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7 Myths About Olive Oil

7 Myths About Olive Oil



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Many people know surprisingly little about olive oil, a commodity that so often makes the news — at times the subject of public esteem (as when a study is released about new health benefits), and at other times, scandal (as when more fraud is uncovered). Part of the lack of general knowledge is a result of all the crazy marketing out there: Peruse the olive oils in the cooking oil aisle of a typical grocery store and you'll be greeted by all kinds of terminology. Some of it is confusing — like "pure" and "extra-virgin" — which is better? Other terms are just pointless — "cold-pressed" for example, doesn’t really mean much; basically, all extra-virgin olive oil is cold-pressed. And part of it is still a relative lack of popularity — according to Tom Mueller, author of Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, "The Greeks eat more [olive] oil than any other nationality, 21 liters per capita every year as compared with 13 liters in Italy and Spain, 1 liter in Britain, and a little less than a liter in the United States." Opa!

Click here to see the 7 Myths About Olive Oil Slideshow

The point of all this marketing, of course, is to make olive oil less of a commodity in people's minds, and more of a product with different levels of quality, which is a step in the right direction, but as just pointed out, it's not always done well.

It's inevitable that something produced since antiquity and that is so legendary is going to accumulate some myths over time. Just how long has the olive oil trade been around? A very, very long time. There's a hill in Rome on the south side of the Tiber River that's half a mile in circumference, called Mount Testaccio, made out of the broken shards of 25 million amphorae, containers used by the Romans between the first and third centuries to transport olive oil. It's enough to hold 1.75 billion liters of oil, a testament to the importance of olive oil then. Its lucrative allure drove the unscrupulous to engage in all kinds of "interesting" business practices, some of which, like the adulteration of olive oil with cheaper oils, haunt us again today. "Crime has been part of the oil trade for at least 5,000 years," writes Mueller. "The earliest known documents to mention olive oil, cuneiform tablets written at Ebla in the 24th century BC, refer to teams of inspectors who checked olive growers and millers for fraudulent practices."

While there's no way to really know for sure what's in the bottle without opening it and tasting it, we can help uncover some of the mystery and confusion surrounding olive oil. For some street-smart advice, read on to the slideshow.

Will Budiaman is the Recipe editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @WillBudiaman.


Myths about olive oil

Many people know surprisingly little about olive oil, a commodity that so often makes the news — at times the subject of public esteem (as when a study is released about new health benefits), and at other times, scandal (as when more fraud is uncovered).

Part of the lack of general knowledge is a result of all the crazy marketing out there: Peruse the olive oils in the cooking oil aisle of a typical grocery store and you'll be greeted by all kinds of terminology. Some of it is confusing — like "pure" and "extra-virgin" — which is better? Other terms are just pointless — "cold-pressed" for example, doesn’t really mean much basically, all extra-virgin olive oil is cold-pressed. And part of it is still a relative lack of popularity — according to Tom Mueller, author of Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, "The Greeks eat more [olive] oil than any other nationality, 21 liters per capita every year as compared with 13 liters in Italy and Spain, 1 liter in Britain, and a little less than a liter in the United States." Opa.

The point of all this marketing, of course, is to make olive oil less of a commodity in people's minds, and more of a product with different levels of quality, which is a step in the right direction, but as just pointed out, it's not always done well.

It's inevitable that something produced since antiquity and that is so legendary is going to accumulate some myths over time. Just how long has the olive oil trade been around? A very, very long time. There's a hill in Rome on the south side of the Tiber River that's half a mile in circumference, called Mount Testaccio, made out of the broken shards of 25 million amphorae, containers used by the Romans between the first and third centuries to transport olive oil. It's enough to hold 1.75 billion liters of oil, a testament to the importance of olive oil then. Its lucrative allure drove the unscrupulous to engage in all kinds of "interesting" business practices, some of which, like the adulteration of olive oil with cheaper oils, haunt us again today. "Crime has been part of the oil trade for at least 5,000 years," writes Mueller. "The earliest known documents to mention olive oil, cuneiform tablets written at Ebla in the 24th century BC, refer to teams of inspectors who checked olive growers and millers for fraudulent practices."

