Olive oil has been a staple of Mediterranean diets since ancient times as well as having been used for medicinal purposes by the likes of Hippocrates, the father of medicine, in ancient Greece.
The mono-saturated fatty acids found in olive oil provide unparalleled health benefits to the heart and cardiovascular system. Research into olive oil as part of the Mediterranean diet has shown that it lessens the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. As opposed to other types of oil, olive oil is rich in mono-saturated fatty acids, which are not stored as fat tissue in the body. It also has high levels of phenolics, a healthy acid. Olive oil has no carbohydrates and minimal hydrogenated fat in it. Furthermore, it has powerful antibacterial and antibiotic properties and contains vitamin E and vitamin K: great for the skin.
What exactly is “virgin” olive oil?
The term “virgin” does not describe purity but refers to the process by which olive oil is made. There are four grades of virgin olive oil. The lowest quality is used in soap making and is not intended for consumption. The best quality of virgin olive oil is cold pressed (not heated above 86 degrees Fahrenheit), giving it superior flavor and durability.
There exists a growing trend of oil manufacturers falsifying claims about the quality level of their olive oil products. A University of California study of many brand name US olive oil producers found that 69 % of extra virgin olive oil sold in the United States markets is fake.
How can you spot bogus virgin olive oil?
“Fake” oil can be any number of things: a combination of two different oils, or two differently graded levels of olive oil. It could be a combination of Italian olive oil with inferior oil from another country. It could include, theoretically, soybean oil, sunflower oil or additives like chlorophyll or beta carotene. At home, it’s not too simple to test oil to determine its quality. An amateurish way of doing some investigating is to place olive oil in the refrigerator. If it solidifies, it is most likely olive oil. On the other hand, if it does not solidify, it is probably not olive oil at all.
The best way to avoid getting duped into buying fake olive oil is to buy form a local farmer who is familiar with and accountable for his or her product. A certain study found that the following brands had made inaccurate claims about their olive oil
– Whole Foods
– Newman’s Own
Additionally, you should look for 3rd party quality certification when purchasing olive oil. The California Olive Oil Council and the Australian Olive Association both have stringent accreditation programs that make their seals trustworthy. Italian olive oil should have labeling from the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) or PGI (Protected Geographical Indication).