value of culinary oils exposed to high heat is focused on the destruction of the antioxidant content of the oil. Much of the myth that olive oil becomes unhealthy when cooked centers around the idea that an oil’s smoke point determines the temperature at which it will sustain damage and begin to form harmful compounds. With a smoke point between 350 F and 410 F, many theorized that extra virgin olive oil would lose its beneficial health properties and become harmful if heated above these temperatures. The flavor compounds in extra virgin olive oil are heat sensitive, resulting in a dissipation of the flavor of the oil when used in high heat. However, recent studies have found that significant antioxidants – tocopherols, sterols, polyphenols, and squalene – are still present in the oil after being heated to 464 F, a temperature well beyond the smoke point as well as any practical home cooking method. In fact, a study published in 2015 found that foods cooked in EVOO had higher antioxidant levels, indicating antioxidants from the cooking oil were being transferred from the oil and into the food. Yes, that’s right. Foods fried in EVOO have been found to be healthier than foods boiled in water.

Why Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the Best Cooking Oil

GC Napa Valley Culinary Olive OilsWhen it comes to determining which is the best cooking oil, one of the biggest measures is how stable an oil is in high heat. As mentioned above, unstable oils sustain damage (oxidation) and begin forming carcinogenic compounds when exposed to high heat. Until recently, an oil’s smoke point was the determining factor for gauging how stable it is in high heat. Today, researchers have found that an oil’s oxidative stability is not linked to its smoke point, but instead to its antioxidant content. The higher an oil’s antioxidant content, the more capable it will be of enduring high heat without oxidizing. Because of this, and because of its other superior nutritive properties, extra virgin olive oil is not only the best culinary oil, is it also the best cooking oil. So the next time you fire up your oven to roast some delicious Brussel sprouts or turn up the heat for a pan-seared filet mignon, reach confidently for your GC Napa Valley Culinary Olive Oils. Then enjoy them in O’Connell Family Decanter Society Foodie recipes. Your food will taste great, and your body will thank you.

Are you wanting to learn more about extra virgin olive oil? Book your Olive Oil Experience at our Gabrielle Collection taste+ in Napa Valley. We explore different varieties, learn how to cook with it, and discover great pairing suggestions.

 

Enjoy a Life Well-lived!

Cheers,

Gabrielle Leonhard O’Connell

Vintner and Winemaker – O’Connell Family Wines

Founder GC Napa Valley & Wine Country Foodie

Contact us: hospitality@oconnellfamilywines.com

707-815-0364