While there's no way to really know for sure what's in the bottle without opening it and tasting it, we can help uncover some of the mystery and confusion surrounding olive oil.


Busting Myths about Olive Oil

There are still many myths about olive oil floating around the internet. See if you can guess if the statements below are true or false.

True or False

- False. Testing data supports conclusion that 98% of olive oil in today's market is authentic.

- False. There is no home test. The fridge test is certainly not accurate in any way.

- False. Color is not in any way an indication of the quality of the olive oil. The things that determine color are the types of olives used and the harvest cycle.

- False. All olive oils contain the same number of calories. All oils contain the same calories per serving.

- True. All oils, like avocado, coconut, canola, sunflower, they all contain the same number of calories per serving.

- False. You can safely cook with extra virgin olive oil. You can heat up all forms of olive oil and they retain their many health benefits.

- True. Natural enemies of olive oil which can cause it to oxidize are HOLA: Heat, Oxygen, Light and Age.

- False. Olive oil if handled properly will last about 2 years from bottling. Once you open a bottle of olive oil, you should try to use it within two or three months.

Watch the full quiz below as created by vlogger Aneela Maharaj from Eating to Live channel.


Busting Myths About Olive Oil

With so many myths about olive oil circulating the internet, test your knowledge and see if you can guess which of the below statements are true.

Myth 1: Filippo Berio Extra Light Olive Oil contains fewer calories than other Filippo Berio olive oils.

FALSE: All types of olive oil have the same number of calories. Unlike the term “light” that is used to describe foods with fewer calories, the term light when used for olive oils refers to the flavor rather than the caloric content. All olive oils have 14g of fat per tablespoon. For recipes that require a neutral-flavored olive oil, Filippo Berio Extra Light Olive Oil is the best option.

If you are looking for an inspiration to cook with Filippo Berio Extra Light Olive Oil check out this delicious Chocolate Donuts With Hidden Veggies recipe.

Myth 2: When heated, Filippo Berio Extra Virgin Olive Oil loses its health benefits.

FALSE: Even when heated, Filippo Berio Extra Virgin Olive Oil retains its health benefits. The main health benefits of olive oil are its fat composition. When cooking with an olive oil, its fat composition does not change. All olive oils have a relatively high smoke point between 365° and 410° F that is generally not impacted by household cooking. Smoke point is not the most important factor when deciding whether an olive oil is suitable for cooking. Instead, its oxidative stability which means the extent to which a cooking oil resists breaking down under the heat is a more important factor.

Studies have shown that extra virgin olive oils performed better than cooking oils with a higher smoke point when under heat. One of the reasons is the fact that olive oil contains polyphenols and antioxidants that protect it from breaking down when heated, making it the most stable cooking oil under heat. Are you looking for a recipe idea using Filippo Berio Extra Virgin Olive Oil?

Check out this flavorful Grilled T-Bone Steak recipe that is sure to impress!

Myth 3: Filippo Berio Olive Oil should be stored in a cool dark place to maintain quality.

TRUE: It is important to store your olive oil in proper conditions, so it doesn’t lose its quality over time. Heat, light and air are the three enemies of olive oil. Heat speeds up the breakdown of the oil. Make sure you don’t store it next to the stove or anywhere where heat accumulates. Light speeds the degradation of the oil. And increased exposure to the air causes the oil’s antioxidants to deplete.

To learn more, check out True Food TV’s “The Truth about Olive Oil: Top 5 Tips + Myths video by clicking here.


5 Myths about olive oil you need to stop believing

Spain, Greece and Italy do produce great olive oil, but they don&rsquot send us that oil, they keep it for themselves! There is a reason that imported olive oil is so cheap, that&rsquos because it&rsquos the low quality oil that gets sent here. You get what you pay for! Much of the oil that is labelled extra virgin is not even extra virgin, but nobody is checking it.

By contrast, South African oil is checked by the SA Olive Association to ensure it is what it says it is. So look for the SA Olive Seal to be sure you are getting what you are paying for.

