About 5 years ago, mysterious concoctions arrived at my doorstep. The bottles were dark, viscous, unlabeled, and clearly home-brewed. I checked the shipping labels- it was from my soon-to-be-mother-in-law. I was a bit suspicious since we had recently gone through the ceremonial culling of “the extended families” from the wedding invites. Was this some old Italian way to settle a score?
Thankfully, I realized she had graciously gifted me her latest olive oil harvest. What I discovered in the bottles was an incredibly, delicious olive oil that was vastly different from a store-bought version. Her oil was incredibly earthy and fresh; and the store-bought just seemed neutral. I could have literally swigged it right out of these tantalizing bottles.
This disparity in taste initiated an in-depth inquiry which ultimately led to a disturbing discovery- the olive oil industry was wrought with fraud. I found myself being incredibly frustrated and a bit paranoid that I really had no way of knowing if something was pure or impure. Through research and scouting, this blog is to provide you some guidance around discerning, buying and storing olive oil.
Let’s start with the 3 major unethical acts that are sometimes employed by olive oil companies (this by no means implies all businesses engage in this behavior) (1).
3. Farmers will actually use inedible, rotten olives for production and then refine it at a low temperature to remove the rancid smell and taste. What you typically get is a deodorized oil that is loaded with free radicals and peroxides that induces inflammation and oxidative stress in your body. People are ingesting these products
in the name of good health, when in reality it is likely contributing to your demise.
In the last 10 years, dozens of associations and councils have been created in order to test and ensure that these products remain adulterated-free but here are some guidelines and resources for you to discern the tainted from the untainted.
Now that you know the basics, where the heck can you purchase high quality olive oil? There are 4 places to look:
Since option d is not feasible for most people, my top two choices are farmers markets and online.
There are quite a few online vendors, but I chose ones that were associated with the various councils and associations in the United States that have a certified stamp. Here are some online vendors that are known to have high quality standards:
Olive Oil Lovers
All Things Olive
Beyond the Olive
Market Hall Foods
New Seasons Market
The Olive Garden Ltd. (Japan)
Olive-me & Co (Canada)
Olive This Olive That
Suncoast Organic Farm
The Quail & Olive
UC Davis Olive Center
Australian Olive Association
Copious amounts of research support the health benefits of a daily dose of extra virgin olive oil. But those benefits are only effective if you’re consuming an oil that is authentic and chock full of antioxidants. You now have another resource to help navigate the tricky world of olive oil. Good luck!
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Shannon is a registered dietitian and functional nutritionist with a penchant for provocative topics, almond butter, and local theater.