10 Things You Didn’t Know About Olive Oil

Olive Oil Bottles

This blog post is sponsored by the North American Olive Oil Association.

Where it’s from:
1) About 95% of the world’s olive oil is produced in the Mediterranean region. Consistently, the top two olive oil producing countries are Spain (about half of world supply) and Italy (about 15%). The US produces only about 0.3% of the world’s olive oil.

How it’s made:
2) While most household cooking oils are derived from seeds, olive oil is made from a fruit – the olive!

3) Unlike seed oils, olive oils originate through natural physical extraction. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is made entirely by mechanical processes without added heat or chemicals. Olive Oil is a blend of refined olive oil with some virgin or extra virgin olive oil added for flavor.

4) Olive oils labeled “light” or “extra light” refer to the flavor, not the fat or calorie content! Light-tasting olive oil has very little virgin olive oil blended in and therefore has a very subtle taste.

Who uses it:
5) Olive oil is the primary source of fat in the celebrated Mediterranean Diet. Greeks consume more olive oil than another country – about 20 liters/5.3 gallons per person annually! Other high-consuming populations include Spaniards (about 13 liters/3.4 gallons per capita) and Italians (about 11 liters/2.9 gallons per capita). By contrast, American per capita consumption is only about 1 liter/1 quart per person – offering lots of opportunities to replace less-healthy options with olive oil!

Quality factors:
6) Contrary to popular belief, the color of an extra virgin olive oil is not an indicator of its quality or flavor. There are hundreds of olive varieties that produce different hues of olive oil. Growing conditions (temperature, water, etc) and harvest time affect color as well. Good quality extra virgin olive oils range from yellow to green.

7) Check your olive oil’s best-by date! Olive oil degrades over time and has three key enemies – heat, light, and air. In order to prolong the life of your olive oil, always store it in a cool, dark place and use up open bottles within a few months.

How to use it:
8 ) Extra Virgin Olive Oil offers the most flavor and can be used for everything from finishing and dressing to average stovetop cooking. Olive Oil and Light-Tasting Olive Oil enhance foods without overpowering the flavor of your recipes and can be used for everything including sautéing, grilling, and baking.

9) The average stovetop cooking temperature is about 350⁰ Fahrenheit, well within the smoke point range of both extra virgin olive oil and regular olive oil. Yes, you CAN cook with olive oil!

10) You can substitute olive oil for any cooking oil in equal amounts! Olive oils can also replace butter or margarine in many recipes, which will reduce saturated fat and cholesterol. Use this handy conversion chart to make the swap!

Olive Oil Conversion Chart

For more information, please check out http://www.aboutoliveoil.org/

Get Fooducated

  • tennysmom

    Olive oil is the only thing I cook with. I grew up on nasty vegetable oil or lard! Disgusting! Not sure if my mom knew then what we know now about the healthier choice. She is now a firm believer in olive oil or coconut oil..where were you fooducate when I was growing up?! :-)

    • jadegreen_eyz

      Actually, tennysmom, a growing number of people in the cooking profession are returning to lard with the recommendation towards the use of leaf lard (not the hydrogenated stuff you find in the supermarket). http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA401137/Is-Lard-Healthy.html

    • Dan

      I use healthy lard exclusively to cook with. There’s nothing wrong with it, and not only that, provides healthy nutrients. Just pay attention to it’s source.

    • Gabriela

      Coconut Oil is now a popular choice, but it’s saturated fat. My nutritionist doesn’t recommend it at all. You can try Canola oil, it’s cheaper, flavorless and it’s a source of monounsaturated fats, it’s perfect for cooking. I use extra virgin olive oil for dressing.

      • infowarrior

        Canola is gmo

  • JKern

    That’s a great ad.

  • jadegreen_eyz

    Many years ago, as a young child, I developed an appreciation of olive oil from an old Greek gentleman who was a close family friend. He would feed me plates of sliced tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and a light sprinkling of salt and pepper. I still like to eat them that way but now with slices of crusty french bread to sop up the juices – Heaven! He also used to feed me roasted sheep’s head sprinkled with oregano but that is another story. :)

  • MBev

    Anyone knows if it’s ok to refrigerate olive oil? I live in a warm country so store everything in the fridge, including my oils. The olive oil separates when refrigerated though, so before using it I take it out to warm up for a bit, and then shake the bottle to mix the oil with the sediment.

