So “pure” and “lite” olive oils aren’t extra virgin?
What is “extra virgin” olive oil?
Extra Virgin Olive Oil is oil that is pressed from olives, the fruits of the olive tree.
The process is incredibly simple. Crush the olives and oil comes out. It is the only cooking oil that is made without the use of chemicals and industrial refining.
There are more specific requirements for olive oil to be considered extra virgin:
- It should have free acidity of not more than .8 grams per 100 grams and peroxide value of less than 200 milliequivalent 02
- It much be produced entirely by mechanical means without the use of any solvents
- It must be produced under a temperature of 86°F/30°C as to not degrade the oil
- It must have what “positive attributes” to it’s taste, those being
Fruity — tasting like fresh, ripe olives
Bitter — not the way you probably think of this term, it is used to describe the subtle, pleasant acrid flavor on your tongue with true EVOO
Pungent — again, not a term you think would be good, but its term used to describe the peppery sensation in the mouth and throat from good EVOO. And it’s why we call our extra virgin olive oil “The one with the Puglia Pinch!”™
NO! These oils are anything but extra virgin with little to no taste or health benefits. They are marketing terms used by big companies to make lesser quality oil sound good to consumers. They are essentially made from the leftovers and scraps of what is left after making extra virgin olive oil. Manufacturers (they are not farmers or millers) use chemicals and heat to remove impurities. This refining process removes all of the aroma and flavor out of olive oil including its natural antioxidants So what are the other grades of olive oil?
In our opinion, Extra Virgin is the only oil you should ever buy unless you are using something for deep frying or to polish your furniture. However, here are other terms you might see:
Pure Olive Oil , Light Olive Oil, or Olive Oil
Olive oils that have been refined by using agents such as acids, alkalis, and steam heat to extract as much oil as possible after the first pressing. This process robs the oil of most of its flavor as well as its natural antioxidants. “Light” does not mean lower in calories, but rather light in color and flavor.
The lowest grade of olive oil made from the byproducts of extra virgin olive oil production, or a pomace of olive skins, seeds and pulp. The pomace is dried by heating and the remnant oil is dissolved by using the solvent hexane. The solvent is boiled off (and re-used) to leave a crude oil called pomace oil. This oil is then refined using the same process used to produce pure and light oils resulting in a bland ,characterless olive oil that is low in antioxidants.
Oil with severe defects, usually from bad fruit or poor processing practices. It is not fit for human consumption until it has been refined.
Does “light” olive oil contain fewer calories than extra virgin olive oil?
NO! All olive oils (and indeed all edible oils) have almost identical energy values. Light is a tricky marketing term and it really only refers to being light in aroma, color, flavor and antioxidants.
What is a “single estate olive oil” or “estate bottled olive oil”?
Olives grown on a single farm or estate, and bottled on site, produce this type of extra virgin olive oil. This helps with quality control. When olives are tended, harvested, and pressed by a single grower, you can be assured of an authentic extra virgin olive oil.
What is a monocultivar olive oil?
An olive oil made from a single variety of olive. Our extra virgin olive oil is a monocultivar of coratina olives, a popular variety in Puglia, which makes a peppery oil.
Is the color important? Shouldn’t it be really green?
Don’t pay much attention to the color of an oil. Good oils come in all shades, from vivid green to gold to pale straw, and official tasters actually use blue colored glasses to avoid prejudicing themselves in favor of greener oils. And despicable manufacturers will actually add chlorophyll to bad oil to sell it to consumers who believe greener is better.
What does “The one with the Puglia Pinch™” mean?
One aspect of true extra virgin olive oil it that it is “pungent.” This means there is a slightly tingling on the tongue or throat when tasting. The fresh oils give a tingling sensation in the throat that fade away with the time. These tingling depends on the presence of polyphenols, natural antioxidants, more specifically, oleocanthal.
This polyphenol is a strong antioxidant and a powerful anti-inflammatory with properties that resemble those of ibuprofen. This peppery throat-sting was first discovered by a team of Unilever scientists and later studied in detail by Gary Beauchamp and colleagues at Monell Chemical Senses Center. Research suggests that the substance may have therapeutic effects against coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and other conditions. (Source: Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil).
How is extra virgin olive oil made?
Long story short, olives are crushed, and then the oil is separated from the pulp through a centrifuge. It’s really that simple. But if you’d like a full story about the process from start to finish, we did a whole podcast on the subject here: www.LivingVillaCappelli.com
What is the difference between extra virgin olive oil and other vegetable oils?
Extra virgin olive oil has a healthier composition in terms of the fats it contains. It is higher in monounsaturated fats (the healthy fats) than most other vegetable oils.
Unless the label on a vegetable or nut oil indicates that it has been expelled or expressed (and the price confirms this expensive method), you can assume it has gone through chemical processing.
Ask yourself this, what other oil would you happy pour directly over your salad or dip your bread into and eat it directly?
What makes a good extra virgin olive oil better than an inexpensive, ordinary olive oil?
