For years the Mediterranean Diet has been considered the gold standard of healthy eating patterns. A staple of the diet is olive oil, which offers many health benefits including protecting heart health, decreasing inflammation, and assisting in blood sugar control.
But not all olive oils are created equal. Here are some important aspects to consider when purchasing olive oil to ensure the best possible quality is purchased:
Single Country of Origin
The fresher, the better. A good quality olive oil should be consumed within 12 to 18 months of its "crush" date, to avoid degradation of the oil. This should be noted on the label. A crush date is when the olives were harvested and then pressed. Crush dates are broken into two hemispheres; the Northern Hemisphere which harvests olives in the fall and the Southern Hemisphere which harvests in the spring. Currently, olive oils with a crush date of November 2016 are about a year old and coming to the end of their lifespan.
Polyphenols are the antioxidants found in olives and what gives olive oil many of its health benefits, including reduction in LDL cholesterol, prevention of coronary heart disease, decrease in inflammation. These antioxidants may even help prevent some forms of cancer, and improve bone health.
As a rule of thumb, the higher the polyphenol content, the more potential health benefits. Some rare oils can reach up to 600ppm (parts per million) in polyphenol count. However, most oils are considered to have a high polyphenol content if they are in the 300-400ppm range. Typically, if a bottle or retailer states the polyphenol content, which many common olive oils in grocery stores do not, it is more likely to be a high-quality olive oil.
One Country of Origin
The label on the olive oil bottle should list just one country of origin. It doesn't necessarily matter which country, as many produce olives, but a single country listed is crucial. This ensures the olives did not travel to be pressed and did not mix with other harvests. It also helps confirm the freshness and purity of the oil.
Here are two fantastic local olive oil merchants:
The Tubby Olive has one location in Reading Terminal Market and two locations in Bucks County. It offers a wide selection of high-quality mild, medium, and robust oils and balsamics, as well as a knowledgeable staff willing to help you find the perfect oil.
Olive Lucy is located in Huntingdon Valley, and another new location is popping up in Jenkintown soon. Olive Lucy proudly practices a "try before you by" philosophy and retails over 70 high-quality flavors of oils and vinegars.
Elise Deming is a registered retail dietitian nutritionist in New Jersey. For more nutrition tips and recipes, visit her Instagram account @eat.with.elise.