2. Olive oil improves with age

Olive oil is a fruit juice, and like any other fruit juice it&rsquos at its best when it is freshly squeezed. Over time olive oil loses its flavour and health benefits so buy a quantity that you can finish within a year and make sure you store it in a cool, dark cupboard. Not in the fridge!

3. The colour of olive oil indicates the quality or strength of the oil

The colour of olive oils does vary dramatically, but the colour does not indicate the quality of the oil nor the strength of the oil. What does affect the colour of the oil is the types of olives used and when they were harvested.
Rather use the label of the oil to determine whether the oil is mild, medium or fruity. As for quality, see point 1 above!

4. You cannot cook with olive oil

This is a very pervasive myth, but it&rsquos definitely not true. It is often said that olive oil has a low smoking point and that when it reaches that point is becomes carcinogenic. This is not true. The smoking point of olive oil may be lower when compared to &lsquorefined&rsquo oils, which have had all their goodness removed. But the smoking point is actually between 200 and 220 degrees centigrade, which is far higher than most cooking requirements, even frying. One would only exceed that range if deep frying. You should not reach the smoking point of olive oil, but if you do, don&rsquot worry, it&rsquos not carcinogenic.

Olive oil will degrade slightly with heat, but it will still manage to retain some of its taste and health benefits which is what you want from it. So cook with it as much as you like, it&rsquos good for you. The only thing to be aware of the fact that you get different flavour strength and we usually use a delicate flavour oil so that it does not overwhelm the dish.

5. &lsquoLight&rsquo olive oils have less calories

All olive oils are 100% fat, which means they all have exactly the same number of calories. A light oil normally means it is light in flavour, so better for cooking (see point 4 above).

However, many light oils are not good quality. Rather choose an extra virgin that has a &lsquodelicate&rsquo flavour profile. That way you get all the goodness and health benefits and the oil is still light enough to be used for cooking.

Find out more about South African olives and olive oils at Olive Central.

About the author:

Dax Villanueva has been blogging about food and related issues at Relax with Dax for more than a decade. Through his blogging he has learnt much and has a passion for sharing that information whenever possible.


Myths vs Facts

This is incorrect. It is safe and suitable to cook with a high quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which contains high levels of natural antioxidants. These antioxidants protect the naturally stable oil when heated, making Extra Virgin Olive Oil a very healthy option to cook with (deep frying, pan frying, sautéing, oven baking etc.) 1-7

Myth: Extra Virgin Olive Oil/Olive Oil has no expiry date

All oils will degrade over time, and are best consumed as fresh as possible. To keep oil fresh, store it in a cool, dark place with the lid firmly on the bottle when not in use. 8-9

Myth: Heating Olive Oil leads to the production of trans fats

Trans fats are mostly produced via partial hydrogenation in industrial kitchens, which cannot be replicated in a domestic or commercial kitchen. There is no production of trans fats when olive oil is heated over limited periods of time in a domestic kitchen environment. 10

Myth: Cloudy Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a sign of rancidity

In fact, cloudiness in an oil can be a sign of freshness. New season oil that is the freshly squeezed juice of an olive can sometimes contain a small amount of natural moisture that will settle over time – just like with any other type of juice. 11

Myth: You can determine the quality of an Olive Oil by looking at the colour

A quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil will vary in colour (from pale yellow to dark green) dependent upon which olive varietal is used, the climate and the time of harvesting. 12

Myth: When you cook vegetables with Extra Virgin Olive Oil the vegetables lose antioxidants

This is incorrect. Recent evidence shows that when cooking with Extra Virgin Olive Oil (including deep frying and sautéing), there is a resultant increase in total phenols (antioxidants) in the cooked food (particularly when cooking raw vegetables). In comparison, when boiling vegetables in water, there is a reduced level of total phenols. 13

Myth: You cannot use Extra Virgin Olive Oil when cooking with pans that are non-stick