A good olive oil has vitality and flavor. It smells of the fresh olives and accentuates the flavor of all your food. In your mouth, the flavors bloom and then linger.
Poor oils are an inert experience – no smell, little to no flavor, and often a distinctly oily texture. They are just a lubricant if you will. An easy way to understand for yourself, is to compare two or more olive oils of different prices and qualities, side by side.
Why is extra virgin olive oil so expensive?
True extra virgin olive oil is not manufactured or processed. It is not cut with cheaper oils. It is pure, unadulterated, amazingly healthy oil.
This whole process doesn’t come cheap like with industrial oils. You need:
Skilled olive-pickers, who pick the trees by hand
- Typical yields are about 15%, so it takes over 10 pounds of olives to make just one quart of oil
- Milling cost
- Bottling cost, including bottle, labels and labor
- Caring for the trees through the year, including pruning, fertilizing, irrigation and pest control.
- Taxes and permits
- Shipping costs
When you factor all of this into the equation, this is why true extra virgin olive oil is expensive. The process can’t really be manufactured and mass produced like other oils. Thus, if you see a cheap half litter of “extra virgin” olive oil for anything say under $20, it’s probably not extra virgin or has be diluted with other, cheaper oils. Think about, these cheaper oils are usually coming from large food companies. Besides the expenses listed above, you now have to include the mark-ups of all the middle-men along the way.
Tom Mueller writes on his TruthInOil.com site: “Avoid bargain prices, because producing genuine extra virgin oil is expensive. Though high prices don’t guarantee great oil, low prices strongly suggest that the oil you’re buying is inferior.”
Why is the harvest date important?
Because fresh is best. Unlike wine, olive oil does not get better with age. The saying in Italy is “Old wine, new oil.” The fresher the oil, the more flavorful and healthful it is.
How long does extra virgin olive oil last?
The “official” answer is the shelf life of olive oil is two years. In truth, it depends on the quality of the oil and how it has been stored. In fact, we had friends find a bottle that was way beyond the two-year mark in the back of their dark, cool cupboard. It had not gone bad and in fact, they tasted very little difference despite the years.
The higher levels of natural antioxidants and the higher proportion of monounsaturated fats generally found in extra virgin olive oil mean that they generally remain fresher longer than other edible oils.
It should also be noted that a young extra virgin olive oil is fresh and full of strong aromas and flavors. As time goes by, the extra virgin olive oil will mellow, becoming softer and milder – but still quite pleasant. However, there is no point in buying old oil, and no reason to age the oil you buy. So don’t hoard your oil, enjoy it!
Where and how should you store your extra virgin olive oil?
In a cool, dark place. Light and heat are the can both ruin and good extra virgin olive oil. So do NOT store it on top the refrigerator or next to your hot stove or near a window. Tucked away in a cool, dark cupboard is usually best.
Should I keep my extra virgin olive oil in the refrigerator?
We don’t recommend this. While it’s OK, and better than on TOP of the refrigerator, the oil may partly solidify and you’ll have to thaw it before each use. Over a long period of time this would not be idea as there is some recent research suggesting that constantly thawing oils marginally reduces their shelf life.
What happens if it’s a cold winter and my oil arrives frozen?
Freezing does not harm an extra virgin olive oil. In fact, some believe it is a good method of preservation, though it’s not something we recommend. Enjoy your oil, don’t hoard it!
Also, please note that the idea that the freezing point of an oil indicates whether an oil is adulterated is a myth.
Can you fry and cook with extra virgin olive oil?
YES! Olive oil is actually one of the best oils for cooking and frying. As with all oils, the smoke point depends on the age and quality, but 410°F is the official figure and 425°F for high quality extra virgin olive oil with very low acidity.
It turns out that extra virgin olive oil, which contains mostly monounsaturated fatty acids is actually fairly resistant to high heat.
In one study, researchers heated extra virgin olive oil to 180 degrees Celsius (356 degrees Fahrenheit) for 36 hours. The oil was highly resistant to damage.
Another study used olive oil for deep-frying, and it took 24-27 hours for it to reach damage levels that were deemed harmful. Doesn’t extra virgin olive oil have a low smoke point?
No. It is a fact that the lower the free fatty acidity (FFA) i.e. better oils, the higher the temperature at which the oil will begin to smoke. Therefore if you purchase high quality oil with an FFA less than 0.2%, then it will start to smoke at a temperature around 20°C/68°F higher than your average supermarket olive oil. That’s a lot in culinary terms making quality extra virgin olive oil a fine choice for sautéing and shallow frying. Can I reuse olive oil?
Yes, extra virgin olive oils can be reused a few times. However, keep in mind that each time an oil is heated and cooled it will lose some of its aroma, flavor, freshness and health giving polyphenols and tocopherol. Recent research has also shown that the important anti-oxidant called oleocanthal loses its anti-inflammatory activity under even mild short term heating. Do trans fats form in olive oil when it is heated?
