Enemies of Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil is like a perishable freshly squeezed fruit juice. The effectiveness of its healthy properties is correlated with the freshness and status of preservation of the olive oil. Its main “enemies” are time, light, heat and oxygen. We take every possible measure to protect our Entimio olive oils from when they leave the mill until they get to your table.
Let’s now take a look at olive oil’s four principal enemies, so that you can continue to store and preserve your Entimio olive oil optimally.
Once bottled, olive oil is considered to have a shelf life of 18 to 24 months. In reality, the shelf life of olive oil varies widely depending on its initial quality, antioxidant content, packaging and storage conditions. High-Quality olive oil with suitable packaging and proper storage should preserve a material part of its freshness and healthy properties beyond its official expiration date. Once you open any bottle, we recommend you use the oil within 30 to 60 days.
Exposure to light should be minimized or eliminated. Extended exposure to light will deteriorate the antioxidant content and the quality of any olive oil, eventually leading to rancidity. Even a high-quality olive oil bottled in a dark glass container will severely deteriorate after three weeks of exposure at normal room light conditions. We sell all our bottles with a protective box to eliminate the detrimental effects of light. We encourage our customers to store our oil away in its box after opening.
The ideal storage temperature for olive oil is between 55F and 65F, even though a broader 50F to 75F range is also tolerable in the absence of light and oxygen. Proximity to heat sources should be avoided. We do our best to maintain a temperature-controlled supply chain.
Exposure to oxygen should be minimized to limit harmful oxidative processes. We seal each bottle of our oil with a small amount of argon to force out any residual oxygen before the bottle is capped. Argon is a more rare and expensive inert gas in respect to nitrogen, but it has the critical advantage of higher specific weight than oxygen, and therefore it tends to position itself at the interface with the olive oil, protecting it from any residual oxygen content. Some of these benefits may persist after opening your bottle.
How To Store Olive Oil
For those of you already familiar with proper wine storage, you can store your unopened olive oil bottles together with your wine bottles. You can use the same cellar or cooler or any cool, dark place where you store your wine.
Olive oil should be kept away from light (in its original box, for example) and heat sources, including the stove and the oven.
High-quality olive oils, especially those high in oleic content and antioxidants, will last much longer than lower quality olive oils.
Once you open the bottle, the olive oil begins to degrade much faster. While you use your olive oil, oxygen replaces it in the container, and that accelerates the oxidation process. Any bottle of olive oil should be consumed within 30 to 60 days from opening.
How To Use Olive Oil
You can use olive oil for all your culinary needs. Using a high-quality olive oil with high oleic content, low level of oxidation of the fat component and high antioxidant content is a healthy option for both crude use and cooking.
You need to select your olive oil from an organoleptic point of view depending on your needs and preferences. For example, we suggest using our mildest olive oil, the organic Toscano blend, on delicate dishes, to enjoy the health benefits of a great natural product rich in antioxidants without the fear of overpowering your food.
In general, a high-quality olive oil will preserve or transfer its anti-oxidant and healthy properties to your food during cooking.
Even for higher temperature cooking like baking, roasting, and frying, the use of high-quality olive oil will lower the number of free radicals forming while cooking and the resulting amount of deteriorated fat.
In the case of grilling, coating the food with high-quality olive oil can protect the food and limit the amount of dangerous cancerous chemical compounds forming from the interaction of the food with fire.
Health Benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Fats are one of three essential macronutrients and help us absorb several vitamins, including A, D, E and K. While fats are generally bundled in the “junk food” category, some fats are good for us. We need to make the right choices.
Consuming healthy fats, such as extra virgin olive oil, in the right amounts and as a replacement for other less healthy fats already in your diet, can help you to fight stress, improve mood swings, decrease mental fatigue and manage your weight.