This is a common myth with no technical evidence to support it. This information often comes from certain kitchenware manufacturers. There is no validated scientific evidence to indicate that the fatty acids in olive oil should act any differently to the fatty acids in other oils when using non-stick pans, or any pans for that matter. When using a high quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil, the high natural antioxidants in the oil, in addition to the high mono-unsaturated fat levels, will prevent the oil from breaking down in the pan and potentially forming volatile compounds. 14


8 Myths of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Yes, you can! Cook with your extra virgin olive oil. Think about it: Mediterranean countries have been cooking with olive oil for centuries. The smoke point is higher than most people think. Our recommendation is to use less heat and milder extra virgin olive oil varietals. Heat will not destroy the molecular structure (ie health benefits) but will lose some of the flavors of a more robust olive oil. Saute, grill, roast with extra virgin olive oil – liberally.

Myth 2: Light olive oil has fewer calories.

Unfortunately, light just means the olive oil was most likely defective and ‘refined’ to take out the unpleasant taste. It doesn’t have anything to do with calories or less fat. All oils are 120 calories per tablespoon. Extra virgin olive oil has ‘the good fats’ unlike many other oils that help to lower LDLs (bad fats that increase cholesterol) and increase HDLs (good fats that decrease cholesterol.)

Myth 3: Green olive oil is better.

Not true. Color is not a factor in determining whether or not an extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is fresh. In fact, sensory panel members taste EVOO in blue colored glass cups so that they are not biased by green color. The mind tends to think greener is fresher, grassier, and more pungent however, golden colored olive oils which are more the norm can be quite robust with ‘green’ flavor characteris2cs. Smell
and taste, not color are the senses used to determine an EVOOs freshness.

Myth 4: Imported extra virgin olive oil is fake.

Some of it is. But not all of it. Of course, there is amazingextra virgin olive oil produced throughout the world. You may have read something or listened to a report about fake imports. This has happened and a lot of the olive oil on many grocery store shelves from very

large distributors can be falsely labeled however, you can’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Not all imported olive oil is fake. The best way to know, is to learn what to look for in olive oil and how to taste it. Educate yourself, then go home and check your pantry.
Bou2que retailers who specialize in EVOO, have knowledgeable staff and let you taste before purchasing are the best places to learn.

Myth 5: All extra virgin olive oil tastes the same.

That’s like saying all wine, coffee, and chocolate tastes the same. Not true. Olive oil is made from many different cultivars or varietals. Just like wine, different grapes produce different flavor profiles. Also like wine, starting with good fruit is essential, and the winemaker or the olive oil miller is critical in producing flavorful and delicious olive oil. EVOOs range from mild to medium to robust intensity, balancing fruitiness, bitterness, and pungency. Different EVOOs varieties or blends pair better with certain foods and uses.

Myth 6: Italy produces the most olive oil.

Sorry. Spain does. Italy usually pops into the mind first because it is the olive oil we’ve seen on US shelves the most in the past. Italy actually produces as much as they consume. So where does their imported olive oil come from? Often it may be a blend of olive oil from
Turkey, Tunisia or Spain. Check labels. It’s becoming more common practice for manufacturers to say “Bottled in Italy” on the front and on the back list the countries where the oil came from.

Myth 7: Olive oil is like wine aging makes it better.

NO NO NO! This is one of the biggest myths and mistakes. There are a lot of parallels drawn between wine and olive oil but this in not one of them. FRESH IS BEST! Think of olive oil as a fresh fruit. Once it’s off the tree it begins to degrade. The shelf life of an olive oil depends upon many factors: quality of fruit, varietal,harvesting methods, milling, storage. Generally speaking, good EVOOs are good for up to 18 months from harvest date. Harvest date is very important. Some fail sooner, some last longer. Again, it’s important to learn how to taste and identify fresh vs defective olive oil. Having said this, there are some countries and regions that prefer the taste of very ripe and older olive oil. That’s a topic for another discussion.

Myth 8: Bitter taste in olive oil means it’s bad.

