Olive oil. It may not be the nectar of the gods…but it is pretty close. For us mere mortals, olive oil is about one of the best fats to consume. It is a monounsaturated fat, which has many great health benefits. For example, monounsaturated fats are very stable at high temperatures (something I just recently learned about), so it is good for cooking. Saturated fats are as well, but the polyunsaturated fats (PUFA’s) such as vegetable oil or canola oil (among others) are not. The instability of the PUFA’s cause oxidation, which leads to many degenerative issues such as heart disease, arthritis, joint pain and degeneration, and even cancer. In addition, monounsaturated fats are good for healthy mitochondria (essential for energy metabolism…and overall health and longevity), a healthy immune system, and surprisingly there is ample research pointing to the fact that monounsaturated fats may protect against diabetes (imagine that).
The point is this: Real olive oil is very beneficial for our health. We want to enjoy it liberally.
The problem is that, even though the bottle may say that the olive oil you are purchasing is 100% olive oil, it may not be. As a matter of fact, it will most likely be a blend of olive oil and vegetable oil, usually soybean or canola oil. This is an odd fact on the surface. After all, why blend the oils in the first place?
High profit margins. Turns out that extra virgin olive oil is far more costly to produce than the other vegetable oils, and no doubt olive oil is of higher quality….and that makes it expensive. By using lower quality olives and mixing it with the cheaper vegetable oils, these companies are able to still charge a premium for the stuff and make big profits. Moreover, they can charge a lower price to attract more buyers…and still make a hefty profit. As surprising as it may sound, the olive oil industry is largely a cartel of the “agro-mafia“.
They are so good at blending the cheaper oils with olive oil that you can’t tell the difference from the look, taste, or smell of the cheaper blends with what would be from 100% pure olive oil.
So, what can we do about that? Ever since I found out how pervasive the olive oil problem is, and the fact that I could not find any definitive way of knowing who was selling the real stuff or not, I switched us over to avocado oil. Avocado oil is similar to olive oil in that it is a monounsaturated fat with high nutritional quality. Since the avocado oil industry is small (725 million U.S), there would be no real opportunity for the cartels to exploit it…yet.
I still believe that avocado oil is a good substitute for olive oil. But what if you really crave the taste and texture of olive oil?
Good news. Now you can shop for olive oil with confidence. There is a third party certification program that tests the brands of olive oils out there, and will tell you which ones are the real deal. The name of the organization is the North American Olive Oil Association. They aggressively test many brands every year, and those that pass get a NAOOA seal of approval on the bottle.
Here is what the symbol looks like:
If you see this symbol on the bottle, you can be pretty confident that it will be 100% olive oil. I went to the grocery store yesterday with this knowledge, and I did find some brands with this seal. That being said, not all of the oils offered by the same brand had the seal. Some did. Some did not. The “lite” versions did not have the seal. Evidently, they were a blend of some type. So do be aware of that.
The NAOOA also says that just because a certain brand does not have the seal, it does not mean that it is not 100% olive oil. It may simply mean that it has not been tested by them. So you would need to do your own due diligence. Our example is a brand of olive oil that we like from Parisi’s called Paesino. I looked it up and found very favorable reviews, so we feel pretty confident that it is the real deal.
So go ahead. Buy olive oil. You can find the 100% real stuff.
…or buy yourself some avocado oil. You can’t go wrong.