SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – March is National Nutrition Month, a time to learn about making informed healthful food choices, and the use of olive oil has been encouraged to help lower risk of heart disease.
It’s the primary source of added fat in the Mediterranean diet, but walk down the olive oil aisle, and you’ll be faced with a multitude of choices. To help you sort through them all, our health expert, Karen Owoc, is here to help decipher the olive oil jargon.
The Marketing Buzzwords
“Cold pressed”, “first pressed”, “first cold pressed”, “expeller pressed”, and “extra virgin” — what do these terms mean?!
What Determines a Healthy Oil
The quality of an oil is determined by:
- How the oil is removed from the olives
- How many times the olives are pressed
• Olives are pressed only once.
• Yields the highest quality and purest oil.
• Does not tell you how the oil was extracted.
• Olives are crushed at temperatures that do not exceed 80.6°F. (Not exactly “cold”, but it’s not ‘hot’.)
• Does not tell you if the olives were crushed more than once.
• Crushing the fruit multiple times and using heat are often used to extract more oil from the fruit and produces a lower quality oil.
• Healthy fats are sensitive to heat, light, and air. These elements can destroy or alter the antioxidants and nutrients as well as the taste and aroma.
First cold pressed (not an official designation for oil)
• Most expensive.
• First cold pressed oils have the most flavor, aroma, and antioxidants.
• Best used as a finishing oil, such as over a salad or cooked vegetables, instead of a cooking oil.
• Mechanical method for extracting oil.
• Oil is squeezed from the seed through a barrel-like cavity by using friction and continuous high pressure.
• No chemical solvents are used.
• Heat is not applied, but higher temperatures (140˚F to 210°F) can result from the friction.
• High heat and/or chemicals are used to extract the oil.
• Hexane is the most commonly used solvent (a chemical extracted from petroleum and crude oil).
• Oils may be bleached and deodorized.
• For an olive oil to be “officially” certified extra virgin, it must be extracted using first cold pressing in accordance to the standards established by the International Olive Council or the California Olive Oil Council.
• The oil is free of defects in flavor and odor.
• Many oils in the U.S. labeled “extra virgin” are not required to undergo any stringent testing.
How to Ensure High Quality
• Extra virgin does not ensure high quality.
• What you may not know about the oil:
- Use of poor quality olives
- Use of chemicals or extreme heat during the extraction process
- Diluting the oil (with lower grade oils and/or refined olive oil)
- Use of olives damaged by poor handling, mold, frost, or by not being milled within 24 hours of being harvested.
Look for the Seals on the Bottle
Certain organizations assure the oil has undergone rigorous testing and is pure and authentic.
• California Olive Oil Council (COOC) — These oils are made in California. Their website provides a list of certified oils: https://www.cooc.com
• North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA)
• USDA Quality Monitoring Program (QMP)
How to Store Oils
Purchase oil in appropriate container to protect oils:
• Dark-colored glass to protect the oil from exposure to sunlight.
• Non-reactive metal containers, such as stainless steel.
• Avoid oils sold in plastic containers.
• Keep oils tightly sealed.
• Store in a cool, dark pantry is best (ideal temperature: 57˚F).
The Takeaway: Avoid “RBD oils” (Refined, Bleached, Deodorized).