>Many of you may have heard about the health benefits associated with olive oil. Others of you may have been told to swap out other oils and use olive oil instead. You may have even been told that olive oil reduces cholesterol and lowers your blood pressure. Or some of you may even be aware of the fact that olive oil is a staple in the Mediterranean diet, serving as an antioxidant and ridding the body of free radicals. But what may be most alarming and even more important is the kind of olive oil that you think you are benefiting from most likely does not contain any benefits at all! This “olive oil” that health experts advise you to include in your diet is often not the kind found in your regular grocery store.
Until recently, olive oil found on most mainstream market shelves in the U.S. did not award you with any greater benefits believe it or not. Here’s why: The USDA recently passed legislation to ensure standards of olive oil produced in the United States are regulated and tested for purity. The law will go into full effect beginning October 2010. Prior to the new USDA standards, the majority of olive sold in this country was unregulated. Most of the products labeled as ‘Extra Virgin Olive Oil’ were so heavily processed, they lost almost all essential nutrients during processing. FYI: What makes olive oil so unique compared to other oils, is that it can (and should) be consumed in crude, unrefined form (e.g., not processed). Consuming olive oil closest to its natural state contains essential vitamins, beneficial fatty acids, and maintains other important nutrients.
Historically, olive oil was made in a hydraulic press, retaining all its natural nutrients. Today, however, in order to produce more olive oil at a lower cost it is typically refined, heated at high temperatures and mixed with solvents, stripping it of all its nutrition qualities. Before the USDA-intervention, you might have thought when buying “extra virgin” olive oil you were purchasing the high quality kind, containing all of the important nutrients, but for most brands this was not the case. Olive oil products sold in the U.S. were not required to meet accepted international standards, that’s why choosing oil that is “extra virgin” did not imply that you were buying high quality oil.
So you may be wondering what you can do to ensure you are buying unfiltered oil, the kind that contains all of the original nutrients from its original state? Here are a few suggestions to follow next time you go to purchase a bottle of EVOO:
- Choose extra virgin olive oil that looks cloudy.
- The oil should be packaged in a dark glass bottle, in order to protect it from damaging light exposure.
- Lastly, look for the term “cold pressed” on the label; meaning it has retained all of its natural flavor and nutrients.
The California Olive Oil Association has compiled a list of ‘certified’ extra virgin olive oils. The oils listed have met all requirements of Seal Certification which include less than .5% oleic acid and olives are mechanically extracted without the use of chemicals or excessive heat.