The Real Reason Why Mediterranean Chefs Love Cooking With Olive Oil

Plus, three unexpected ways to use it.

Ask any Mediterranean chef (or home cook who’s fancies themselves one) what’s the one item they always have in close proximity, and the answer is always the same: Extra virgin olive oil.

With so many different kinds of oils available on grocery store shelves, there’s a reason why a staple like Bertolli Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil is still an MVP: Other than the reliable flavor boost (obvs), the reported health benefits of EVOO are too plentiful to ignore.

Countless studies have backed up olive oil's nutrient content (like its high levels of healthy fats and antioxidant-rich vitamin E), and credited the wonder ingredient with potential benefits like helping prevent heart disease and build strong bones.

"Extra virgin olive oil has a direct impact within our gut microbiome."

“Olive oil provides the human body with a myriad of benefits,” confirms Stella Metsovas, a clinical nutritionist and author of Wild Mediterranean, a medley of Paleo-meets-Mediterranean recipes. One of the biggest reasons Metsovas cites? Its role in gut health. “Extra virgin olive oil has a direct impact within our gut microbiome,” she says. “It contains phenolic compounds which help support the cells in our intestines by creating more of a robust microbiome.”

Translation: It’s time to up your olive oil intake. And as the first brand to introduce olive oil to the U.S. (for real—it's been in business for over 150 years), Bertolli is a smart place to start. The olive-oil powerhouse focuses on non-GMO ingredients and offers organic options, too. So basically, it's like your own personal health boost in a bottle.

Scroll down for three easy, chef-approved tips to add more organic extra virgin olive oil into your life.

Photo: Stocksy/Jeff Wasserman

1. Use it for topping, not just for cooking (especially with veggies)

Yes, olive oil as a cooking aid is a tried-and-true method. "Extra virgin olive oil is actually one of the most stable oils for cooking—even at high heat," says Larissa Iracheta, the director of quality for Bertolli’s parent company. But that's not the only way to use it: Metsovas also recommends topping your finished dish with the good stuff. “The olive oil acts as a flavor enhancer and nutrient-boost to veggies," she notes.

Plus, it could supercharge raw produce, too. “Adding fresh extra virgin olive oil to fresh vegetables helps support the absorption of plant chemicals known to boost gut health and immunity,” says the Mediterranean expert.

Photo: Bertolli

2. Stock up on parchment paper

“The quickest and most flavorful way of cooking with extra virgin olive oil is to bake in parchment paper,” Metsovas says. The flavors of the oil are enhanced through natural steam convection when the parchment paper is enclosed like an envelope, she explains.

The easiest recipe to try? Fish en papillote (AKA fish in parchment): Take a piece of white fish with a sprig of thyme, top with Bertolli Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and cook it in the oven. “Those flavors truly embody the Mediterranean diet,” Metsovas adds.

Photo: StockSnap/

3. Experimenting pays off

Olive oil goes with way more than you think. “I recommend extra virgin olive oil as a flavor topping to most any food,” Metsovas shares.

While savory dishes are an obvious choice, the nutritionist also adds a drizzle to her morning oatmeal and raves about fresh figs tossed with a smattering of oil and pinch of sea salt. You never know—unexpected combos like these may end up becoming your new go-to snack or meal. In short, she says, “Olive oil really does make everything better!”

In partnership with Bertolli

Top photo: Bertolli/Michele Rosen, Paleo Running Mama

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