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How Do You Know If Your Olive Oil Is Real?

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(From Dr. C – Hey, between now and April 26th, you can get a free sample of my favorite olive oil. They just finished harvesting! Click Here)

What’s in your bottle of olive oil? Are you sure it’s really olive oil? Unfortunately, recent reports show the vast majority of olive oil on the American market is not actually what it claims to be

In fact, it’s estimated that 75 – 80% of the extra virgin olive oil from Italy is not really extra virgin olive oil, either. Some companies are using small amounts of flavoring or coloring compounds, like chlorophyll and beta carotene in a cheaper oil, like sunflower or corn oil, and mimicking the look and smell of authentic olive oil. This brings their raw material cost down quite a bit.

Key Insight: When you think you are paying for a premium product with health benefits, you might not be getting what you are paying top dollar for after all. This is simply not right.  

Not only is it not right, but there are also potential dangers. Many people have nut allergies, making them sensitive to sunflower oils and other nut-based oils, but they can actually tolerate proper olive oil. One of my patients recently encountered this. She has a sensitivity to nuts and was having various symptoms. She discovered she was unintentionally being exposed to nut oils, all because of the olive oil that she was using.

Is your olive oil real or fake?

Let’s take a look at a few tests that might be able to help us determine what is truly in your bottle of olive oil.

The Taste Test

This is going to be a lot like wine tasting, except with olive oil. The taste is all about understanding the flavor and aroma of olive oil – which is far more pronounced in the real stuff versus the fake.

The problem with this test is that it’s just not reliable. I have read reports from Italian chefs and deli owners, who freely admit that they could not tell the difference in olive oil on taste alone. Even the most refined palates can be tricked by this one.

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The Fridge Test

If you the put the real olive oil in the fridge, it will solidify or thicken when cold. This is supposedly due to the monounsaturated fats, which make up a large part of the fats of olive oil.

Unfortunately, this test is also not foolproof. Other oils can react similarly or, if there are small amounts of olive oil mixed in, the oil can still find a way to thicken.

The Lamp Test

If you burn true olive oil in an oil lamp, it’ll make minimal amounts of smoke. Well, this test does not pan out either. Oils from a variety of sources can make varying amounts of smoke, based upon factors that are not critical to identification.

So how do you know it is actually olive oil?

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Extra Virgin Quality

The real olive oil comes only from olives of extra virgin quality. The virgin process means the oil comes from the first pressing of the olives.

This first pressing takes place within 24 hours after harvesting. The olives are pressed by mechanical means (squeezed), as opposed to being chemically extracted – which risks chemical remnants in the oil. Having pure oil from olives that have been mechanically pressed yields a beneficial oil, full of critical antioxidants and without free radicals.

Dark Color

The light-colored olive oil will not be extra virgin quality. The light color indicates that it is almost certainly a blended oil.

Harvesting Date and Seal

Look for a harvesting date on the label and a seal from the International Olive Council.

Dark Bottle

The olive oil should be in a quality, dark bottle as opposed to a clear, glass bottle. True olive oil is vulnerable to oxidation from light, so the better-packed products will have that high-quality, dark bottle.

Cost

Check the cost. If you’re looking at less than $10.00 a litre for extra virgin olive oil, you can bet the farm that it is not extra virgin.

Consumer Report Study

Here are a few brands which rated poorly in a recent consumer report study (1):

  • Bertolli
  • Carapelli
  • Colavita
  • Star Pompeian
  • Filippo
  • Mazola
  • Mezzetta
  • Newman’s Own
  • Safeway
  • Whole Foods

These brands didn’t meet the standards of true olive oil. They are often the oils with the most appealing price points, though.

Here are a few brands which rated well in the same study:

  • Bariani
  • Olea Estates
  • Cobram Estate
  • California Olive Ranch
  • Kirkland Organic (Costco)
  • Lucero
  • McEvoy Ranch
  • Corto
  • Montolivo
  • Omaggio
  • Whole Foods California 365

In general, California olive oils are apt to be more authentic than Italian olive oils.

Cooking With Olive Oil

Real extra virgin olive oil is wonderful and great for cooking. You want to use lower temperatures when cooking with it. On the stovetop, keep your burner on a low setting, as anything above that can damage the oil and cause free radical formation.

Olive oil is great for sauces, dipping and pesto. If you haven’t made pesto, it is so easy! Here’s an easy, favorite recipe of mine:

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Pesto

Directions

  • Give the basil leaves a gentle, quick rinse, as you do not want to wash away the flavor. Separate the leaves from the stems, using only the leaves.
  • Place the leaves, lemon juice, garlic (if using) and just enough olive oil for easy blending. Blend and serve immediately.
  • Optional: Toast some dried pine nuts. Add after the pesto is blended, and give the pesto a quick pulse or two – so that the pine nuts are broken, but mostly intact.

Ingredients

  • 4 oz. Fresh, organic basil leaves
  • A little less than the juice of a good-sized lemon
  • Half a garlic clove with green stem pulled out of the center (optional)
  • Enough olive oil to make it work in the blender

Pesto Points

  • I prefer using a NutriBullet versus a Vitamix because it’s easier to manage smaller quantities in the smaller blender.
  • Have all your food prepared for your meal on the table. Have your plates set for the pesto, but wait to make it until you have eaten your main dish. Pesto is made and served in a matter of moments. If you let it sit for even 10 minutes, you can see the color on the top change, as pesto oxidizes quickly.
  • Basil is wonderful for benefitting your cortisol levels, metabolism and immune system. It’s also a great way to intake some olive oil.

Falling In Love With Real Olive Oil

Real extra virgin olive oil is wonderful and great for cooking. You want to use lower temperatures when cooking with it. On the stovetop, keep your burner on a low setting, as anything above that can damage the oil and cause free radical formation.

Olive oil is great for sauces, dipping and pesto. If you haven’t made pesto, it is so easy! Here’s an easy, favorite recipe of mine:

With all the wonderful flavors and health benefits of olive oil, I hope you will use these tips to help choose the real over the fake next time you are at your local grocery store.

How do I get olive oil? My chef-guru friend Leanne Ely turned me onto the Olive Oil Club. Basically, when they get a new batch, you get first access. They get the best stuff, first pressed from Italy and they FLY it over. The trip on boats causes it to age and lose flavor. They just had a new harvest come out and you can get a free sample to try it out.

I can’t wait to hear your feedback. It was an event in the Christianson household when we opened our first bottle and tried it. Our gourmet daughter had just come back from 6 weeks in Italy and she said it was as good or better than the best olive oil she had there.

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Dr. Alan Glen Christianson (Dr. C) is a Naturopathic Endocrinologist and the author of The NY Times bestselling Adrenal Reset Diet.

Dr. C’s gift for figuring out what really works has helped hundreds of thousands of people reverse thyroid disease, lose weight, cure diabetes, and regain energy. Learn more about the surprising story that started his quest.