Most store-bought salad dressings contain highly processed oils, preservatives, and flavor enhancers that can actually harm our health. Is that what you want on a plate full of nutritious, colorful vegetables? I prefer a simpler and delicious solution: extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and vinegar.
Olive oil promotes health.
Olive oil is healthy for several reasons. It is high in the monounsaturated fat, oleic acid. Olive oil also contains health-promoting antioxidants and polyphenols. Research suggests that due to its oleic acid content, olive oil can reduce the risk of heart disease. It can help lower blood pressure, help control insulin levels, and improve cholesterol levels. Over the years, numerous studies have uncovered the health benefits of this wonderful oil. Just 2 tablespoons of olive oil a day have been linked to health benefits.
Olive oil damages easily.
Olive oil oxidizes easily and can even become rancid. Its freshness, how it is stored, and how it is processed are all important to consider. As to freshness, the California Olive Oil Council advises purchasing EVOO within 12-18 months of its harvest date and consuming it within 6 months of opening a bottle. Olive oil is easily damaged by light, heat, and air. So choose oil packaged in a dark, glass bottle, and store it at room temperature. The name of the oil reflects how it is processed.
Choose Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) if you can.
“Virgin” olive oil has been removed from the olive by pressing or other means that do not lead to alterations in the oil. Olive oil makers make extra virgin olive oil by grinding olives into a paste and then pressing them to extract the oil. “Extra Virgin Olive Oil,” according to the USDA carries the additional distinction of having “excellent flavor and odor.” Virgin oil does not rise to this level and also has higher acidity. Refined oils are further processed and have less olive aroma, flavor, color and nutrients. Refined oils “lack the important antioxidants and anti-inflammatories that make extra-virgin oil so special.” Be aware that extra virgin olive oils have various and sometimes strong tastes. Find one that appeals to your palate.
What brand of olive oil should I choose?
Inferior olive oil claiming to be EVOO is big business, so you want to make sure that you are getting the real thing. Thankfully, Consumer Lab Reports has done research for us. They tested olive oils for fatty acid content, purity, acidity, rancidity, as well as content of polyphenols and oleic acid. The following came out on top in terms of flavor and price
Kirkland Signature (Costco) Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Trader Joe’s Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil
365 (Whole Foods) Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Support Local Business
For the highest quality olive oils, find a local oil and vinegar shop. You can trust local owners who take pride in selecting high quality, fresh oils. The businesses in communities that I frequent are Primo Oils and Vinegars in Louisville, KY and Rocky Mountain Olive Oil in Fort Collins, CO. I have learned a lot during store visits and by visiting their websites, and love the new flavors that I have discovered. Using these oils and vinegars really brings salads to the next level.
Of course, it all comes down to a matter of taste. I love salads with EVOO, a squeeze of fresh lemon, and a sprinkle of Celtic sea salt. Here is a simple vinaigrette recipe:
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tbsps Basalmic Vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp Dijon Mustard
1/4 tsp sea salt
Whisk ingredients together and drizzle 1-2 Tbsps over salad
Make 2021 the year of the salad!