You thought you were making an informed health choice by using extra-virgin olive oil in place of cheaper, low-quality cooking oils, right? You probably never thought that a tiny, expensive bottle of EVOO might be cut with crap or doctored with chlorophyll to make it taste like olive oil — when in fact it was soybean or another health-compromising, cheap oil. According to Tom Mueller, the fearless author of Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, 70 percent of the extra virgin olive oil sold worldwide is watered down with other oils and enhancers making them far from virgins and more like sidewalk hookers on the corner of 10th and Main — not exactly good for your health or your pocketbook.
Mueller exposes the billion dollar industry, showing how EVOO is compromised world-wide. During volunteer testing by suppliers to authenticate what they thought were pure extra virgin olive oils, every brand submitted in Australia during 2012 failed the tests and none gained certification for being pure. Authentication tests at UC Davis in 2011 uncovered similar results.
How to recognize genuine extra virgin olive oil
It’s difficult to tell by taste if the brand of olive oil you buy is truly extra virgin. Even the experts get stumped during taste tests. There are two ways that give a hint whether you have the real thing or a fake. Neither is absolutely fool proof; however, they will rule out the hardcore fakes.
Extra virgin olive oil solidifies when it’s cold. When the bottle is placed in the refrigerator, it should become cloudy and thicken or even solidify. As it warms on the counter, it becomes liquid again. Any oil that doesn’t thicken in the fridge is not pure EVOO — simple as that.
Additionally, the real McCoy is flammable and should be able to keep a wick from an oil lamp burning. If your oil doesn’t, it is not pure EVOO.
Buying genuine extra virgin olive oil
The best place to buy the real thing is from local producers whom you know. Of course, not everyone lives in Italy or near an olive orchard. The next best way to find genuine, extra virgin olive oil from companies or online is to look for those whose products have been tested and certified as pure and organic. (http://www.foodrenegade.com/real-food-resources/#fats) Pure EVOO is not cheap, but then neither is fake EVOO; so you may not notice much of a difference in price, just in taste and health effects.
Alternatives to using olive oil
As delicious and healthful as extra virgin olive oil is, some people do not like the taste; and of course, it’s not meant for cooking at high temperatures. There are other delicious and healthy unrefined fats and oils available that make great alternates for health-conscious individuals.
Coconut Oil — The best virgin or expeller pressed coconut oil is made without the use of high heat during processing. It’s a highly nutritious food packing a wide range of health benefits. Virgin coconut oil can be heated for cooking or consumed straight out of the jar on a spoon.
Red Palm Oil — Red palm oil is made from the palm fruit rather than the palm kernel, and in its unrefined state, it is high in vitamin E, tocopherols, tocotrienols and beta-carotene. It has no trans-fats and is stable when heated during cooking. It contains oleic acid, the main fatty acid found in olive oil and is monounsaturated.
Other healthful oils and fats
· Sesame Seed Oil
· Nut oils
· Avocado oil
· Flax seed oil
· Fermented cod liver oil
Mueller, Tom, Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil. P. 41. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 2012
(Photo credit: Public domain)
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