Why is it called virgin olive oil?

In this brief guide, we will answer the question, “why is it called virgin olive oil, and discuss what is the difference between extra virgin olive and those labeled pure, light, or simply olive oil, and is it true that light olive oil contains fewer calories than extra virgin oil.

Why is it called virgin olive oil?

Virgin olive oil is so named because it is the product of olives that have been cold-pressed to extract their juices. 

This process does not involve any heat or chemical treatment, so the olives are never “processed.” This type of olive oil is considered the highest quality olive oil, and the most expensive.

Virgin olive oil is made from the first pressing of olives, which are then put through an extraction process without the use of chemicals or heat, which makes it a “virgin” oil. The term also applies to other oils, like canola and sunflower.

The term “virgin” in this sense is a label that indicates the oil was not subjected to high heat, solvents, or other chemical processes during extraction.

Extra virgin olive oil is widely recognized as the most esteemed variety of olive oil. It is obtained through physical extraction methods, strictly adhering to regulations that prohibit the use of solvents. 

Olive oil that meets the requirements for direct consumption is classified as either Virgin Olive Oil (VOO) or Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO). These oils must exhibit high or acceptable quality, both in terms of their sensory properties and physicochemical characteristics.

To be classified as EVOO, the oil must possess the fruity attribute and must be completely free from any sensory defects. Additionally, it should have a maximum acidity level of 0.8% or below, as per the established standards.

In contrast, VOO allows for the presence of sensory defects, albeit below a certain threshold of 3.5 on a scale of 10. It also permits a maximum acidity level of 2%. (1, 2)

What is the difference between extra virgin olive and those labeled pure, light, or simply olive oil?

The Standard needs for extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) are the presence of the fruity attribute and the complete absence of sensory defects, and other physico-chemical characteristics such a free acidity below 0.8%. 

In contrast, the virgin olive oil (VOO) admits the presence of sensory defects below 3.5 on a scale of 10, and 2% maximum acidity.

Those olive oils in which the sensory analysis decides the absence of fruity or/and the presence of sensory defects whose intensities exceed the value 3.5, classify as Lampante Olive Oil (LOO). 

Thus, they must undergo refining, getting Refined Olive Oil (ROO). These olive oils are not edible, but only after mixing them with EVOO or VOO and are classified as Olive Oil (OO). 

OO may be manufactured as specific mixtures or ‘coupages’, which manufacturers produce according to the market. (1)

Aren’t extra virgin olive oils supposed to be good for my health?

The short answer is yes, extra virgin olive oil is good for your health. But it’s important to make sure you’re getting the real deal because a lot of the olive oil out there isn’t what it claims to be.

Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) exhibits numerous bioactivities, largely attributed to its exceptional antioxidant capacity. 

Incorporating EVOO into one’s daily diet brings about various health benefits and aids in the prevention of specific diseases, such as cardiovascular, neurodegenerative, cytotoxic, metabolic, and inflammatory conditions, among others.

The remarkable effects of EVOO can be attributed to its rich content of functional compounds, including polyphenols, tocopherols, carotenoids, sterols, fatty acids, and squalene, among others. 

Its lipid fraction plays a vital role in providing protective properties against coronary, autoimmune, and inflammatory disorders. Furthermore, it exerts anti-thrombotic effects and helps regulate blood pressure.

Although present in smaller quantities, compounds such as tocopherols and polyphenols also contribute to the potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities of EVOO, among other valuable qualities. 

EVOO supplies substances that possess the capability to prevent the onset or progression of diseases of various natures, ranging from cardiovascular and circulatory ailments to metabolic disorders, including carcinogenesis. (2, 3)

What are the uses of extra virgin olive oils?

Extra virgin olive oil not only is it easy to use for roasting, frying, baking, or sautéing, but it’s also jam-packed with antioxidants and heart-healthy fats. 

Olive oil is made of mostly monounsaturated fats, which are resistant to moderate heat. It also has a fairly high smoke point, making it a good choice for many cooking methods. (3)

Olive oil is a crucial part of the commonly known as Mediterranean diet (MED). This diet consists of a balanced combination of low animal protein consumption with a high intake of fruits, vegetables and cereals and olive oil as the principal source of fat in many foods. (2)

Other FAQs about Olives  that you may be interested in.

Why is olive oil a virgin?

Why is olive oil liquid at room temperature?

Is it healthy to consume 4 tablespoons of olive oil a day?


In this brief guide, we have addressed the question, “why is it called virgin olive oil, and discuss what is the difference between extra virgin olive and those labeled pure, light, or simply olive oil, and is it true that light olive oil contains fewer calories than extra virgin oil.


  1. Cayuela, J. A., Gómez-Coca, R. B., Moreda, W., & Pérez-Camino, M. C. Sensory defects of virgin olive oil from a microbiological perspective. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 43(2), 227–235. 2015.
  2. Jimenez-Lopez C, Carpena M, Lourenço-Lopes C, Gallardo-Gomez M, Lorenzo JM, Barba FJ, Prieto MA, Simal-Gandara J. Bioactive Compounds and Quality of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Foods. 9(8):1014. 2020.
  3. Imashi Fernando,Imashi Fernando, What Is Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and Why Is It Healthy? Them. Healthline Media LLC. 2021.

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