Craig Leonard

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Are You Buying Pure Olive Oil Or… An Unhealthy Imposter?

Craig Leonard January 6, 2014
Pure Olive Oil

Are you buying pure olive oil or is it nothing but an unhealthy imposter?

I’m going to address this question head-on and give you some tips that will help you make sure you’re getting what you expect – and pay for – from your olive oil.

Before I get into explaining all the ins and outs of how to choose a pure olive oil, I want to quickly give you the low-down on why doing so is such a big deal.

Besides the ethical violation involved with olive oil producers labeling their products as “pure” or “extra virgin”, while being anything but, here are a few other dubious olive oil factoids worth noting:

  • Consumer Reports recently revealed that approximately 20% of ALL olive oils are FAKE and have been mixed with other cheap oils, while still claiming to be 100% pure.
  • A study by the UC Davis Olive Center discovered that 73% of olive oils labeled as “extra virgin” (the best and most nutritious kind of olive oil) did NOT PASS purity testing and were instead heavily processed.
  • It’s extremely likely that your olive oil that you thought was pure and healthy could actually be LOADED with dangerous trans fats that are instead destroying your heart health, putting you at risk of a number of diseases and wreaking havoc on your waistline.

I actually touched on the process of choosing a brand of quality olive oil within my “Clean Eating University” article. Although, my comments on the topic of choosing a pure brand of olive oil, while sufficient for the purposes of that particular article, were admittedly not exhaustive.

Because this topic is such an important one, I feel it’s deserving of a little extra attention (like Tommy Boy’s pretty little pet).

Unfortunately, knowing that you’re using a “pure” olive oil with 100% certainty is nearly impossible without having it tested by a 3rd party. That said, I’d like to give you 5 steps you can use that will greatly increase your chances of selecting a “real” brand of olive oil:

Look At The Ingredients List On The Label

Ideally, the label on your olive oil should say something like, “100% extra virgin olive oil”. If there are multiple ingredients on the label, you’ll want to look for a different extra virgin olive oil.

As the statistics above indicate, the label saying it is 100% pure does not necessarily make it so.

However, this is a great starting point to eliminate the obvious posers.

Give Your Olive Oil The Fridge Test

To test your olive oil for purity, simply leave the bottle in the fridge overnight. If the oil has solidified in the bottle by morning, it may be real.

Conversely, if it hasn’t solidified by morning you should find another olive oil.

Monounsaturated fats, as pure olive oil is exclusively comprised of, will solidify at 39 degrees F.

So before attempting the pure olive oil fridge test you’ll want to make sure the temperature inside your fridge is 39 degrees F or less.

Or just go ahead and test it. Then, if it doesn’t pass, take a temperature reading (leave a thermometer in the closed fridge for an hour) to make sure your fridge is cold enough for monounsaturated fats to solidify.

The oil solidifying in the fridge is more of an indication that the fatty oil in the bottle is mostly monounsaturated and doesn’t necessarily mean you have pure olive oil. In other words, even if it passes the fridge test it could still be tainted with monounsaturated fats that aren’t olive oil.

Still, if it doesn’t pass the fridge test, the purity has almost certainly been compromised and you’ll want to choose another brand.

Do Not Buy Olive Oil In Clear Bottles

Exposure to sunlight and radiation during transport or while sitting on a store shelf will cause oxidative damage to olive oil. So, even if it was pure when bottled, exposure to sunlight can taint the olive oil packaged in clear bottles.

Darker bottles nullify this effect to ensure the purity of your olive oil is the same the day you open as it was the day it was bottled.

A clear bottle doesn’t necessarily preclude an olive oil from being pure. But because there’s no way to know if the olive oil it contains has sustained oxidative damage, I recommend erring on the side of caution and avoiding olive oil packaged in clear bottles altogether.

Why risk it?

Only Buy Extra Virgin Olive Oils

Pure Olive Oil - Extra Virgin

As reported by Nick “The Nutrition Nerd” Pineault in his book, The Truth About Fat Burning Foods, Extra virgin olive oils are the highest quality olive oil possible.

Extra virgin olive oils are pressed from only olives that are picked while at the optimum level of ripeness and are then immediately cold pressed and extracted without the use of extraneous chemicals.

The same cannot be said for other grades of olive oil, which is why I consider any other grade of olive oil to be off-limits. Here is how Nick classifies the other grades of olive oil in his book:

Virgin Olive Oil: Lower grade olive oil that is more acidic and contains taste defects

Light or Extra Light Olive Oil: Designates that the oil has a milder flavor than extra virgin and does not mean the oil contains fewer calories

Pure Olive Oil: The oil comes exclusively from olives (I would hope so since it bears the name “olive oil”), but does not indicate the quality of the oil or that the oil was extracted without the use of chemicals

Blended Olive Oil: Olive oil mixed with other oils, like vegetable oils; Many of these “other” oils are often refined and could even come from genetically modified sources (definitely stay away from these)

Buy An Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition Winner

This is probably the most foolproof method of purchasing a pure brand of olive oil. It will cost you a little more to go this route, though.

Actually, the olive oil I use is a 2013 gold medal winner in the Los Angeles Extra Virgin Olive Oil competition.

The downside is that you have to order this particular brand by mail and will likely wait 1-2 weeks to receive it. It also runs about $20 per bottle, which is pretty standard for a quality brand of olive oil, but is still more expensive than most people are used to paying for olive oil.

Don’t feel like this is one of your only options, though. You can go to the Los Angeles Extra Virgin Olive Oil competition website to see a list of other “winners” you can choose from.

Any of them will likely be a much “safer” option than what you’ll find on the shelves of your local grocer.

Although, you may be able to find one of these winning brands locally if you’re willing to do a little research.

It’d be nice to have the peace of mind of knowing that when we buy a bottle of olive oil at the store we’re bringing home 100% pure olive oil home to our families.

It’s unfortunate, but recent findings within the olive oil industry should give pause to anyone thinking they have such assurance.

Investigative studies indicate the chances are very high that, unless you’re doing your due diligence and applying the steps I’ve provided you above, your olive oil is going to be nothing but an unhealthy imposter of the real thing.

With that, I guess there’s really only one thing left to say:

Keep it real homies. Photo Credits:

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