What’s in your bottle of olive oil? Are you sure it’s really olive oil? Unfortunately, recent reports show the vast majority of olive oil on the American market is not actually olive oil.
In fact, it’s estimated 75-80% of the extra virgin olive oil from Italy is not really extra virgin olive oil. Some companies are using small amounts of flavoring or coloring compounds, like chlorophyll and beta carotene in a cheaper oil, like sunflower or corn oil, and mimicking the look and smell of olive oil. This brings their raw material cost down quite a bit.
It’s simply not right. You think you’re paying for a premium product with health benefits, and you’re not getting what you’re paying for.
Not only isn’t it right, but there are also potential dangers. Many people have nut allergies, making them sensitive to sunflower oils and other nut-based oils, but they can tolerate olive oil. One of my patients recently encountered this. She has a sensitivity to nuts and was having various symptoms. She discovered she was unintentionally being exposed to nut oils. This is a big problem and a critical one to be aware of.
Is your olive oil real or fake?
Let’s take a look at a few tests that have come out to determine what’s truly in your oil bottle.
The Taste Test
This test purports the flavor and aroma of olive oil are more pronounced in the real oil versus the fake. This is similar to tasting wine to see if it’s a bit grassier, etc.
This test isn’t reliable. I’ve read reports from Italian chefs and deli owners who admitted they clearly couldn’t tell the difference in olive oil by taste. Even the most refined palates can be tricked by the taste test!
The Fridge Test
If you put the real olive oil in the fridge, it’ll solidify or thicken when cold. This is supposedly due to the monounsaturated fats, which make up a large part of the fats of olive oil.
Unfortunately, this test is also not foolproof. Other oils can react similarly, or, if there are small amounts of olive oil mixed in, the oil can still thicken.
The Lamp Test
If you burn true olive oil in an oil lamp, it’ll make minimal amounts of smoke.
Well, this test doesn’t pan out either. Oils from a variety of sources can make varying amounts of smoke, based upon factors that aren’t critical to identification.
How do you know it’s true olive oil?
Extra Virgin Quality
The real olive oil comes only from olives of extra virgin quality. The virgin process means the oil comes from the first pressing of the olives. This first pressing takes place within twenty-four hours after harvesting, and the olives are pressed by mechanical means (being squeezed) as opposed to being chemically extracted, risking chemical remnants in the oil. Having pure oil from olives that have been mechanically pressed yields a beneficial oil, full of critical antioxidants and void of free radicals.
The light-colored olive oil will not be extra virgin quality. The light color indicates it’s almost certainly a blended oil.
Harvesting Date and Authentic Seal
Look for a harvesting date on the label and a seal from the International Olive Council.
The olive oil should be in a quality, dark bottle as opposed to a clear, glass bottle. True olive oil is vulnerable to oxidation from light, so the better-packed products will have that high-quality, dark bottle.
Check the cost. If you’re looking at less than $10.00 a liter for extra virgin olive oil, you can bet the farm it’s not extra virgin olive oil.
Consumer Report Study
Here are a few brands which rated poorly in a Consumer Report study:
These brands didn’t meet the standards of true olive oil. They’re often the oils with appealing price points, as well.
Here are a few brands which rated well in the same study:
In general, California olive oils are apt to be more real than Italian olive oils.
Cooking With Olive Oil
Real extra virgin olive oil is wonderful and great for cooking. You want to use lower temperatures when cooking with it. On the stovetop, keep your burner on a low setting, as anything above that can damage the oil and cause free radical formation.
Olive oil is great for sauces, dipping, and pesto. If you haven’t made pesto, it’s so easy! Click here for my recipe!
With all the wonderful flavors and health benefits of olive oil, I hope you’ll use these tips to help choose the real over the fake next time you’re in the market.
Dr. Alan Christianson is an Arizona-based Naturopathic Physician who helps people overcome adrenal and thyroid disorders and achieve lasting fat loss. He authored the New York Times bestselling Adrenal Reset Diet and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Thyroid Disease. Dr. Christianson is the founding physician behind Integrative Health. www.drchristianson.com