Olive oil is the strongest pillar of the Mediterranean diet. The list of its benefits seems to be never-ending, plus it contains some mighty nutrients like vitamin E, vitamin K and healthy fats, including omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.
Antioxidants in extra virgin olive oil aid in the fight against disease, they provide strong anti-inflammatory effect, and thus protect LDL cholesterol from oxidation.
Scientists have confirmed that olive oil prevents blood clotting and decreases blood pressure, which is an excellent prevention against cardiovascular disease. Add pure olive oil to your diet to enhance your overall health and prevent numerous ailments.
Only one thing can turn bad in this case, and it is the fact that you might not get the real thing. Yes, not all types of olive oil are obtained equally.
Poor-quality products may be produced with the help of harsh chemicals. Sometimes the oils may be even diluted with cheap, low-quality oil. Obtaining the real product is of essential importance, so do not fall in the trap of greedy manufacturers, and buy certified products from trusted sources.
The adulteration process
Nicholas Blechman revealed the adulteration process of olive oil in The New York Times. Believe it or not, most of the oil you see in supermarkets labeled as Italian olive oil has nothing to do with Italy. It is imported from Spain, Morocco and Tunisia.
The olives are picked, taken to a mill. They are then cleaned, crushed and pressed. The resulting oil is pumped into a tank, and then transported to Italy. But, shipments of soybean and other low-quality oils are labeled as olive oil and smuggled with the real product.
Several refineries infuse the olive oil with cheaper oils, and others combine low-quality oils with beta-carotene to get the ‘real’ flavor. Chlorophyll gives the desired color, and that is how fake olive oil is produced.
The bottles are labeled as ‘extra virgin’ and branded as ‘Packaged in Italy’ or even ‘Imported from Italy.’ Of course, the whole process is legal, and the products are sold all around the world.
How can you know that you have the real stuff?
Experts from the UC Davis Olive Center did several tests, and the results showed that 69% of the store-bought extra virgin olive oil in the US is fake. There were about 186 samples against the official standards that are established by the International Olive Council.
Here are the brands that did not fulfill the extra virgin olive oil standards:
- Filippo Berio
Try to find locally-produced olive oil. This is the only way to be sure that you got the real product. Contact local farmers and producers that you know. If you are unable to do so, look for certified products. Any product may be labeled as ‘all natural,’ but cheaters are all around us.
The programs of the California Olive Oil Council and the Australian Olive Association make their seals trustworthy.
So, next time you see that the product you want to buy is labeled as ‘Packaged in Italy,’ check if it has PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) or PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) seal. Real olive oil is always marked with the region it was produced in, so this is also a good indicator to look for.
Tom Muller, author of the book ‘Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive oil,’ created a list of olive oil products that can be considered as real. This is an excellent kick-start to your effort of finding real products. Here is the list of products he recommends:
- Cobram Estate
- California Olive Ranch
- Corto Olive
In the following video you can learn how to test whether you have the real stuff: