I’m sure you’ve heard the story before; A shot of extra virgin olive oil a day keeps the doctor away and makes Mediterranean women live well past 100. While we might not be ready to down a glass of olive oil every morning just yet, with a laundry list of health benefits, we are definitely inclined to drizzle a little more over our salads (substituting it for any sugary dressing we may have in our fridge) and create a few new recipes with it this month.
A World of Benefits:
Olive Oil is like liquid gold, and choosing the right oil can act as a huge investment in your health. Olive oil is packed with antioxidants, all of those healthy fats we can’t get enough of, and works to significantly decrease inflammation. Olive oil has been proven to encourage heart health, reduce hypertension, keep bones healthy, lower risk of depression, and lower the risk of colon, breast, and skin cancer (not to mention, so so much more). It’s all about slow aging, and protecting and supporting the organs.
There are SO many great ways to incorporate olive oil into your beauty routine. It’s an incredible skin serum because of its linoleic acid, a fatty acid that retains moisture, and possess anti-inflammatory and acne reductive properties. It also works to improve skin elasticity and skin’s regenerative properties, and again, is a great source of antioxidants to fight free radicals. Use it to prevent under eye-wrinkles, moisturize and balance an oily/dry scalp, and heal split ends.
Nice And Cold:
Olive oil is literally the juice from pressing green olives. Many producers use heat to extract the most juice from the olive, but cold-pressed is always better as it retains the aroma and flavor of the oil. While the yield may not be as great for the producer, its benefits are much higher for the consumer. And when we say “cold-pressed”, we don’t actually mean cold. It just means no additional heat is added during the process, so the temperature is not to exceed 80.6F. Olive oil is very sensitive; Everything from the soil to the climate can effect the outcome of the oil. The hotter the climate, the more robust the flavor will be.
Get Good Grades:
Olive oil has grades, kind of like maple syrup. Except grades of olive oil are measured by its acidity level and the amount of free oleic acid it contains, which indicates the extent to which the fat in the oil has broken down into fatty acids. Some olive oils are refined, which means flaws have been removed from the oil, but this cuts down the olive aroma, flavor, and beneficial antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Virgin Olive Oil are classified as unrefined by the International Olive Council (with Virgin Olive Oil having a slightly higher level of oleic acid) while Pure is a blend of virgin and refined olive oil and Light Olive Oil is totally refined. EVOO is described as having an excellent flavor and odor, and a free fatty acid content of ≤ 0.8g per 100g (0.8 %). If you want to reap all of the incredible benefits of olive oil, spring for the good stuff.
Surprise, surprise… advertising lies. Not all bottles labeled Extra Virgin Olive Oil are actually EVOO. It’s not about the type of olives used in each yield like you might think, but the process used to extract the oil and the additives used. Many oils marketed as EVOO have been cut with cheaper vegetable oils. International standards for EVOO are often unenforced, leaving companies free to use the grade as a marketing tactic with little to no consequences. The UC Davis Olive Center found that 69% of imported EVOO sold in California did not qualify as EV. Even worse, the oil might not be olive oil at all, but (not very nutritious) seed oil which is made to look and smell like olive oil by adding a few drops of chlorophyll and beta-carotene. Do your research before purchasing, but remember to look for harvesting dates on the label, a seal from the International Olive Oil Council, and a dark bottle that protects the oil from oxidation. Also know that you typically get what you pay for, so if the price is too good to be true, it probably it too good to be true.
Every Oil Has Its Day:
True Extra Virgin Olive Oil is really what we are talking about this month, but be aware that EVOO isn’t always the best choice for your recipe. EVOO has a lower smoking point than Pure or Light Olive Oil. If Olive Oil gets heated beyond its smoking point, it can release the free radicals we are working so hard to prevent. Due to its chemical structure and large amount of monounsaturated fats, EVOO is highly susceptible to oxidative damage when exposed to high heats. So while we recommend using EVOO 98% of the time for its health benefits and flavor, don’t be afraid to use a regular olive oil or alternative vegetable oil (like coconut oil) when cooking or baking at high temperatures.
Keep it Good:
Also note that even the good stuff won’t last forever. An olive oil will usually retain its magical properties up to 18 months past its TMD date (Time of Durability date), AKA, when the oil was bottled. Higher quality oils will last longer. However, crafty olive oil producers can store product in big steel tanks under nitrogen for a full year, and then bottle it, rendering the TMD date inaccurate. Look for a change in color as rancid olive oil often turns a brighter shade of yellow. Other signs include an “Elmer’s glue”- like smell, bitter, pumpkiny taste, or a chemical scent. Fresh olive oil smells like green, fresh olives.
To get the most out of your olive oil, store your bottle away from heat and light.
Olive Oil brands we love:
Wonder Valley, $33, available here.
Frantoio Muraglia, $35, available here.
Antico Frantoio Muraglia, $14, available here.
California Olive Ranch, $10, available here.
Masseria San Giusto, $160, available here.
More Ways to Love Olive Oil:
Olive Oil Cake, fluffy, moist, and made just like in the East Village
Olive Oil Granola, literally the best granola you’ll ever have.
Olive Oil Ice Cream, so creamy, you won’t believe it’s vegan!
Olive Oil Pizza, a few secret ingredients make this dish a total Friday night game changer.
Chili Olive Oil, elevate any dish with this one simple addition.