Olive oil boasts many heart-boosting properties, such as oleic acid and polyphenols.
The trouble is that many olive oils in the United States are old, tainted, or rancid. This means that the olive oil might be mixed with another oil by unscrupulous dealers. Or that it is old and rancid, rendering the healing polyphenols as no bueno. A recent study at UC Davis Olive Center demonstrated that 69% of oils marketed as “extra-virgin” in the US actually did not meet the sensory or chemical criteria for extra-virgin olive oil.
Interestingly, some Americans are so used to the flavor of rancid olive oil that they prefer rancid oil over the peppery bouquet of fresh olive oil.
So how do you know if your olive oil is fresh?
Alexandra Devarenne, an expert olive oil taster at Olive Oil Times, notes that rancid olive oil is similar to the smell of crayons, dirty socks, or a heap of compost. Mmmm, sounds delicious. She recommends that olive oil is best consumed within a year of harvest. Most oils, if unopened and stored in a cool dark place, will often still be good for up to two years.
So where can you find fresh olive oil if our US stores are littered with old or tainted batches?
In many cities, olive oil bars and shops are popping up, where you can sample oils and learn about their origins. Rather than purchasing it from your big box grocery store, purchase it from a local vendor who knows his suppliers and is well-informed about fresh olive oil. Don’t purchase in quantities that you can’t use within a year. And store it in a cool, dark place.
The benefits of consuming olive oil include extra antioxidant cardiovascular protection by polyphenols and monounsaturated fats.
But you’re wasting money if you purchase rancid oil where the polyphenols have gone to polyphenol heaven. You’re also harming the healthy olive oil by cooking it on a high heat. Temperature tolerance of olive oil is arguably between 350-400 degrees. If your olive oil is smoking, the heat is too high and it’s being damaged.When olive oil hits its smoking point, your polyphenols are on their way to heaven (not your heart). This is also where the good monounsaturated fatty acids begin converting into trans-fats. Trans fats, or hydrogenated oils, take vengeance on your heart, vessels, brain, and other cells. This fat harms your lungs and mucus membranes when you breathe it. Because olive oil offers us so much in the way of health benefits, I rarely use it on heat because I don’t want to forfeit its helpful nutrition. Instead, I apply it after meals are cooked. When roasting vegetables, for example, I add the olive oil after I’ve finished baking. If you are sautéing, use water (for steam) and add the olive oil afterward. Or, simply cook it at a lower temperature (try 325 degrees).
Remember to take care when selecting olive oil by purchasing from honest, knowledgeable, fair suppliers. Try sampling oils at stores or bars to learn the taste of fresh olive oil and find one you love. If you have a batch of old olive oil, no need to throw it away. You can always use it as a leave-in hair treatment, or apply it to your skin for a safer-than-lotion approach to skin hydration. Finally, if you just can’t find a good supply of fresh olive oil, don’t despair. You can also just enjoy eating olives.
UC Davis Chemistry Analysis report: http://olivecenter.ucdavis.edu/news-events/news-events.)
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