No! Trans fats form when any edible oil is subjected to an industrial process called hydrogenation. For trans fats to form all of these conditions must be in place: heat, pressure, hydrogen gas and an appropriate catalyst. It just can’t happen in your kitchen. The vast majority of trans-fats in the average persons diet arise from fast foods, cheap margarines, or more commonly commercial baked products and crackers.
Is extra virgin olive oil is good for you?
ABSOLUTELY! Extra virgin olive oil contains a significant amount of the fat-soluble vitamin E and vitamin K. It is also very high in monounsaturated fat, which have been shown to lower “bad” cholesterol. They also naturally contain plant sterols, which are also thought to lower cholesterol levels. But where extra virgin olive oil really excels is its antioxidants.
Extra virgin olive oil is a good source of polyphenol antioxidants. It is the ONLY vegetable oil that contains polyphenols. The higher the polyphenol levels the more “pungent” the olive oil. What are polyphenols?
Polyphenols are a class of antioxidants found in a variety of foods – red wine, green tea, chocolate, extra virgin olive oil and more. Antioxidants are now widely touted for their ability to combat aging and many health conditions. Recent studies indicate that the oil-soluble polyphenols are very potent – and the research is just beginning. What about the high monounsaturated fat in extra virgin olive oil?
First, this is a good thing. Monounsaturated fats can help reduce bad cholesterol levels in your blood, which can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. They also provide nutrients to help develop and maintain your body’s cells and are rich in vitamin E. Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats can have a positive effect on your health, when eaten in moderation. The bad fats — saturated fats and trans fats — can negatively affect your health. (Source: American Heart Association.)
Extra virgin olive oil has higher level of monounsaturated fats than nearly all other edible oils. They are more resistant to oxidation and as such have a longer shelf life. The major monounsaturated fat in extra virgin olive oil is oleic acid. Does extra virgin olive oil contain cholesterol?
Nope! What are the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil?
There are more and more studies every day showing all the benefits of extra virgin olive oil. We put together a quick info-graphic of the top 5 here. Just click to check it out.
We’ve also written them out below:
Lowers “Bad” Cholesterol. Extra virgin olive oil can lower LDL thus protecting against plaque buildup and artery blockage, plus they do not affect the levels of HDL known as the “good cholesterol.”
Lowers Blood Pressure. Several studies for different age groups and with a large number of participants have found that the consumption of extra virgin olive oil is associated with a decrease in blood pressure.
Helps Prevent Cancer. A review conducted with over 36,000 participants found that higher rates of extra virgin olive oil consumption were associated with lower odds of having any type of cancer.
- Protects from Oxidative Damage. Extra virgin olive oil has another component that other sources do not have, polyphenols, which have antioxidant activity. Only extra virgin olive oils have this effect, not refined olive oil.
Helps Cognitive Function. Results from multiple studies have shown that individuals who had moderate to intensive consumption of extra virgin olive oil had better odds of having no cognitive deficit compared to individuals who had never used extra virgin olive oil.
(Source: Olive Oil Times)
How extra virgin olive oil do I need each day to see the benefits?
Experts recommend between 25 and 40 grams per day, or about 2-3 tablespoons.
Is it true there’s a lot of fraud in the extra virgin olive oil industry?
Sadly, this is true. It is covered extensively is Tom Mueller’s book Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
We highly recommend this book. Click here to get a copy. So what is this fraud?
Simply put, large corporations doctor and dilute extra virgin olive oil with lower standard olive oil or even soy or canola oil! They then sell this fake extra virgin olive oil to consumers. The diluted oil of course costs them less than true extra virgin olive oil would, so they can undersell producers who are selling true extra virgin olive oil and make more money on top of it all!
While there are standards in place, there are not teeth behind those standards and thus the large food corporations get away with it!
In 2012, Consumer Reports tested 23 oils and only 9 passed the test of actually being extra virgin olive oil. In 2012, the University of California at Davis test 21 oils, and 60% failed the test. In 2010 and 20111, they tested the most popular brands in grocery stores. 69% failed the test, including brands like Bertolli, Colavita, Newman’s Own Organic and Rachael Ray. If the label says “Italian Olive Oil,” “Packed in Italy” or “Bottled in Italy” then the oil is from Italy, correct?
Unfortunately, it might mean the “oil” was milled in Italy, but the olives could be from Spain, Greece, Tunisia and elsewhere. Look on the labels for where the olives actually come from. Can tell if your extra virgin olive oil is real by putting it in the fridge?
The myth states that if you put extra virgin olive oil in the fridge and it solidifies it’s real. It would certainly simplify life if this were true, but unfortunately, it’s not a reliable test. So how do I find real extra virgin olive oil?
Buy ours of course. But seriously, i we recommend a few things. First, check the label. Make sure they tell you exactly where the olives or olive come from. Look for seals like PDO that ensures the extra virgin olive oil is meeting the standards of high-quality production. Second, do you research and trust your source. Cut out the middle-men, and buy directly from a farmer or mill. The large food companies are probably not your best bet to finding good quality extra virgin olive oil. And finally, trust the price. A good quality extra virgin olive oil will not be cheap, but for all the benefits, it’s so worth it.