Among plant oils, olive oil is the highest in monounsaturated fat, which is less prone to oxidation than polyunsaturated fat, which is found in high quantities in other plant oils. This ancient oil provides us with many health benefits, including high quantities of antioxidants, from polyphenols and Vitamin E. These are some of the nutrients that humans require to quench oxidative stress, caused by an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants. These powerful phytonutrients are also actively involved in reducing inflammation, which is why olive oil has long been touted for being heart healthy.
How to Find It
While olive oil is constantly being promoted for its health benefits, it’s extremely important to note that not all olive oils are created equal. Here are some tips to help you find a quality olive oil and why it’s so important to avoid olive oil from an unknown source.
Look for a short expiration date
If the date is more than 2 years, there is a high chance that fillers, preservatives and stabilizers have been added to extend the shelf life.
Pomace Oil, which is the resulting oil after the olives have been pressed many times over (which is not a good sign) can be added to an olive oil or sold on its own. This oil is extracted using chemical solvents like hexane. The process that this type of low-grade olive has to undergo to become olive oil or olive pomace oil is known to be harmful to the health of our cells.
Look at the colour of the bottle
Higher quality oil is always found in a dark glass bottle, but not all dark bottles contain high quality oil! The way that olive oil is bottled is extremely important, and using a lighter or clear bottle increases the chances of the olive oil oxidizing and becoming rancid. Light exposure, as well as heat exposure are damaging. Bonus points if you can find an olive oil that bottles their oil on the estate.
Look for keywords
While we all know to look for Extra Virgin when it comes to olive oil, there are some keywords that are far more important.
- Price : If the price is too good to be true, it’s too good to be true! High quality olive oil requires care and attention, which in turns raises the price.
- Country of Origin : If we can find olives coming from one country, it means that we are not getting a blend of different olive oils that have likely had a chance to oxidize
- Estate : Even better than the country of origin, if you can find olive oil that is produced on a single estate, this is typically a sign that there are less steps in the process of tree-to-table olive oil. This means that there is less likelihood of oxidation, less transportation of delicate materials and less middlemen. Bonus points if you can find an oil using a single variety of olive.
- First Cold Pressed: …But only for the EU. The term first cold pressed used to be reserved for olives that were pressed in presses that ensured that the olives and their oil were not being heated to a point (roughly 27 degrees C) where their antioxidant and polyphenol content was being destroyed. Now, the term is applied a little more loosely, as most modern machinery keeps olives and their oil below this temperature, but the EU has set out specific standards and laws around companies that still adhere to traditional methods.
- Farming Methods : Look for terms like organic, biodynamic and bioharvest. The biodynamic and bio harvest methods mean that they are beyond organic : no chemicals or pesticides are used, and traditional farming methods, such as how the olives are picked, as well as how the land is treated.
Finally, when looking for a quality olive oil, you can always tell when it comes to taste! A true extra virgin olive oil should smell fresh, green, and grassy. The taste is smooth, light and pleasant. You can sometimes feel a peppery finish. Fake olive oil will smell metallic and like chemicals. The taste can be too strong, with bitter notes or taste like nothing at all.
Use these tips the next time you are looking for olive oil. By following these methods, you will end up with a tasty olive oil full of health benefits to bring your recipes to life.