You’ve probably noticed that there has been a lot of fuss lately about what’s the healthiest oil to cook with, is it coconut, olive oil or something else. In the Mediterranean kitchen there’s no doubt that olive oil is the king of all oil, and American are starting to adopt this idea as well. It’s no wonder because olive oil abounds in health benefits and promotes your overall health, but is the olive oil we buy here in the US the real deal or are we being tricked into buying a knock-off? Let’s see some of the most important health benefits of olive oil first and then we’ll go into the real or not real debate.
Health benefits of olive oil
Olive oil abounds in monosaturated acids which decrease the fatty tissue load. But it also abounds in phenolic acid which is essential for maintaining good heart health. Most importantly, it doesn’t contain carbs or proteins and just a small amount of hydrogenated fat. It’s beneficial for the skin since it’s rich in vitamins E and K.
According to experts, the regular Mediterranean diet, rich in olive oil, can lower the risk of getting type 2 diabetes, compared to other healthy diet plans. Olive oil is also extremely beneficial when it comes to bone health and wellness, helps with weight loss and stimulates brain functions. It can improve your IBS syndrome and reduce anxiety.
Fake Olive Oil?
You probably think that you know exactly what you’re buying but you’d be surprised to hear that 70% of olive oils sold are actually not pure and this includes the ones labelled “extra virgin”! The majority of olive oils we buy on the market are mixed with canola or colza oil, or are blended with a cruder version of olive oil and then chemically colored and flavored. So next time you buy a bottle think twice about what you’re actually buying.
How to Spot the Difference
The easiest way to determine if the oil is extra virgin or not is to try and cool it. If the oil hardens it means that it contains a high level of monosaturated fats and it’s probably the real deal. Still, this doesn’t eliminate the possibility of other oils present as well, such as sunflower or canola. But if the oil doesn’t harden, you can be 100% sure that what you bought is not extra virgin olive oil.
You can also check if the oil is extra virgin or not by trying to light an oil lamp with it. If it keeps the lamp lit for a longer time it’s probably EVOO, if not it’s probably not extra virgin. But then again this is not a 100% sure test. So if both tests are not 100% reliable, how can you know what you’re buying?
Your best chance is to buy the olive oil from your neighborhood farmers, from people you know and trust. It’s the only way to be 100% sure.
More Olive Oil Tips
If you still decide to buy olive oil from the supermarket or you just don’t have access to locally produced one here are a few additional tips which will help you choose the real deal:
- Avoid transparent plastic containers and opt for dark bottles because they keep the oil from oxidizing
- Always choose a brand with a seal of approval from The International Olive Oil Council
- Never buy “light” olive oil
- Look for a harvesting date on the bottle (most fake oils don’t have one)
- Always buy cold-pressed olive oil because others are treated with chemicals and heat
- The ones that cost less than 10 USD per liter are definitely mixed with vegetable oil.