Picking Olive Oil
Because of it’s unsaturated and packed with polyphenols, olive oil has been shown to protect the heart and can even turn off bad genes that increase risk for atherosclerosis (blockage of arteries). But with hundreds of brands and varieties to choose from, how do you make sure you’re getting a good quality olive oil?
In terms of taste, olive oils tend to fall in to one of three different categories:
- mild, delicate or fruity;
- medium; and
- robust, sometimes described as peppery (and tends to be highest in antioxidants).
Sometimes the descriptions on the label will clue you in… but ultimately you’ll have to just try some and see if you like it. but not matter which you buy, make sure it is “extra virgin” and look for a “best by” date or even better a harvest date. Ideally you want to use your oil within 18 months of being harvested, but definitely don’t keep it past 24 months. This isn’t wine, it doesn’t get better with age.
Look for dark colored bottles, they protect against damage from light. Many also have seals or certifications from independent agencies that test for quality or have trained taste testers (make sure you store it away from heat and out of light when you get it home too!).
Don’t worry too much about place of origin, sure there are some great imported oils from Italy – but “from Italy” doesn’t always ensure the olives themselves came from there. And there are some great olives being grown in California.
And don’t waste your extra virgin oil on cooking… save it for dipping and salads. The heat kills the taste and it has a much lower smoking point so get some regular (and generally much cheaper!) olive oil to use for cooking purposes.