Heck no! Again, visiting our wine analogy. If you’re old enough to remember the pre-wine craze in California, there was a time when wine meant red or white and rose was white zinfandel. Most started out with milder whites and ‘graduated’ to bolder reds. It’s a little like that with olive oil. Olives are inherently bitter, very bitter (and we live in a food culture that doesn’t readily appreciate that flavor). That’s why table olives need to brined in salt water. The salt pulls out the biVer flavor. Fresh extra virgin olive oil will have bitter qualities and that’s good (and authentic). The level of bitterness (and pungency – realized in the back of the throat and often described as spicy or peppery) determines ripe or green fruit attributes and flavor characteristics. Milder olive oil tends to be described as buttery and nutty and robust olive oil tends to be described as grassy and green. Then there’s a whole host of variations on the spectrum. Some prefer milder EVOOs and later develop a taste for more robust olive oils. Of course, food pairings often determine which varietal to choose…when you’re ready.


7 Myths About Olive Oil - Recipes

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Jun 21, 2019

3 Myths About Olive Oil

We have compiled a list of common misconceptions about olive oil, read on for some possibly surprising information.

Myth #1: Olive Oil ages like wine

There are many similarities between olive oil and wine. They're both rich in antioxidants, staples of the Mediterranean diet, and they pair well together too (is there anything better than an olive oil pasta with a big glass of red?). Despite these similarities, they are actually quite different in terms of aging. While wine gets better with time, olive oil does not. Olive oil is best when it is first harvested, and stays fresh for 6 months after opening if it is stored correctly.

Myth #2: You Can't Cook with Olive Oil.

You've heard it before. There is a common misconception that olive oil does not have a smoke point high enough for cooking and frying. However, high quality extra virgin olive oils can have a smoke point up to 420 degrees. All of Brightland's oils have a smoke point of 410 degrees, so go ahead and fry some eggs in ALIVE!


Taste For Yourself: Learn the Secrets of Olive Oil

On March 23, with more than a year of working remotely in the rearview mirror for many, nearly 500 Yale staff members collectively raised a cup from the comforts of their homes. One would suspect that those virtually gathered were poised to toast to a brighter post-pandemic future with typical libations. Instead their cups were filled with premium olive oils from Italy, Greece, and Spain as the joined together in a unique online experience in what is believed to be the largest remote tasting at Yale of its kind.

As attendees mindfully sniffed, swirled, and sipped their way through curated oil samples received in advance, three experts revealed the secrets and busted a few myths about olive oil. At the Yale School of Public Health, associate research scientist Tassos Kyriakides shared his deep knowledge of the health and environmental benefits of olive oil. Jill Myers, a certified olive oil sommelier and founder of Women in Olive Oil, led the tasting while teaching participants about the myriad attributes of olive oil such as fruitiness, pungency, and bitterness. Completing the trifecta, Yale Hospitality chef James Benson suggested the perfect food pairings for each oil along with select recipes incorporating this essential Mediterranean pantry ingredient. (Scroll down for notes and recipes from Chef Benson.)

Missed the event? Watch the recorded session (log in first to Office 365).

This event is part of the It’s Your Yale—Thrive series designed to uplift and help Yale staff members build resilience “muscle” by increasing wellbeing as they navigate life challenges through the pandemic.

Notes from Chef James Benson

“One of my all-time favorite ways to use olive oil in the Mediterranean kitchen is in the simple preparation of Olio Limone. This simple dressing, or “condimento” in Italian, can be enjoyed by drizzling over your favorite salad greens, enhance a classic Tuscan panzanella salad, and ultimately can be spooned over a beautiful filet of roasted branzino in the heat of the summer. Whether you’re starting to dabble in the kitchen, or you’re a seasoned cook, you’ll enjoy experiencing how olive oil enhances these flavors and brings the dish together.”


Myth 5: Olive oil is extra virgin olive oil

It is important to understand that there is a differences between extra virgin olive oil and olive oil so you can get both the health and taste benefits.

Extra virgin olive oils are mechanically pressed and untouched by heat or chemicals, they contain the antioxidant polyphenols and health benefits that you want. Olive oils however will be chemically or heat processed to extract more oil and frequently mixed with other oils such as sunflower or canola oil. Olive oil won’t contain the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil nor the very special taste properties.