While the popularity of olive oil has grown over the years, experiencing a major boost in the last decade or so, the information surrounding olive oil and its health benefits is still surprisingly difficult for many consumers. In fact, though it remains one of the most popular cooking fats, thanks in large part to its presence in the Mediterranean diet, there are very minimal national regulations that producers must follow.
As everyone looks for healthier cooking options, marketers world-wide have created a lot of confusion about this special oil and what exactly makes it unique. We’re here to help break down the information barrier by offering quick tips on how to truly understand olive oils.
Olive Oil Grades
The first step to understanding olive oil is a recognition that there are several grades of this type of fat. Depending on the source you use, there are typically five or six grades. Using the USDA regulations for example show five total grades including U.S. Extra Virgin, U.S. Virgin, U.S. Virgin Not Fit for Human Consumption without further processing, U.S. Olive Oil, and U.S. Refined Olive Oil. For a complete guide to these visit the website here (https://www.ams.usda.gov/grades-standards/olive-oil-and-olive-pomace-oil-grades-and-standards)
While many of these titles won’t be seen on the labels you find at the store, it’s important to note that Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the highest quality or grade of olive oil that you can purchase.
Why Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oils are the purest oils that you will find on the market. By definition, extra virgin olive oils are made from the first, cold-pressing of the olives. Using this method of extraction for the oil means that no heat or chemical compounds are used in the production of the olive oil juice.
By not using heat or chemicals, it maintains both the purity of the olive fruit and the health benefits as well. Studies have linked olive oil to numerous health benefits including:
– Decreased blood pressure
– Lower inflammation
– Improved Heart Health
– Weight Loss Aid
Other olive oil titles you may see on grocery store labels include pure, light, virgin, etc. these labels indicate that the oil is no longer in its purest form and most likely are blended with other, less high-quality oils such as vegetable or canola.
What to Look for When Shopping
As we’ve mentioned, because there is no real national standard for regulation on olive oils, it’s important for every consumer, especially those looking for the highest quality product, to be wary of labels that they see on the grocery store shelves. Even those oils that are labeled extra virgin may not meet the standards outlined by the USDA.
Tips to Ensure You Get the Best Quality Olive Oil
1.Buy from a Specialty Retailer – one of the best ways to ensure that you get an actual high-quality olive oil is to purchase from a specialty retailer who knows the olive oil industry and has a focus on providing quality products to their customers. D’Olivo for example, specializes in olive oils and balsamic vinegars, sourcing all our products from Veronica Foods.
Veronica Foods takes seriously the quality of their products and ensures that every oil offered from their distributors meets the most rigorous of standards, earning their oils the designation of ultra-premium.
2. Look for a sell-by or harvest date – any quality extra virgin olive oil will provide this information on a label so that consumers know when the oil itself was harvested and when it should be sold by to ensure a high-quality taste.
3. Know What A Good Olive Oil Tastes Like – knowing the product your buying will go a long way in ensuring quality. A fresh, high-quality olive oil should smell like fresh grass, and the most flavorful will have a fruity or peppery taste. Ideally, you’ll be able to taste the oil before you make your purchase which will guarantee you get a good one.
4. After You Purchase Store the Oil Properly – once you’ve purchased your olive oil, in order to make sure that it doesn’t go bad after opening you’ll want to store it properly. This means you need to store you oil in a dark bottle, with a good seal to avoid exposure to the outside air. You also want to store it in a cool, dark location. Exposure to both heat and light can cause spoiling of the oil. Also, be sure to use it up within a few months after opening or within two years if it’s still sealed.