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How to Select the Best Olive Oil

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WHFoods Weekly Newsletter

The World's Healthiest Foods

The George Mateljan Foundation, a not-for-profit foundation with no commercial interests or advertising, is a new force for change to help make a healthier you and a healthier world.

weekly newsletter
September 15, 2014

How to Select the Best Olive Oil

The Mediterranean Diet continues to be associated with everything from reduced risk of heart, kidney disease and dementia to increased longevity. One of its key components is extra virgin olive oil— my oil of choice. In response to the much ongoing confusion about the different types of olive oil and what can truly be considered as “extra virgin,” I want to share with you the research we present in our article on extra virgin olive oil, which I believe will be helpful for you when next purchasing olive oil:

Since olive oil can become rancid from exposure to light and heat, there are some important purchasing criteria you should follow to ensure buying a better quality product. Look for olive oils that are sold in dark tinted glass bottles since the packaging will help protect the oil from oxidation caused by exposure to light. In addition, make sure the oil is displayed in a cool area, away from any direct or indirect contact with heat.

When you shop for olive oil, you will notice a host of different grades are available, including extra-virgin, virgin, refined and pure:

  • Extra virgin is the unrefined oil derived from the first pressing of the olives and has the most delicate flavor.

    Virgin olive oil is also derived from the first pressing of the olives but has a higher acidity level than extra virgin olive oil (as well as lower phytonutrient levels and a less delicate taste). Chemically, the difference between extra virgin olive oil and virgin olive oil involves the amount of free oleic acid, which is a marker for overall acidity. According to the standards adopted by the International Olive Oil Council, “virgin” can contain up to 2% free acidity (expressed as oleic acid), while “extra virgin” can contain up to 0.8% of free acidity. (For more technical information on olive oil, you may want to visit the International Olive Oil Council website at:

  • “Pure olive oil” is a phrase that is somewhat confusing, and perhaps also somewhat misleading. If you see the term “pure” on the label of an olive oil container, it typically means that the oil is a blend of refined and unrefined virgin olive oils. “Refined olive oil” is obtained from unrefined virgin olive oils, and it’s only allowed to contain up to 0.3% of free acidity. However, while lower in free acidity than extra virgin or virgin olive oils, refined olive oil loses some of its unique nutrient content through the refining process. For this reason, we recommend the purchase of extra virgin olive oil over all other olive oil types, including “pure olive oil.”

When considering these International Olive Oil Council (IOOC) standards, it is also important to know that the United States has refused to adopt IOOC standards for olive oil. For this reason, it is not nearly enough to see the words “extra virgin olive oil” on the label of a bottle purchased in the U.S. That wording, by itself, simply does not guarantee that you are getting extra virgin olive oil.

Instead, you have to look a little further on the label for other reassurances that you are truly obtaining extra virgin olive oil. One such assurance is the presence of a COOC logo on the label. “COOC” stands for the California Olive Oil Council. This organization (and all of its members) have voluntarily agreed to adopt the strict IOOC standards for labeling of their oils. So if you see the COOC logo on an extra virgin olive oil bottle, you can feel confident that you are getting true extra virgin oil. (continued on right hand column)

(Continued from left column)

You can also look for the initials “A.O.C.” or “D.O.P.” or “D.P.O.” or “D.O” on the bottle. “A.O.C.” stands for the French term “Appellation D’origine Controlée.” “D.O.P.” stands for the Italian “Denominazione d’Origine Protetta” (note that D.O.P. is also written as “D.P.O.” in some other European countries). In Spain, a similar designation is “D.O.” which stands for “Denominacion de Origen.” Any of these initials provides assurance of quality with respect to extra virgin olive oils.

Another term that you may see on a bottle of olive oil is “cold pressed.” This term means that minimal heating was used when mechanically processing the olives to make oil. We like the idea of cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, because we believe that minimal use of heating, combined with the phytonutrient-rich first pressing of the oil, provides the strongest possible nutrient composition from an extracted oil.

Enjoy your Healthiest Way of Eating and Cooking this week,


Food of the Week . . . Shrimp

Did you know shrimp are an unusually concentrated source of the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrient called astaxanthin? It’s not unusual for a single 4-ounce serving of shrimp to contain 4 milligrams of astaxanthin. Astaxanthin is a carotenoid that is receiving special attention in the latest health research, primarily for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Release of inflammatory messaging molecules (like tumor necrosis factor alpha and interleukin 1B) is suppressed by astaxanthin, and so is unwanted oxidation of fats in immune cells. In animal studies, risk of colon cancer is lowered by intake of astaxanthin, and immune-related problems of diabetes are also reduced. Since few commonly-consumed fish (with the exception of wild-caught salmon) can provide us such concentrated amounts of astaxanthin, shrimp may be making a unique health contribution in this way. And while shrimp is often included on the “avoid” list for persons wanting to minimize their dietary intake of cholesterol, several recent research studies have noted several desirable aspects of the fat profile in shrimp. One of these desirable aspects is shrimp’s omega-3 fat content.Read more … Shrimp.

Spicy Asian Shrimp
Recipe of the Week

view recipe …

Food Tip of the Week
The Best Way to Select and Store Shrimp

The Latest News about Shrimp
Shrimp are an unusually concentrated source of the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory astaxanthin and an excellent source of selenium … The Latest News about Shrimp

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