Not all olive oils are created equal, according to a recent NPR report. It turns out that olive oil is commonly adulterated, mixed and/or diluted to pass off not-so-quality olive oils as the premium first-press extra virgin oil.
Luckily, there is a sure-fire way to know whether an oil is worth its salt. You can taste the difference if you know what you are tasting for. Heart healthy olive oil is heart healthy primarily due to one very potent polyphenol or antioxidant, called oleuropein.
Studies suggest that the polyphenol oleuropein – found in olives and olive leaves – can support healthy cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar levels, joint health, nervous system function, immunity, protect against oxidative damage, and ward off cognitive decline. (1) There is no doubt that high-quality olive oil is powerful natural medicine. (4)
Regrettably, these benefits do not happen with most store-bought olive oils.
Can You Taste the Antioxidants?
An olive oil with significant quantities of oleuropein has a distinctively tangy, pungent and almost bitter flavor that grabs the back of your throat. It is not smooth, as you might have thought defines a good olive oil. Good, fresh olive oil with lots of oleuropein has a bite.
Look for this Year’s Harvest
These polyphenols also have a shelf life. They don’t last forever. Unfortunately, most olive oils do not say anything about when they are harvested. Typically, olives are harvested once a year, and it is ideal to be ingesting this year’s harvest. An olive oil that is pressed right after harvest (which is rare) will capture these precious polyphenols for longer than one year. So look for a harvest date, or press date, on your olive oil and make sure it delivers that distinctive tangy bite.
These Olive Oil Brands Wear Quality on their Sleeves
While I am sure they exist, I have not been successful in purchasing olive oil locally with that distinctive high polyphenol taste, barring one noteworthy Denver importer, listed below. We did, however, find some olive oil producers online that pack that tangy punch. My favorite, the company Fandango Olive Oil, (2) is a small organic olive oil producer out of California that presses their olives right after harvest. I personally use it, and if you try it, you will know what I am talking about when I say it has a “distinctively tangy flavor.” The stuff is 20 bucks a bottle, but if you are as into good fats as I am, you’ll want to be sure you are ingesting something that is actually good for you.
Fandango’s early and late harvest olive oils won 11 gold medals, 7 silver medals, and numerous Best of Class awards in 2012 and 2013 competitions.
Another favorite producer is The California Olive Ranch. (3) Unlike Fandango, they are not certified organic. But the taste and the tang is fantastic.
Giuliana Direct, of Denver, also carries a selection of olive oils that boast a press date, as might a local importer near you.
All of these companies label each bottle with a press date, and they do run out – so buy enough to last you.
Remember – olive oil does not handle heat well, which makes it a great oil to drizzle on your food after cooking! Cook with ghee or coconut oil, as they have higher flash points allowing them to not break down or become rancid with the heat of cooking.