How to Choose the Best Olive Oil

September 20, 2011 · 16 comments

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Olive oil has been valued for centuries for it’s nutrient content and beneficial effects on health. There are actually hundreds of healthful compounds in olive oil some of which are phenols; which have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anticoagulant properties; monounsaturated fats which are known to be heart healthy; and the fat soluble vitamins E and K. While there are many types of olive oil to choose from, only the highest quality will offer the greatest health benefits. Let me explain.

There are three varieties of olive oil based upon how much processing the oil has undergone.

1 - Extra Virgin — this is considered the best as it is the least processed. It must come from the first pressing of the olives. It is made from young olives which have less acidity. This type of olive oil is guaranteed not to have any chemical solvents and it is rich in antioxidants and nutrients.

2 – Virgin — this oil is from the second pressing and is a lesser quality. It may also be somewhat bitter.

3 – Pure — this oil is refined olive oil that has had some extra virgin olive oil added to it. The refining process removes free fatty acids and this lowers acidity. However, the antioxidants and the vitamins such as vitamin E are also removed. Pure olive oil is sometimes labeled as just “olive oil”.

There is also “light” olive oil on the market. This is simply a marketing gimmick. It is not a real classification and it is completely unregulated. This type of olive oil may be cut with other less desirable oils.

There is also unfiltered extra virgin olive oil. Studies show that the pulp in the unfiltered oil has anti-inflammatory benefits as well as good preservation of enzymes.

Clearly, the most desirable variety to purchase is the organic, unfiltered, extra virgin olive oil. However, even with this classification, you must be careful of the following:

The oil must be processed in a certain way. Even extra virgin oils are exposed to heat when processed by pressing. This procedure may generate heat up to 200 degrees F or higher., even when it says “cold pressed”.

The traditional method of slow grinding by hand does not produce heat and the more modern method of centrifuging the oil is also a low heat method. These low heat methods are what you want in an oil.

What is the problem with a little heat in the production of the oil? The heat destroys the enzymes and other delicate nutrients like vitamin E. What this implies is that extra virgin olive oil should not be used in cooking. The heat will break down all the delicate nutrients and enzymes inherent in a quality raw oil.

Cook with saturated fats like butter, tallow and lard, which stand up to heat well. As a bonus, drizzle extra virgin olive oil over already cooked and other cold foods for flavor and nutrients.

The best quality olive oil will have five features:

  1.  It should be extra virgin olive oil from the first pressing.
  2.  It should be from young olives.
  3.  It should be certified organic so that there are no pesticides or herbicides.
  4.  It should be centrifuged or extracted without heat.
  5.  It should be unfiltered, however, this may shorten the shelf life and is harder to get.

This high quality olive oil should be stored out of direct light as light and heat will promote rancidity.

Where to buy high quality extra virgin olive oil.

Which olive oil do you prefer? Leave a comment and let me know!

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This post is linked to: What’s Cooking Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, Cast Party Wednesday, Healthy 2Day Wednesday, Creative Juice Thursday, Turning the table Thursday, Pennywise Platter, Full Plate Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday, Fresh Bites Friday, Friday Favorites, Friday Food, Sugar-Free Sunday, Mangia Monday, Mouthwatering Monday, Melt in Mouth Monday, Homemaker Monday.Monday Mania, Weekend Carnival, Tuesday Tasty Tidbits, Traditional Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday, What’s Cooking Wednesday

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Amy Schuchard Enochs September 21, 2011 at 10:22 am

I have been searching for an olive oil to make mayonnaise.  Do you have any suggestions for one that would impart a neutral flavor?

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2 Jill September 21, 2011 at 10:41 am

I don’t think any olive oil would be neutral, but the oils on my resource page are the best quality and mild. Here is a link to my mayonnaise that I make with avocado oil:

http://realfoodforager.com/2011/03/videorecipe-minute-mayonnaise/

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3 Hannah September 21, 2011 at 12:11 pm

Hi Amy,

I can be really hard to find a mild olive oil. Our family has tried Chaffin Family Orchards and we like theirs (it was mild the first time and a stronger the next, apparently it has something to do with season).
We have also used Rosa Olive Oil, which is an oil from Italy, it’s 100% and pure and it works good consistently in our mayonnaise.
But if you can’t find either of those try cutting the olive oil with a milder oil like sunflower. You can do 1 part sunflower to 2 parts olive oil (1/3 cup to 2/3 cup in our mayo). Just make sure your sunflower is Expeller pressed (without any heating if possible.

I hope that helps you Amy!

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4 cathy September 21, 2011 at 1:08 pm

What I do with mayonnaise is use regular (not virgin or extra virgin) olive oil to make it, and then I mix it with greek yogurt – maybe 1/3 of the total.  That really seems to neutralize the olive oil flavor, as well as giving it (I think) a nice texture.  Sometimes to change it up, I add a little chile powder or garlic powder, or smoked paprika, which also helps with the flavor.  My husband likes it much better than store-bought.  I also use stone ground or coarse mustard, as well.

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5 Adrienne September 21, 2011 at 1:19 pm

How important is it to avoid pesticides in olive oil?

I haven’t worried about it too much.  How do you think the risk compares to produce and animal foods?

Thanks, Jill

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6 Jill September 21, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Absolutely. I would look for organic extra virgin olive oil.

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7 Beyondthepeel September 22, 2011 at 12:04 am

That was helpful. I always buy extra virgin, and I knew about the heat thing, but it never occured to me they might use heat to extract the oil in the first place. Now I know to check. Thanks

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8 Pavil, the Uber Noob September 22, 2011 at 12:40 am

How do you know if other oils have been added?

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9 Jill September 22, 2011 at 1:13 am

One way to know is to put the olive oil in the refrigerator. If it solidifies after a few days it is true olive oil. If it does not, it is probably mixed.

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10 Miz Helen September 26, 2011 at 4:20 pm

This is a very helpful post! Thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday and hope you are having a great week!

Come Back Soon,

Miz Helen

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11 Shannon September 27, 2011 at 3:59 am

I learn so much every time I read one of your posts.  I’ve never really thought about the olive oil, just bought it and went on my way!
Thanks for linking up with Momtrends this week!~Shannon, Food Channel Editor, Momtrends.com

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12 alissa@33shadesofgreen September 28, 2011 at 1:47 am

Wonderful article Jill.  I can’t live with out my olive oil.  As one person, I go through ridiculous amounts of it! Thanks so much for sharing and linking up.
Alissa

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