Technically, olive oil is a vegetable oil but most vegetable oils we use every day are heavily processed and lost most of their nutritional values in the process.
Olive oil is a common cooking oil obtained from olives and used all over the world, especially in the Mediterranean. Its taste varies according to region, altitude, harvest time, distillation process and other factors.
On the other hand, vegetable oils can be edible or inedible. The ones we’re using for cooking are derived from a particular plant or may be a mixture of two or more oils.
Olive oil is extracted from olives (Olea europaea) and is a traditional product of the Mediterranean region. Today, the main producers of olive oil are countries from Southern Europe, North Africa and the Near East. Spain, Italy, Portugal and Greece are the main producers of olive oil in Europe.
Olive oil can be obtained through mechanical extraction without using any chemical and therefore is rich in vitamins and minerals. Due to the high monounsaturated fatty acids levels, e.g. oleic acid, olive oil decreases the rate of heart diseases. These acids and olive oil’s strong antioxidative properties – thanks to the presence of polyphenols – also help to lower LDL and increase HDL levels and make arterial walls more flexible.
Vegetable oils such as canola oil contain small amounts of saturated fats and have fewer health benefits compared to olive oil.
The smoke point is the temperature at which an oil starts to produce a clearly visible smoke. This feature is important because when cooking at high temperatures, it’s recommended to use light oils due to their high smoke point. The smoke point of olive oil ranges from 160°C to 243°C. On the other hand, the smoke point of vegetable oils, e.g. deep frying oils like canola oil has a smoking point of 232°C and safflower oil has a smoking point of 266°C, are different and higher than the olive oil.
Olive oil comes in different grades and these are olive pomace oil, pure olive oil, refined olive oil, virgin olive oil and extra virgin olive oil. Extra virgin is the highest grade of olive oil and this type comes from the first cold press and has the lowest acidity levels (below 0.08%) among other types. Its taste and aroma can vary according to the region and is mostly used in sauces but due to its perfect balance in taste, aroma and color it can also be served with just a slice of bread in some regions.
Vegetable oils can be divided into hazelnut oils (cashew oil), seed oils (sunflower seed oil) and oils from other sources.
All oils should be stored in a cool and dry place away from the sunlight. Some oils should be used within 6 months after opening, but in others such as olive oil, this time can extend from 9 months to 2-3 years. Unrefined oils and especially sesame oil should be stored in cold storage. However, saturated fats like coconut and palm oil can be stored at room temperature.
Previously mentioned smoke point plays an important role in the type of cooking. You can’t use olive oil while deep frying and there is no substitute for olive oil for a salad dressing, so different circumstances requires different oils but for everyday cooking olive oil is a much better choice. Because with vegetable oil you have no control over the content in the bottle and it can have different amounts of saturated and unsaturated fats. In addition to that, vegetable oils don’t taste good compared to the olive oil which is a more desirable product due to its delicious flavor and amazing health benefits.