In a nutshell…
Including olive oil in your diet has many health benefits and extra virgin olive oil is the best. But the olive oil industry is corrupt and the EVOO you buy may be fraudulently labeled.
What are the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil?
1. Extra virgin olive oil is high in antioxidants such as oleocanthal, which has an anti-inflammatory effect similar to ibuprofen; and antioxidant oleuropein–a substance that protects LDL cholesterol from oxidization.
2. It contains vitamins E and K and has beneficial fatty acids. Authority Nutrition
3. It’s associated with a decreased risk of heart disease and cancer; and improved digestive health, bone health, and cognitive function. WHFoods
What are the different kinds of olive oil?
Extra virgin olive oil: must be produced by mechanical extraction methods (no chemicals or hot water applied); come only from first cold-pressing; have an oleic acidity level of less than 1%; and must have a perfect taste. Virgin olive oils are the only grade of olive oil that contain all the nutrients and vitamins available from olive oil and extra virgin olive oils have the best flavor.
Virgin olive oil: like extra virgin olive oil is produced without refining, but may have an acidity level up to 2%. Its taste is less mild than extra virgin olive oil.
Pure olive oil: is a blend of virgin olive oil and refined olive oil. It’s less expensive, but has little nutritional value and isn’t good in dressings. It’s used mainly for cooking.
Light olive oil: has the same fat content as extra virgin olive oil, but is called light because it’s highly filtered or refined, thus having less flavor and color. A small amount of higher grade olive oil or even vegetable oils may be added back in to add some flavor.
Olive Pomace Oil: is the lowest grade of olive based oils. Pomace is the part of the olive that is left over after all the oil and water has been removed. Using solvents, some residual oil can be extracted from the olive pomace. This oil is then refined resulting in a product that has no taste, color, or vitamins. Then the producer blends it with virgin olive oil to make it acceptable to consumers. Explore Crete
Olive Oil Best Practices
1. Buy fresh olive oil that has a harvest date on the bottle. Look for the most recent harvest, which is usually November-December in the Northern Hemisphere and May-June in the Southern Hemisphere. Don’t rely on the “best buy” date, which is usually two years from when the bottle was filled, not when the olives were processed, and won’t ensure fresh olive oil.
2. Look for dark glass bottles. Olive oil goes rancid more quickly if stored in a clear or plastic bottle.
3. Look for quality seals on the bottle, such as the IOC (International Olive Council), COOC (California Olive Oil Council), NAOOA (North American Olive Oil Association), EVA (Extra Virgin Alliance), or the USDA Quality Monitoring Program. You can also look for medal stickers from a major competition such as the New York International Olive Oil Competition. Olive Oil Times
4. Store in a cool and dark location because heat and light will decrease the shelf life of your oil.
5. Buy smaller amounts of oil more frequently. Olive oil is best when used within six months after you purchase and open it. UC Davis Olive Center
What are the best brands of extra virgin olive oil?
The UC Davis Olive Center did an evaluation of olive oil sold in California and found that,
While there are many excellent imported and extra virgin olive oils available in California, our findings indicate that the quality level of the largest imported brand names is inconsistent at best, and that most of the top-selling olive oil brands we examined regularly failed to meet international standards for extra virgin olive oil.
Our testing indicated that the samples failed extra virgin olive oil standards according to one or more of the following: (a) oxidation by exposure to elevated temperatures, light, and/or aging; (b) adulteration with cheaper reﬁned olive oil; and (c) poor quality oil made from damaged and overripe olives, processing ﬂaws, and/or improper oil storage.
Of the olive oils they tested, 69 percent of imported olive oil samples and 10 percent of California olive oil samples labeled as extra virgin olive oil failed to meet the IOC/USDA sensory standards for extra virgin olive oil. They found the following brands to be accurately labeled as extra virgin olive oil:
They found the following brands to be fraudulently labeled as extra virgin olive oil:
- Filippo Berio
- Newman’s Own Organics
- Rachael Ray
- Great Value 100%
- Safeway Select
- 365 100% Italian
The brands UC Davis tested are the more well-known imported olive oils and California olive oils, but there are many other high quality extra virgin olive oil options produced in the United States. Some great options, besides the above accurately labeled extra virgin olive oils, that I know of include:
Tom Mueller wrote a book entitled Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil. He also has a website Truth in Olive Oil that has a lot of good information about olive oil. NPR interviewed him and I found the information very interesting. Losing ‘Virginity’: Olive Oil’s ‘Scandalous’ Fraud.
Tip: Purchase smaller amounts of high-quality EVOO more frequently and store it in a cool, dark place to ensure the healthiest and best tasting product. If you want a milder taste, rather than buying “light” olive oil, which is refined, purchase EVOO that has a “delicate” or “mild” flavor.
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