Light Olive Oil: A Versatile, Low-Key Olive Oil

Light olive oil history

Light olive oil is a marketing term for a kind of refined olive oil. It most likely became fashionable in the late 20th century and appears to have first been used in the 1970s.

Because it is used for marketing purposes and is not a technical term, there is no strict definition. Olive oil producers can use it however they want. Terms like light olive oil and light-tasting olive oil or extra light olive oil all denote the same thing: olive oil that is more refined and thus lighter on flavor than extra virgin olive oil. As such, these oils are better suited for people who do not want the olive oil flavor but want some of its other characteristics.

Light olive oil is a relatively recent version of olive oil, which has been around for thousands of years. Olive oil has long been an important part of the Mediterranean diet and was used by all social classes in Mediterranean societies.

Light olive oil typically comes from the pressings after the first press of the olive fruits in which extra virgin olive oil is extracted. Often, heat is used in its extraction process, so it cannot be considered a cold-pressed oil.

Light olive oil flavor profile

Light olive oil’s flavor is supposed to be as close to neutral as possible. While you might get a very subtle hint of olive oil’s herbaceousness, light olive oil will usually disappear into the background of your dish.

Health benefits

Because of the refinement methods used in its production, light olive oil will have fewer nutrients than cold-pressed olive oil. The fact that it has fewer beneficial compounds means that it has fewer health benefits as well.

  • Monounsaturated fats: Light olive oil contains monounsaturated fats, which are beneficial for health.
  • Antioxidants: Light olive oil does contain antioxidants that can help to lower your risk of serious diseases including heart disease and cancer.

Light olive oil can have preventive and therapeutic health benefits like:

  • Inflammation: One of the main causes of inflammation in the body is oxidative stress, which can result from consuming the toxins in burned or overheated cooking oil. The high smoke point of light olive oil can reduce those toxins in your diet and lower your risk of diseases associated with inflammation.
  • Heart disease: Light olive oil can lower your risk for heart disease because of its anti-inflammatory benefits along with its monounsaturated fat content.
  • Obesity: The monounsaturated fat in light olive oil can help with weight loss.

Health concerns

The light in light olive oil does not mean that it has fewer calories. Light olive oil is still fat, which means that it can contribute to obesity despite its health benefits.

Common uses

Where light olive oil excels is its ability to stand up to high heat. You can cook with light olive oil at far higher temperatures than other types of olive oil. Its smoke point — the temperature at which it begins to burn and generate toxins and smoke — is around 460 degrees Fahrenheit (237.78 °C).

The high smoke point means that you can use it for deep-frying and other super-hot cooking techniques without any fear of it burning. Its neutral flavor profile makes it a good option for baked desserts and other dishes where you don’t want a strongly flavored olive oil.