Unveiling the Secrets of Olive Oil, your Guide to Buying Right

Unveiling the Secrets of Olive Oil, your Guide to Buying Right

Amidst the claims of its countless health benefits, the olive oil industry harbours some surprising secrets that may leave you questioning the authenticity of the bottle on your shelf. In this article, we delve into the myths and facts surrounding olive oil, helping you make informed choices and avoid falling victim to olive oil fraud. Unveiling the Secrets of Olive Oil your Guide to Buying Right.

What you should know about Olive Oil?

Arm yourself with knowledge on what to look for when purchasing olive oil below;

Health Benefits

Olive oil is one of the healthiest fats, rich in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants. It has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, improve skin and brain health, and exhibit anti-inflammatory activity.

Oleic Acid Content

The primary monounsaturated fat in olive oil, oleic acid, helps fight free radical damage and oxidative stress.

Peppery taste indicates polyphenols

The peppery taste in olive oil corresponds to higher polyphenol content, indicating more significant health benefits.

olive oil as fresh fruit juice

Olive oil is essentially the juice of the olive fruit, which is a drupe (stone fruit), not a nut

olive oil fraud

Olive oil fraud is prevalent, with companies cutting genuine olive oil and mixing it with cheaper oils like sunflower and vegetable oil.

organized crime involvement

Organized crime groups, such as the “Agromafia” in Italy, engaged in olive oil fraud, exporting imitation olive oil for financial gain

lack of oversight

Bad governmental oversight, false labelling, production practices, and underfunded or corrupt food inspection agencies contribute to olive oil fraud

misleading labels

Labels such as “Made in Italy” may not accurately represent the oil’s origin, and deceptive practices are common.

When it comes to extra virgin olive oil, there is no such thing as a “diet” or “light” version. If you see a label with one of these claims, don’t purchase it! A product claiming to be a “light” or “Diet” Extra Virgin Olive Oil will not be lower in calories, but most certainly will be light on flavour.

Limited shelf life

Olive oil should be consumed within 2-3 months for optimal freshness, as it degrades with age

Related: All about avocado Oil


Cold Pressing

The term “cold pressed” is outdated, as all modern olive oil processing facilities use both first pressing and cold pressing. It is now more of a marketing term.

Virgin Olive Oil

The term “virgin” in olive oil production refers to oil produced by chemical processes and doesn’t indicate purity or authenticity.

“Light” or “Pure” Olive Oil

Products labelled as “light” or “pure” olive oil are not 100% olive oil and may have reduced health benefits. These are often refined and deodorized.

Smoke Point Misconception

Olive oil has a smoke point of 400F, making it a stable cooking fat. While cooking won’t cause oxidative damage, consuming it raw provides more health benefits.

Ageing of Olive Oil

Unlike wine, olive oil doesn’t age well and degrades over time. It’s best consumed within a 2-3-month period.

Necessity of Organic Certification

Lack of an organic certification doesn’t necessarily mean the use of pesticides; many small olive growers may not have the resources for certification.

Cooking with Olive Oil

While olive oil can be used for cooking, consuming it raw yields more health benefits, and using separate oils for cooking and finishing is recommended.

what is the right colour of olive oil?

The colour of olive oil can vary, and it is not necessarily an indicator of quality. Olive oil comes in various shades, ranging from green to golden yellow. The colour is influenced by factors such as the olive variety, ripeness at harvest, and processing methods. Here’s a general guide to understanding the colour of olive oil.

Green Olive Oil

Olive oil with a green tint often suggests that the olives used were harvested early in the season. Early-harvest olives tend to produce oil with higher levels of chlorophyll, giving it a greener colour. Green-hued oils may have a more robust and peppery flavour.

Golden Yellow Olive-Oil

A more golden or yellow colour might suggest olives that were riper at the time of harvest. Ripe olives produce oil with less chlorophyll, resulting in a lighter colour. Oils with a golden hue might have a milder, fruitier flavour.

Brown or darker colour

An excessively dark colour could be a sign of old or oxidized oil. Exposure to light and air can cause olive oil to degrade over time, leading to a darker appearance. Dark-coloured oils might have a stale or rancid taste.

What should be the correct colour of the olive oil bottle?

The colour of the olive oil bottle can also play a role in maintaining the quality of the oil. Ideally, high-quality olive oil should be stored in a bottle that protects it from light, as exposure to light can cause the oil to degrade and become rancid.

Dark Colored Bottles e.g Green or Brown

Dark-coloured bottles, particularly dark green or brown, are effective at blocking out light. These bottles help protect the olive oil from harmful UV rays that can contribute to oxidation and degradation.

Opaque or Tinted Glass bottles

Opaque or tinted glass bottles, even if not completely dark, provide some protection against light exposure. They help shield the oil from light and maintain its quality over time.

What do these different Olive Oil Labels Mean?

“Extra Virgin” Olive Oil (EVOO)

Extra virgin is the purest form of olive oil, and there are many tests that the oils must undergo to be legally labelled as extra virgin (for omega-3 content, oxidation, to make sure the oil hasn’t been exposed to too much heat and light, and that it hasn’t been cut with cheaper seed oils).

To be true EVOO, olive oil must have an acidity of less than or equal to 0.8%, ideally, 0.2% or 0.3% is best. Anything over 0.8% is not true extra virgin olive oil, and you shouldn’t be paying top dollar for it. Unfortunately, many grocery store bottles do not list acidity, so you may have to do some digging online to find that out. 

Extra Virgin Olive Oil “Blend”

The oil has been blended with something else, that makes it NOT “extra virgin”. There should also not be any omega-3s in olive oil unless it has been cut by cheaper oil, like canola. 

“Virgin” Olive Oil

This means the oil is produced by chemical processes (grinding, pressing, spinning). “Virgin” doesn’t mean anything in terms of purity or authenticity. 

“Light” or “Pure” Olive Oil = not 100% olive oil

Often used for frying, “Light” means that it’s been refined and deodorized, so there is less colour, flavour, and health benefits because it has all been removed in processing. And they’re most likely using bad olives or bad (rancid) oils to make it, too. It just means there is less olive oil in it!

 “Cold pressed”

This is a method of making extremely outdated olive oil. Manufacturers and producers used to cold press oil using hydraulic presses, back when there was a distinction between the first (cold) press and second (hot) press – but this process is way outdated and it’s now just a marketing tool. There is no “hot press” of extra virgin olive oil, and there is no “second pressing” (Forbes)

Filtered vs. Unfiltered

Higher quality oils are filtered (unfiltered goes bad faster because there is a higher water content). Another term for filtered is “cold-extracted”, which produces a much higher quality oil, and a much longer shelf life.

Expiration date

This is usually 2 years after the oil in the bottle was harvested. olive oil is best consumed 2-3 months after manufacturing.

Harvest date

even better than the expiration date. Olive oil is best when it’s freshest, so buy as close to the harvest date as possible. Buying an oil within a few months of the harvest date is best. 

What should Olive oil taste like?

High-quality olive oil will have a peppery taste, and burning sensation, which means there is a higher amount of polyphenols and antioxidants. Younger olives have more health benefits.

How to Store Olive Oil?
  • Store in a cool, dark place (such as a cupboard or pantry)
  • Keep the cap securely closed when not in use
  • Don’t store it next to or above the stove
  • Don’t store it in the refrigerator
  • Don’t leave a pour spout on the bottle if the opening can’t be sealed. Exposure to air leads to oxidation, which causes rancid oil

Also Read: How to make Namungondi (Ugandan Rice balls)

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