Not all olive oils are the same, believe it or not. And not only do you want to find the best olive oil possible – for the best price, of course. After all, it can get pretty expensive. Of course, it’s worth splurging a little – after all, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is an amazing superfood. It’s so incredibly good for you, in fact, that almost all other foods are just a vehicle to get it in your belly. So, what is the best olive oil?
Like I always say: the whole purpose of food is to get olive oil into your mouth! Let’s take a closer look at it…
What Is Olive Oil and How’s it Made?
Well, pure olive oil is simply the oil pressed from olives.
Now, there are various types of olives – which means there can be various types of olive oils. But before you decide which oil works best for you, you should understand just how olive oil is made.
To be honest, the process of pressing olive oil isn’t terribly complicated. You simply press the olives, and their beneficial oil comes out.
From Fruit of the Olive Tree to Delicious EVOO
But it’s a big deal to harvest and craft extra virgin olive oil. The practice has been passed down through generations. Today’s farmers value time-honored techniques perfected in Greece, Italy, and Middle Eastern regions for centuries.
In fact, here’s a bit of trivia. Did you know that an olive tree can grow for many, many years before it produces even one olive? It’s true. However, when the tree is pruned in the right way, the farmer can usually guarantee a good batch.
Furthermore, it takes about 10 whole pounds of olives to make just one liter of extra virgin olive oil.
The secret is that the pure olive oil is only “extra virgin” if it’s unrefined – that means it’s made by pressing the olives, as opposed to being industrially processed in any way. Simply pressing the olives results in a significantly less acidic, overall healthier oil. And you want extra virgin olive oil that’s pressed.
So, what is it, exactly, that makes extra virgin olive oil a superfood?
- It contains a variety of essential vitamins and minerals
- It also contains a serious assortment of vital nutrients
- Olive oil has a rich portion of good fats
- There’s a notable supply of antioxidants 1,2
In fact, it’s a known fact that extra virgin olive oil is –
- Low in saturated fat, but high in omega-3 fatty acids
- High in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory polyphenols that aid your heart
- Able to help you process your vitamins
- Helpful when it comes to digestion
- Able to help lower your blood cholesterol levels
- High in oleic acid – which can help reduce the risk of heart health issues3
But sometimes, olive oil farmers may try to fool you into thinking their brand is the purest. So, beware … there are some lower quality oils out there that are often extracted with the use of harmful chemicals. And some oils are even diluted with different kinds of oil.4
So, how do you know if you’re getting the best olive oil?
Well, for starters, you always want to look for extra virgin olive oil. If the label says “extra virgin,” then you know the oil is extracted using only natural methods. Not only that, but with extra virgin olive oil, there are standards of quality in terms of oil purity, taste, and scent.
Now, most extra virgin olive oils have a unique taste – they’re usually lightly spicy, nutty, and peppery. Sometimes, the best olive oils are even a little bit bitter and buttery.
When your olive oil is lacking these notes of bitterness, then you know it’s also lacking in antioxidants. And among the many great qualities of extra virgin olive oil is its density of antioxidants. So you must purchase the right kind.
What you really don’t want is to purchase any type of refined, or light olive oil.
These oils have often been drawn out of the fruit using different types of solvents. Also, they’re likely processed or heated. Sometimes they can even be weakened with cheaper oils, like soybean oil – full of lectins – and vegetable oils, or even canola oil. So, stay away from light olive oil.
Now, the truth is there happen to be a few bad eggs when it comes to olive oil farmers. In fact, fraud in the olive oil industry is a bit of a big deal these days. So, do a little bit of research to make sure you’re purchasing your olive oil from a reputable source.
Sadly, in some cases, even olive oil with an “extra virgin” label might have been tampered with or diluted. That means even if the label says “extra virgin,” the oil might not actually be pure olive oil.
But how can you tell if you’re buying the real deal?
It turns out, olive oil fraud is as old as the craft of pressing the oil itself. And some historians account for acts of fraud dating all the way back to the Roman Empire.5
According to a food fraud study spanning three decades in the Journal of Food Science, olive oil was the most referenced tainted food mentioned in scholarly articles from 1980 to 2010.6
Furthermore, a recent University of California, Davis study tested supermarket samples and concluded that more than 69 percent of oils labeled “extra virgin” did not meet the legal standard for extra virgin olive oil.7
There are labels and certifications you can look for when it comes to buying the real deal. For instance, Italian EVOO producers have created a seal of integrity and certified origin – 100% Qualita Italiana. If you opt for Italian olive oil, it’s worth finding the seal.
Producers of EVOO in California have also created the California Olive Oil Commission (COOC) 100% Certified Extra Virgin seal.8 It’s another seal you can trust. Also, look for the North American Olive Oil Association seal of certification – a red circle with a green olive branch inside.
But when you find the best olive oil, rest assured the benefits – and taste – will astound you. EVOO is head and shoulders above the other vegetable oils.
For starters, olive oil is full of vitamin K and vitamin E. Also on the list of vitamins and minerals in EVOO is calcium, iron, sodium, and potassium.9
Other benefits of EVOO include –
- Reduced inflammatory activity.10 The antioxidants in EVOO – like oleocanthal – help facilitate anti-inflammatory reactions in your body.
- Olive oil’s monounsaturated fatty acid content is huge. That’s a big deal when it comes to helping control blood pressure.11
- The ursolic acid in olive oil also helps to discourage inflammation on a cellular level.12 And the polyphenols in olive oil fight those pesky, cell-damaging free radicals that can contribute to skin aging.13
So, if you’re on board with extra virgin olive oil, at this point you might be wondering …
What happens when your extra virgin olive oil is heated up? Does it lose any of its nutritional value?
Well, you just want to be sure not to heat tit beyond its smoke point. What exactly is the smoke point? Basically, it’s the temperature at which your olive oil starts breaking down.
You’ll know you’ve hit it because the oil your oil will start to smoke, or burn. Taste-wise, your oil will become less pleasant.
Now, the kind of extra virgin olive oil you should be buying will actually have a pretty high smoke point. Lower quality oils will burn at a lower temperature – so stay away. A high quality oil will likely smoke around 375ºF.14
And according to the International Olive Oil Council (IOOC), olive oil is one of the most stable fats out there. It can stand up to pretty high frying temperatures.15
Furthermore, olive oil’s digestibility shouldn’t really be affected when it is heated – or even re-used several times.
So, in the end …
There’s no reason not to enjoy Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Just make sure you buy a trusted brand. Once you know you’ve got the best olive oil, have a party. Douse your salads, add it to your soups and sauces … and even pour it over your grass-fed steak or wild-caught fish. Honestly, you can’t have too much. So enjoy!
P.S. I was just in Italy and discovered a type of olive oil called ‘nuovo oilo’ – the most nutritious olive oil out there! Check out my Instagram for more about it.