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The virgins… and the extra virgins

We are talking about oil, okay?

If the title caught your attention, your first thought might have been thinking about the purity of men and women. Well, that’s exactly what this article is NOT about. It’s actually about oil. You know, the stuff that you rub all over your body and put in your mouth and it just feels and tastes so good.

But, before knowing what virgin and extra virgin means, there are a few other terms that need to be understood.

Natural oils, especially plant-based oil, are great not only for cooking but also good for your hair and skin but there are different grades of oil. The terms ‘Extra Virgin’, ‘Virgin’, ‘Cold-Pressed’, ‘Unrefined’, ‘Refined’, ‘Organic and Raw’ all refer to how the oil was processed.

To understand these terms, you need to understand how oils are made.

To get oil out of a source, a fruit, nut or plant, it has to be processed either mechanically (unrefined) or with chemicals and heat (refined; though some refined oils are processed chemical-free).

Source: Simone

A process that squeezes out the oil out of something like an olive using a mechanical press and without using heat or chemicals is called expeller pressing. This process may cause some natural heat due to friction during extraction but no external heat is used.

When expeller pressing is done in a temperature-controlled environment, this is called cold-pressed. Although there can still be some heat from friction if the source has pits or shells, it is minimal, and so cold-pressed oils are valued as they keep the most out of the flavor, nutrition and color.

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

Now let’s talk about unrefined vs refined oils. Unrefined oils are oils that are extracted using minimal heat processes like expeller pressing or cold-pressing and does not go through additional processes after extraction (like bleaching or deodorizing).

Refined oils, on the other hand, will go through said additional processes (this is how we get something like scented oils).

Image by xbqs42 from Pixabay

So when we talk about unrefined oils, this covers raw or pure oils, virgin and extra virgin oils. This is a way to grade the oil according to how many the fruit has been pressed for oil extraction and that these oils did not go through the refining process.

So in other words, raw, virgin and extra virgin are cold-pressed oils, where extra virgin oils are oils from taken during the first pressing only.

So how do we tell if our oil is refined or not? The taste test!

Taste your oil. When tasting unrefined oils, it will taste like the fruit it was extracted from. If you’re not tasting anything, chances are the oil you’re tasting was refined.

If you taste your oil and it does not have a taste then your oil is refined. Unrefined oils taste like the fruit they are extracted from.

So then, what about organic oils? These are oils that were created from plants that were grown by farmers or grown in areas that do not use chemicals or pesticides.

So a good type of oil for your food, hair, and skin would be something that is grown organically and is extracted via expeller or cold pressing, as something that is as close as natural as it can get would always be seen as the prime choice.

The terms virgin or extra virgin are usually associated with olive oils, but the process of extraction can also be done with other oil sources like palm and coconut.

Earlier in the article, it was mentioned that there are different grades of oil. For olive oils, the body that grades them is called the International Olive Oil Council (OIC), a UN-chartered organization that uses standards that are considered the worldwide quality standard.

So according to OIC, virgin and extra virgin olive oils must go through extraction using only mechanical methods with no chemicals or heat used. The extracted oil will then be graded.

According to the IOC, both virgin and extra virgin olive oils are extracted by using only mechanical methods (no heat or chemicals are allowed). After the oil is extracted, it is graded.

If the olive oil is found to be fruity, has no defects and has a free acidity that is less than or equal to 0.8 , it is graded as extra-virgin. 
If the olive oil has minimal defects and is found to have a free acidy between 0.8 and 2.0, it is graded as virgin
Both extra virgin olive oil and virgin olive oil have the same amount of antioxidants and are tested to ensure purity.

Source: About Olive Oil

So now you know. Plants can be virgins and even extra virgin. But no need to get extra about it.

About Olive Oil


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Written by Alex S

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