In his book Extra Virginity, Tom Mueller takes us through the sublime, scandalous world of olive oil. He discusses how resellers add lower-priced, low-grade oils filled with artificial coloring toextra-virgin olive oil!
In fact, one study demonstrated about 69 percent of olive oil imported and labeled “extra-virgin” failed to meet standards in an expert smell and taste test (standard testing for this type of labeling). That’s outrageous! When it comes to olive oil (or really,any oil), you have to do your research and pick the right ones.
While most oils are refined, olive oil is one of the few oils we still consume mostly unprocessed.
Here is what I look for when choosing olive oil:
- Always choose extra-virgin, which is the oil that is derived from the first pressing of the olives. This version of the oil contains many nutrients (such as polyphenos) that protect it from heat damage. One study compared the anti-inflammatory power from the oil resulting from the first pressing of olives with that of later pressings. Researchers found extra-virgin olive oil lowered inflammation, while oil from later pressings did not.
- Choose unfiltered. Unfiltered olive oil will appear to be cloudy because it contains naturally occurring elements like antioxidantsand buffer acids which protect against oxidative damage.
- Also look for cold-pressed olive oil, which means manufacturers use very little heat when processing olives to get the oil. Cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil provides the strongest possible nutrient value because of low-heat processing, coupled with the oil’s first pressing high phytonutrient content.
- Be aware of misleading claims by big food companies who throw around misleading terms like “pure olive oil.” These somewhat misleading phrases, which are aimed for your wallet more than your health, often signify a mix of unrefined and refined virgin olive oils.
- Also avoid extra-light olive oil. Companies love slapping this “light” term on foods because it plays into your low-fat fears. These terms subtly suggest all fats are bad and make you fat, yet if you’ve read my books or blogs you know fats are not bad. Low-fat or “light” foods are typically highly refined and processed. Remember, nothing in nature comes in “low-fat” form!
Other tips to get the best out of your olive oil…
Storage is important because heat and other factors can trigger oxidation and other problems. Always store olive oil in a dark, cool place. Keep it sealed tight and out of direct sunlight or away from other heat sources like near the stove.
Use olive oil within one to two months once you open it for optimal health benefits. Research shows quality and health benefits decline after two months, even among properly stored olive oils. I love to use olive oil for low-heat cooking, dressings salads, or drizzled over veggies, meat, and fish. Some people take two tablespoons before meals to help with digestive health.