Extra Virgin Olive Oil, or EVOO, is the highest grade of olive oil. Made from the first press of olives within 24 hours after harvest, it has not been treated with any chemicals or additives. High in monounsaturated fat, olive oil is hailed for its ability to help lower Low Density Lipoprotein (better known as “LDL” or “bad cholesterol”), lower blood pressure, reduce cancer risk…the list goes on. Consumers spend the extra bucks at the grocery store to obtain EVOO as a diet essential or non-toxic addition to beauty regimes; however, new reports show what consumers may be buying is far from the real thing.
Tom Mueller, author of Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, states that over 70 percent of the EVOO sold worldwide is diluted with other oils such as hazelnut, peanut and sunflower oil or worse, lard. Not good for those looking to the many health benefits olive oil offers or for folks with known food allergies to nuts! A former study by UC Davis (www.olivecenter.ucdavis.edu) found similar findings with two-thirds of the common EVOO brands sold in California containing additional oils such as soybean and canola oil, even though the labels claimed differently.
How can you get your money’s worth?
You Want a Dark, Glass Bottle: Exposure to light and heat will destroy oil’s flavor so avoid anything clear and/or plastic. Be sure to store your oil in a cool, dark place.
It’s Gotta Be “Extra Virgin”: Skip it if the label says “olive oil” or “pure olive oil”. Extra-virgin oils undergo minimal processing, so the flavor and aroma molecules remain intact.
Find a Harvest Date: A best-buy date often does not cut it. Look for a true harvest date and buy within 15 months of that date.
Check the Estate Name or Country of Origin: An estate name on the label almost always ensures quality and a single point of origin. If the oil is labeled a product of Italy, vs. produced in Italy, the oil was packed in Italy but the olives could have been grown, harvested and pressed in Tunisia or Greece. Also look for an official quality mark or seal such as PDO (the European Union’s official Protected Designation of Origin seal) or DOP (a similar seal from Italy).
A Nice Touch? The USDA Organic Seal. This certification means that at least 95 percent of the oils made from olives are grown without the use of pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. This seal is expensive, so many of the best small olive-oil producers may not be able to afford the USDA certification.
Remember, you get what you pay for. Although always exceptions, most of the time the real thing is going to cost a little more. But as with most good things, olive oil too is best in moderation–so a little goes a long way.
Do More with EVOO!
We typically think of olive oil in the kitchen, but here are a few ways to make the most of this non-toxic wonder:
- Furniture Polish: Combine two parts olive oil and one part vinegar to take on any finished wood in the house!
- Stainless Steel Cleaner: Use one rag to apply olive oil and another to wipe away excess.
- Makeup Remover: Use a cotton ball with a dab of olive oil to wipe away the day’s makeup.
- Moisturizer: With plenty of vitamin A and E use olive oil on skin or even baby’s diaper rash!
- Kitty Care: Help kitty with her hairballs by adding a few drops of olive oil into her food weekly.
- Paint Remover: Take care of paint, chewing gum or other sticky stuff easily!