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      It’s perfectly fine to refrigerate.

    • Olive Oil Guru

      Its fine to refrigerate but it will turn cloudy and if its good olive oil it may solidify. There is absolutely no reason to refrigerate. No olive olive oil producing countries refrigerate there olive oil. Oh, and if you want to preserves something like tomato paste in the refrigerator, just poor a thing layer of oil over the paste and it won’t go bad or get moldy.

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  • Cactus_Wren

    I’m trying to figure out how #2 — “Olive oil is made from olives” — found its way onto a list of “10 Things You Didn’t Know About Olive Oil”. Isn’t that a bit like making a list of “10 Things You Didn’t Know About Chicken” and including “Chicken is made from chickens”?

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      Hint: the word to focus on is “fruit” ;-)

    • rusty

      Chickens come from eggs actually.

  • Csillagfeny

    Dr.Mercola: “This study reinforces the value of olive oil in promoting health as part of the Mediterranean diet. While olive oil can and should be a healthy part of your diet, what most people do not appreciate is that olive oil should not be used to cook with.

    Olive oil is primarily a monounsaturated fat. This means that it has one double bond in its fatty acid structure. The problem with olive oil is its overabundance of oleic acid, which creates an imbalance on the cellular level that can inhibit prostaglandin production, which can increase the risk of breast cancer and heart disease.”

    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2003/09/27/olive-oil-health.aspx#!

  • Dr. Nutrient

    Don’t fry foods with olive oil!!! By heating beyond flash point you can easily denature enzymes naturally occurring in the popular fruit oil. This will chemically alter the oil and produce toxins which turn out to be highly carcinogenic. As with all oil, check the label for temp settings and recommendations. I recommend coconut oil, unrefined and organic. It will change the taste pretty dramatically though.

    • tom

      I use grape seed oil to fry, is that healthy?

      • Claudia

        Thank you they completely left that out!!

    • Claudia

      Thank you! They completely left that out!!

    • Ivy

      Great article but I disagree with the cooking factor.
      Too scary to eat organic and completely clean and then ruin the meal with carcinogens in the frying pan!
      Thanks Dr Nutrient and google for the info.
      I use coconut oil for cooking and organic olive oil for most other things.

    • Dijah

      I just read my bottle, I didn’t see a flash point!
      Is there a general number?

  • Erica

    It’s all about macadamia nut oil!

  • VeLita

    I love Olive Oil! Taste delish.

  • rschnak

    What is cold-press olive oil? Nutrional value vs. regular olive oil?

    • Olive Oil Guru

      Cold press is when the olive oil is extracted from the olives at temperatures below 27 Celsius. The lower the temperature the more nutrients are preserved in the olive oil. Just saying cold pressed isn’t enough, you should know at what temperature your olive oil was pressed at. Less oil is extracted through cold press. The higher temperature used to extract the oil, the more oil and less nutrients.

  • gevalien

    Isn’t a lot of the olive oil on the market cut with other types of oils like canola and corn oil. Read the labels sometimes the label will tell you if it is a blend.

  • oldlady

    ahh…olive oil, love it and only purchase organic cold pressed oil. Also discovered coconut oil (organic) and my skin/hair has responded to this type of oil. I know for some people they use the Esselyn diet (no oils), but as a woman I have found adding these two types of oil to saute vegetables. I go through a jar of olive oil a month.

  • Lana

    Whoa, Fooducate, you just lost all credibility with me. A sponsored post about olive oil from an organization that represents olive oil importers & marketers? Please.