A high-quality extra virgin olive oil is not just a healthy and mostly monounsaturated vegetable fat (Oleic Fatty Acids, Omega-9). A high-quality olive oil also contains a) polyphenols, which act as powerful antioxidants, reducing the oxidative stress throughout your body, b) a healthy ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids, which are essential for brain health, and c) Tocopherols (largely Vitamin E), which are great for skin health and act as general antioxidants.
Over the years, several medical research studies have produced evidence supporting the health benefits derived from a diet where extra virgin olive oil replaces other less healthy fats. However, a few research studies have also purported to disprove those same health benefits. All the latter studies seem to misunderstand what extra virgin olive oil is and treat it as a "commodity," without differentiating between low quality and high-quality extra virgin olive oil. We are not surprised to learn that a low-quality olive, low in oleic fatty acids content, with little to no antioxidant content and already in an advanced stage of oxidation, is less healthy than fresh, high-quality olive oil, high in oleic fatty acids content, rich in antioxidants and not oxidized. The ancient Romans knew that difference many centuries ago and used to give the Emperor the freshest, more fruity, early-harvest, peppery and slightly bitter olive oil. Today, we follow them by "walking our talk" and using Entimio extra virgin olive oils for all our raw and cooking needs.
Several third-party medical research studies have found olive oil to...
CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE – Improve the status of arteries in the elderly
BLOOD PRESSURE – Help decrease both systolic and diastolic blood pressure
CHOLESTEROL – Help lower total cholesterol by helping to reduce LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and help improve HDL cholesterol, thus improving the critical balance between LDL and HDL
ALZHEIMER’S – Reduce cognitive decline and help to combat the oxidative stress associated with aging, including Alzheimer’s disease, via oleocanthal, a polyphenol found in extra virgin olive oil
DEPRESSION – Protect from mental illness, including depression, with fat serving as an important building block for cell membranes
STROKE – Lower risk of stroke
SKIN CANCER – Contribute to the prevention of a dangerous form of skin cancer, malignant melanoma, through its antioxidant properties
OSTEOPOROSIS – Help improve bone mineralization and calcification by helping the body absorb calcium and aiding in thickening the bones
DIABETES – Alleviate the symptoms of diabetes by helping to regulate blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity, along with the adoption of a broader Mediterranean diet
OBESITY – Help to improve satiety, which prevents snacking on nutrient void high-calorie foods that can lead to overeating and eventually obesity
OXIDATIVE STRESS – Help protect the body from the damage caused by free radicals, called oxidative stress and including specific forms of cancer, through Vitamin E
CANCER – Reduce inflammation, a leading cause of cancer, through Oleocanthal, Squalene, and Lignana compounds
Below are a few links regarding claims authorized by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the equivalent of the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA), to be made on extra virgin olive oil packaging in Europe. A few claims apply to the broad extra-virgin olive oil category, and several more claims refer only to extra virgin olive oil with a demonstrated high level of polyphenols, which typically translate in extra-virgin olive oils with a certified polyphenols level > 300mg/kg. All Entimio olive oils have > 450mg/kg of polyphenols at bottling, with some reaching close to 700mg/kg of polyphenols at bottling, to make sure you can benefit from a high level of polyphenols throughout the entire product life.
Grades of Olive Oil
What Is Extra Virgin Olive Oil?
Olive oil can be broadly divided into two classes: a) naturally extracted or virgin olive oils and b) refined olive oils.
The fact that well processed olive oils do not need refining before human consumption is a differentiating factor versus most other vegetable oils. With the exclusion of a few niche oils such as unrefined coconut oil or unrefined avocado oil, most other vegetable oils require refining during their processing. Without diminishing the importance of those few unrefined vegetable oil alternatives to olive oil, those oils tend to have limited use in most kitchens due to their natural intense smell and taste. Most refined olive oil tends instead to have a very mild smell and taste, having been stripped of most volatile substances during the refining process, including healthy anti-oxidants and other bio-active natural compounds.
Virgin olive oils are also entirely made from olive fruit, mechanically extracted without altering the nature of the oil and without undergoing treatments other than washing, separation (decantation and/or centrifugation) and filtration.
