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How to Select the Best Olive Oil

How to Select the Best Olive Oil

One of its key components is extra virgin olive oil— my oil of choice. In response to the much ongoing confusion about the different types of olive oil and what can truly be considered as "extra virgin," I want to share with you the research we present in our article on extra virgin olive oil, which I believe will be helpful for you when next purchasing olive oil:

Since olive oil can become rancid from exposure to light and heat, there are some important purchasing criteria you should follow to ensure buying a better quality product. Look for olive oils that are sold in dark tinted glass bottles since the packaging will help protect the oil from oxidation caused by exposure to light. In addition, make sure the oil is displayed in a cool area, away from any direct or indirect contact with heat.

When you shop for olive oil, you will notice a host of different grades are available, including extra-virgin, virgin, refined and pure:

•    Extra virgin is the unrefined oil derived from the first pressing of the olives and has the most delicate flavor. Virgin olive oil is also derived from the first pressing of the olives but has a higher acidity level than extra virgin olive oil (as well as lower phytonutrient levels and a less delicate taste). Chemically, the difference between extra virgin olive oil and virgin olive oil involves the amount of free oleic acid, which is a marker for overall acidity. According to the standards adopted by the International Olive Oil Council, "virgin" can contain up to 2% free acidity (expressed as oleic acid), while "extra virgin" can contain up to 0.8% of free acidity. (For more technical information on olive oil, you may want to visit the International Olive Oil Council website at: www.internationaloliveoil.com).

•    "Pure olive oil" is a phrase that is somewhat confusing, and perhaps also somewhat misleading. If you see the term "pure" on the label of an olive oil container, it typically means that the oil is a blend of refined and unrefined virgin olive oils. "Refined olive oil" is obtained from unrefined virgin olive oils, and it's only allowed to contain up to 0.3% of free acidity. However, while lower in free acidity than extra virgin or virgin olive oils, refined olive oil loses some of its unique nutrient content through the refining process. For this reason, we recommend the purchase of extra virgin olive oil over all other olive oil types, including "pure olive oil."

When considering these International Olive Oil Council (IOOC) standards, it is also important to know that the United States has refused to adopt IOOC standards for olive oil. For this reason, it is not nearly enough to see the words "extra virgin olive oil" on the label of a bottle purchased in the U.S. That wording, by itself, simply does not guarantee that you are getting extra virgin olive oil.

Instead, you have to look a little further on the label for other reassurances that you are truly obtaining extra virgin olive oil. One such assurance is the presence of a COOC logo on the label. "COOC" stands for the California Olive Oil Council. This organization (and all of its members) have voluntarily agreed to adopt the strict IOOC standards for labeling of their oils. So if you see the COOC logo on an extra virgin olive oil bottle, you can feel confident that you are getting true extra virgin oil. 

You can also look for the initials "A.O.C." or "D.O.P." or "D.P.O." or "D.O" on the bottle. "A.O.C." stands for the French term "Appellation D'origine Controlée." "D.O.P." stands for the Italian "Denominazione d'Origine Protetta" (note that D.O.P. is also written as "D.P.O." in some other European countries). In Spain, a similar designation is "D.O." which stands for "Denominacion de Origen." Any of these initials provides assurance of quality with respect to extra virgin olive oils.
Another term that you may see on a bottle of olive oil is "cold pressed." This term means that minimal heating was used when mechanically processing the olives to make oil. We like the idea of cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, because we believe that minimal use of heating, combined with the phytonutrient-rich first pressing of the oil, provides the strongest possible nutrient composition from an extracted oil.

Eat to Live Not Live to Eat

Dr. Hesselberg

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