    Take #3 – “Olive Oil is a blend of refined olive oil with some virgin or extra virgin olive oil added for flavor.” Like this is a good thing? We should not be consuming refined oils in general, and specifically, if an olive oil needs to be refined, it’s because it’s unfit for human consumption in its virgin state.

    http://www.oliveoilsource.com/definition/refined-olive-oil

    Or take #7 – “Check your olive oil’s best-by date!” By the time imported olive oil reaches the US, it’s already many months, sometimes even a year, old. The “best-by” date is meaningless. An olive oil that’s many months old has already lost its beneficial health benefits and wonderful flavor. It’s the harvest date that important, but for obvious reasons most olive oil manufacturers don’t want you to know the harvest date.

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/12/06/166662525/u-s-olive-oil-makers-say-imports-arent-always-so-extra-virgin

    http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2012/02/the-exchange-tom-mueller.html

    http://www.foodbeast.com/2012/11/13/the-olive-oil-mafia-is-real-dirty-in-your-kitchen/

    http://www.reluctantgourmet.com/fresh-pressed-olive-oil/

    Truth is, most olive oil sold in the US is crap. Instead of perpetuating the myths espoused by a trade association with ulterior motives, it would have been great if you’d done your research and let consumers know about the preponderance of olive oil misinformation out there, and given some guidance on how to choose olive oils that are fresh, unadulterated and good for us. Just sayin’.

  • OliveChirper

    Careful, particularly on #3: “olive oils originate through natural physical extraction.” this is really only true of virgin and extra-virgin olive oil. Regular “olive oil” does *originate* through natural physical extraction, but it’s foul-tasting oil that is refined through deodorization and bleaching to remove the nastiness, and then a little virgin oil is added in so it doesn’t just taste like any other refined oil. And olive *pomace* oil IS extracted with chemical solvents: they take the remnants of crushed olive fruit left over from the purely mechanical extraction and “squeeze” out the last little bit of oil with hexane.

    And, a class-action lawsuit was just certified for NY and New Jersey against a company selling pomace oil as “olive oil”:

    http://www.lawdolcevita.com/blog/2014/2/26/olive-oil-fraud-class-certified-in-new-york

    Neither “olive oil” (refined) nor pomace oil have the healthful phenolic compounds that play a major role in the healthy benefits of extra-virgin olive oil.

    As others have already noted, there is also a lot of fraud in the “extra-virgin” marketplace — see for instance Tom Mueller’s excellent book, “Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil.”

    If you are looking for authentic, high-quality EVOO, I highly recommend
    the database of producers and sources of premium extra-virgin olive oil that Mr. Mueller has put together:

    http://www.truthinoliveoil.com/great-oils/north-america

    His website also has some field lab and taste tests he’s done, and much else of interest.

  • Jack Pines

    You *can* cook with olive oil but it’s still not a good idea due to the variability of the product. See the following for details: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=george&dbid=56

  • evanpelt

    California growers produce some delicious, award winning (NYIOOC) olive oils. The same climate and soil that are good for grapes are good for olives, in consequence you can find olive oil producers in any of the California wine producing regions. After visiting a few to do tastings in Sonoma and Paso Robles I can’t go back to store bought olive oil – there is just no comparison in flavor (as a bonus it’s far more local than European options). I buy small cans (so I can use them before they turn) either in person or online direct from the producers and enjoy many different types and infusions in my cooking and for my salads. I don’t use olive oil exclusively (I also use rice bran oil, coconut oil, and palm oil regularly), but it is a regular part of my cooking because it has a much more delicate flavor than the other oils in my kitchen.

  • Glenn Fischer

    And that’s the facts !!! Jen >%<

  • Dan

    #10 seems to imply that saturated fat and dietary cholesterol is bad for you. This is simply not true. Just goes to show how big an influence the US government, FDA, USDA, and Ancel Keys have on dietary thinking and belief.

    Butter and lard are healthy, lab-created margarine is not.

  • Olive Oil Guru

    Knowing what temperature your olive oil is pressed at and the harvest year are one of the most important facts you need to know when you are purchasing olive oil, if you are serious about olive oil I have a few that I like but I have gotten stuck on Menelaus Olive Oil. It’s 100% organic and they actually have there lab analysis posted on there website. The taste is like nothing you have had before.