EVOO – how to get the real deal
Extra Virgin Olive oil is one of those foods that I always include in my “foods for Longevity” category. It’s a staple of the much-touted Mediterranean diet that is so beautifully simple and healthy and doesn’t shy away from the good fats our bodies need and love!
Extra Virgin Olive Oil is so packed full of antioxidants, hydrating, and antibacterial qualities, it’s a coveted natural beauty product.
So when a recent report claimed that the vast majority of olive oils in grocery stores are fakes, cut with seed oils, dyes, chlorophyll (for color), and other additives; and distributed by Mafia-connected businesses; and further, that 70 – 85% of them don’t even meet legal standards (which are rarely enforced), I was shocked and decided to do my own prowling to see how to be sure we’re getting the real thing.
Brands that failed to meet the standards are most of the grocery store staples that you and I have trusted and purchased: Bertolli, Carapelli, Colavita, Star, Pompeian, Filippo Berio, Mazzola, Mezzetta, Newman’s Own, Safeway, even Whole Foods is on the list.
What’s so special about EVOO?
Olive oil is one of the healthiest fats you can put into your body – and we need a little good fat every day of our lives. Here’s why . . .
Fat facts you may not have known . . .
- Fat is one of our body’s structural and metabolic building blocks – you’re made of it (at least partly), you need it for your body to function properly, and many health experts are now prescribing more of it for weight loss.
- Fat makes up nearly 60% of your brain. It creates a protective barrier for all of your trillions of cells. It’s essential in the production of hormones, helps with the absorption of nutrients, protects your DNA, and supports healthy longevity.
- Fat gives you shiny hair and healthy skin, helps to maintain your body temperature, and protects your vital organs.
- Fat doesn’t make you fat – sugar does.
And one more thing . . . Not all oils are equal. Seed oils (corn, cottonseed, soybean, safflower, etc.), unlike olive oil, are highly processed and should be avoided as they have been linked to inflammation and chronic disease.
Olive oil has unique properties and 9 categories of “polyphenols”, aka protective antioxidants. Just think of them as your natural body armor.
The nutrients and high concentration of oleic acid and polyphenols in olive oil are major protectors from inflammation and disease.
Polyphenols are anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antiviral. They’re linked to decreased risk of heart disease, reduction in blood pressure, decreased risk of various cancers. They part and parcel of the infamous Mediterranean diet – one well known for promoting a long and healthy life.
You don’t need much – only a tablespoon or so per day, but make sure you’re getting the real deal.
How do you know it’s real?
I put a call into Veronica Foods, a leading supplier for many of the olive oil bars springing up across the country, and got Leah Bradley, CFO, on the line.
Leah, and CEO, Michael Bradley, schooled me on everything I ever needed to know about EVOO: sourcing, chemistry, industry fraud, producing countries (there are many and Italy is NOT the only source), milling, production, etc.
Veronica Foods has established a private standard for EVOO called “Ultra Premium (UP) Extra Virgin Olive Oil” which will be displayed (voluntarily) by all their retailers and others who choose to participate in this program. The intent is to provide a reliable standard so consumers know they’re getting authentic olive oil – not some substandard fake blend.
Here are her comments:
“There is a lot of conflicting info out there and the industry is intent on keeping the consumers in the dark with missing harvest dates and no chemical criteria.
The UP standard . . . “represents the highest olive oil benchmarks in the world and the UP stores carry the UP Poster designation (signage and hangtags) so that the consumer can become familiar with the quality seal. It is a voluntary program.
“These items, full traceability and full chemical analysis on each EVOO, along with the UP website which lists all UP certified stores can ensure that the consumer has the experience that they deserve.
“We are also featured in Tom Muller’s Book, “Extra Virginity” as being game changers in the industry but also helping to fight olive oil fraudsters .
Leah Bradley/Veronica Foods
Buying tips for EVOO:
- Be sure the label says “Extra Virgin” – not “pure” or “light” or anything else. Extra virgin means the oil has been made from crushed olives and not adulterated in any way.
- Look for the harvest date – it should be clearly listed on the back label. Olive oil is milled twice a year and is perishable. Once it’s opened and exposed to air it starts to diminish. Look for a harvest date closest to the current date.
- Look for oils packaged in dark glass containers. That helps to protect the oil from oxidizing and going rancid once it’s opened.
- Buy as close to the mill as possible. There are many small producers on-line from whom you can purchase. Here are some picks from one expert and frequent blogger, Tom Mueller
- Buy from a local reputable olive oil bar where you can taste and ask questions.