The primary grades of olive oil are listed here for your convenience.
Virgin Olive Oils
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil: the best quality with specific minimum chemical standards including free fatty acidity of less than 0.5% - 0.8% (see our standards comparison), zero defects of flavor and some fruitiness.
- Virgin Olive Oil: this category being the next down, with free fatty acidity tolerated up to 2.0% and some mild defects are also possible.
- Lampante: this is an oil with apparent defects and a free fatty acidity over 3.3%; it is considered unfit for human consumption without refining.
Refined Olive Oils
- Refined Olive Oil: obtained by refining low quality (lampante) virgin olive oil by neutralizing the acidity with caustic soda, followed by washing, heating, and intense filtration to remove odors, flavors, and color, resulting in an odorless, colorless, neutral olive oil. Also, degumming and winterization processes remove gums and waxes. Under trade standards, the process cannot alter the fats structure.
- Olive Oil or Pure Olive Oil: blend of refined olive oil and virgin olive oil (added for flavor and color) with the quantity of virgin olive oil usually below 10%.
- Light or Extra-light Olive Oil: blend of refined olive oil and virgin olive oil containing less virgin olive oil than the regular refined olive oil blend. Extra-light refers only to the flavor, while the calories are the same as extra virgin.
Olive Oil Standards
There are many olive oil standards in the world. They are very similar, and the differences among them reflect different regional interests. You will not have to worry about these minimum qualitative standards if you focus on high-quality artisanal olive oils.
For your reference, below is a simplified comparison table among primary international standards, the typical requirements for the so-called "Ultra-Premium" olive oils and ENTIMIO voluntary minimum quality standards.
|Chemical Parameters||IOC||USDA||COOC||AUS STDs||Ultra-Premium(*)||ENTIMIO|
|Free Fatty Acidity||≤ 0.80||≤ 0.80||≤ 0.50||≤ 0.80||≤ 0.30||≤ 0.25|
|Peroxide||≤ 20||≤ 20||≤ 20||≤ 20||≤ 10||≤ 6|
|Polyphenols||n/a||n/a||n/a||n/a||≥ 150||≥ 450|
|Oleic Acid||≥ 55%||≥ 55%||≥ 50%||≥ 53%||≥ 65%||≥ 75%|
(*) Values are only indicative as representative of a broad family of different local standards
Having great chemistry is only a necessary but not sufficient condition to make an olive oil a "great olive oil." There are many volatile compounds which contribute to form the aromas and flavors we so much love and which are hard to measure. Only best-in-class producers working side-by-side with best-in-class millers can craft great olive oils. Great results can be achieved when working with cultivars grown on their native terroir, on lands where olive trees have flourished for centuries, and with minimal human intervention.
Knowing when olive oil was last tested is also very important to determine the relevance of the quality facts we are being provided. Ideally, each olive oil lot should also be checked after bottling, as we do for all Entimio olive oils. It is evident that the consumer will only benefit from the healthy properties of the bottled olive oil and not from those found months earlier at the mill in non-stable conditions and before decanting, filtering, storage and bottling.
- IOCC: International Olive Oil Council
- USDA: Unites States Department of Agriculture
- COOC: California Olive Oil Council
- AUS STDs: Australian Standards
- Ultra-Premium: certain auto-defined standard of certain producers
- Free Fatty Acidity: a measure of the release of the fatty acid chains giving an indication of oil quality based on fruit quality and its handling, cannot be tasted, expressed as a %, tend to remain constant over the olive oil life
- Peroxide: a measure of the peroxide compounds arising from primary oxidation and a high value indicates poor processing; only relevant for relatively young olive oils
- Polyphenols: a broad family of compounds, generally associated with bitterness and pungency and bearers of anti-oxidant and healthful properties
- Tocopherols: a class of organic chemical compounds many of which have vitamin E activity
- Oleic Acid: healthy monounsaturated fats, also called Omega-9 Fatty Acids