Diabetes Diet: Tips For Buying Genuine Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Cooking with healthy oils, such as pure Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO), may be one of the best things we can do for our family’s well being.
Olive oil contains monounsaturated fatty acids, a healthy dietary fat that lowers our risk for heart disease. Also, unlike many processed vegetable oils, EVOO is low in omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 is an inflammatory substance that our typical Western diet provides too much of. High intake of omega-6 is associated with chronic illnesses, including cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
Unfortunately, much of the olive oil sold in our grocery stores is not genuine EVOO. Many bottles actually contain blends of different olive oil grades, or are a mix of EVOO and vegetable oils (e.g., canola, soybean), and are often chemically refined.
Buying Good Olive Oil
So, for those wanting the healthiest EVOO available, here are nine olive oil tips to keep in mind when shopping:
- Since olives are stone fruits, as are plums and cherries, genuine EVOO is comparable to fresh-squeezed fruit juice that is seasonal, and perishable. Olive oil begins to deteriorate within a few months of milling, and this process speeds up after its container is opened.
- Light, heat, and oxygen cause EVOO to spoil so it’s best to choose bottles that protect against light, buy a quantity of oil that will be used quickly, and keep it well sealed in a cool, dark place.
- Genuine EVOO has a fresh “grassy” aroma, and a fruity olive taste with a bit of bitterness and pepperiness—in great oils these flavors are well balanced. The bitterness and pungency usually indicate the presence of beneficial antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, and other healthy compounds.
- Since there are many types of olives, EVOOs come in a variety of shades, from green to gold to pale yellow. A good oil tastes crisp and clean, not coarse, flabby, or greasy. Avoid oils with a moldy, cooked, meaty, metallic, or cardboard flavor.
- We all love a bargain, but making EVOO is expensive; a quality oil generally runs $10 and up per liter. However, there might be exceptions. Newer growing, and harvesting methods, and government subsidies may allow some lower pricing.
- Look for a harvest date on the label since the freshest EVOOs are from the current year’s harvest. If no harvest date, check the “best by” date—it's typically two years from when the oil was bottled. If the “best by” date is nearly two years away, the oil is likely fresh. However, some supermarket EVOOs contain a mix of older and fresher oils.
- Be sure the oil is labeled extra virgin. A designation such as “pure olive oil,” “light,” “low-fat,” “blended,” or “pomace olive oil” usually indicates the oil is chemically refined. Refinement strips away flavor, and beneficial nutrients.
- A PDO (protected designation of origin) and PGI (protected geographical indication) on the label indicates specific protocols were likely followed to make the oil. Also, look for seals of quality from groups such as the Australian Olive Association, the California Olive Oil Council, the Association 3E, the North American Olive Oil Association, and the International Olive Oil Council.
- The terms “first pressed” and “cold pressed” are generally outdated since most of today’s EVOO is not pressed, but made using a centrifuge. However, genuine EVOO comes only from the initial pressing of the olive paste, and has not been chemically altered in any way. Cold pressed indicates the olive paste is kept at or below a certain temperature (generally 27 degrees C).
People who prefer only the best in EVOO may want to check out local or online shops that specialize in quality oils.
Once someone tries a real extra virgin oil...they’ll never go back to the fake kind. It’s distinctive, complex, the freshest thing you’ve ever eaten. ~ Tom Mueller, Extra Virginity