Olive oil is one of the must-have ingredients in your kitchen for cooking and sautéing, providing excellent flavor and good health for your family. The problem is that not all olive oils are created equal, and those health benefits can be outweighed by poor quality processing or even GMOs in your olive oil. Let’s take a look at why it is good for you, when it’s not good for you, and what you should be looking for when you buy it.
Disclosure: Bookieboo LLC has worked with numerous brands in the natural space, including Ellyndale Organics and NOW Healthy Foods. This post contains affiliate links.
- Olive oil is beneficial for your cardiovascular system. Medical News Today reports a recent study discovered that people who eat olive oil regularly have a lower chance of being diagnosed with high blood pressure, stroke or high cholesterol. Studies also show it does not increase your risk of heart disease, so you can safely cook with it.
- It reduces your risk of depression, degenerative diseases and Alzheimer’s. Be Brain Fit writes that it also helps boost chemicals in your brain that promote healthy brain development and maintenance. That can keep you sharp for years to come.
- Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) may reduce the risk of certain cancers. A study found that while corn oil seemed to increase aggressive tumors in lab animal studies, olive oil “had the opposite effect.”
- Virgin olive oil can prevent inflammation of the pancreas. “Acute pancreatitis” can come on suddenly and be very painful – and lands many patients unexpectedly in the ER. Virgin olive oil is high in oleic acid and another chemical that can prevent or ease this disease.
In addition, olive oil has a “moderately high smoke point.” Smoke point is the temperature where oil breaks down and starts emitting smoke. At that point, nutrients can be lost and turned into unhealthy compounds. The higher the smoke point, the hotter you can heat your food. This means you can cook safely at a moderately high heat while still retaining that nutritional goodness for your family.
Olive oil comes in these versions: extra virgin, virgin, pure and light but what do they all mean?
- Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is your best choice. It is unrefined, meaning it is not chemically processed, and it comes directly from the first pressing and is additive-free.
- Virgin olive oil is harder to find on the shelves but very similar to EVOO is extracted. It is a little better to cook with since it has a higher smoke point than EVOO.
- Pure olive oil mixes refined olive oil with extra virgin oils. Contrary to what the name “pure” implies, refined olive oil is processed with heat or chemicals and is of a lower quality than virgin.
- Light olive oil is also refined – “light” only refers to the color, not the calories or fat content.
Are There GMOs in Your Olive Oil?
That should be easy then: stick to EVOO or virgin olive oil when buying groceries for the family, right? Not so fast! It turns out that labeling can be misleading – and yours may not be GMO free. At this point in time, U.S. regulation of the olive oil industry is weak, because companies are not required to comply with the standards – it’s strictly voluntary. Ruth Mercurio, a board member of the California Olive Oil Council, claims that you can’t rely on the label. “Many olive oils claim to be virgin, extra-virgin, or light extra-virgin, but they don’t in fact meet the standards of a true extra-virgin olive oil.”
What does that mean? Unfortunately, big business is again looking for easy profits and it turns out, olive oil may be mixed oils that are not as healthy – and that may mean there are GMO. Most GMO plants are treated with pesticides that contain glyphosate, which has been labeled as a probable cause of cancer by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. Their research looked at decades of studies on the effects of this chemical. This is one of the reasons why so many consumers in the U.S. want GMO labeling – you can’t be sure where they might turn up.
What Should You Look for When Buying Olive Oil?
Here are the top recommendations on what to look for when buying olive oil that is safe and unrefined and that there are no hidden GMOs:
- Stick to extra virgin or virgin olive oil only and avoid pure and light versions.
- Buy olive oil packaged in a dark green glass and store in a cool place.It does go rancid within 18-24 months, so this gives you the best chance of buying the freshest oil.
- Look for the official International Olive Council (IOC) label of authenticity, the California Olive Oil Council (COOC) seal or the North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA) label. Each group tests for high standards of purity in virgin olive oil.
- Find brands that are Project Non-GMO verified or on the Non GMO Shopping Guide to Oils & Condiments.
Which Brands to Buy – or Avoid
As for recommendations, that is a controversial topic which has been hotly debated since the University of California, Davis did a testing in 2010 and found several “virgin” olive oils not meeting standards. The issue is in a lawsuit and the original report was moved from it’s original URL to here. In 2012, Consumer Reports did a similar test. We’ve outlined some of the good and bad brands as per the results of those tests, which might be outdated.
[UPDATE: Since we posted this article reporting on olive oils, we were contacted by Bertolli via email from an SEO Firm. They have threatened to sue Mamavation unless we take this post down. Upon further investigation, we found that they settled a lawsuit for $7 MILLION in 2014 for mislabeling their product. They also vowed to spend an additional $25 MILLION relaunching and marketing their product in the US and Italy where they receive 60% of their profits. This money may have also been diverted to SEO firms that assist in defending their online reputation. Other influencers online have been contacted by this same firm and have pulled the post reporting on the UC Davis report. So to be completely transparent with you, this is what they said in an email to us on August 10th, 2018.
The information within the article based on a study made in 2010 by the University of California Davis Olive Center. This study was completely discredited by the International Olive Council (IOC) through several public statements.
The study was further discredited when independent testing was unable to replicate the results of the study.
As the world’s number one olive oil brand, Bertolli exceeds the rigorous standards of the International Olive Council (IOC) and European Union (EU), the only legally-binding testing methodologies for olive oil. Every batch of Bertolli olive oil is both chemically and sensory taste-tested before and after bottling. Additionally, all Bertolli products and processes meet the highest international food safety standards and regulations (ISO 9001, IFS, BRC, FDA for USA export, CSQA.).
Bertolli is currently taking measures to vigorously defend the reputation of the brand and are perusing defamation against the original creators of this article. Thus, we are reaching out to online pages that may see/share this false news innocently, so you may remove the article to avoid misleading your readers.
So we are legally obliged to request that you remove this link within the next 24 hours.
We have filed a lawsuit against other sites for defamation and commercial disparagement and we will continue to vigorously pursue any sites or pages that share these false articles.
If you do not remove the link and post within 24 hours from this message, our legal team will be in contact with you.
Thank you for your immediate action and support.
We are currently looking into these claims and will report back. However, I don’t believe that 24 hours will suffice for us to investigate the quality of their extra virgin olive oils. In the meantime, here is the original list that was published without any changes other than a couple of additional notes.]
The Bad Guys
- Bertolli, Carapelli, Colavita, Star, Pompeian-UC Davis Report, 2010
- Bertolli, Goya-Consumer Reports, 2012
(Updated August 10th, 2018: Bertolli has recently produced three organic olive oil products. The organic certification prohibits the use of genetically modified oils in products. However, I can’t speak to the quality of the oil because UC Davis has not updated their study to include their organic versions.)
The Good Guys
- California Olive Ranch, Cobram Estate, Kirkland Organic, Corto Olive, McEvoy Ranch Organic and Lucero-UC DavisReport, 2010
- McEvoy Ranch and Trader Joe’s California Estate-Consumer Reports 2012
Keeping in mind that things do change and I’ve seen a lot of debate over Kirkland Organic’s olive oil. I’ve also listed some of the more popular brands that are Non-GMO Project Verified at this time. There are also many smaller name brands these are the most popular that are Project Non-GMO verified as of this writing.
Project Non-GMO Verified Brands
- Whole Foods 365
- California Olive Ranch
- Ellyndale Organics
- Napa Valley Naturals
- NOW Healthy Foods
- Sprouts Farmers Market
Virgin olive is still an excellent, healthy choice to create nutritious, brain-boosting meals for your family but moms know that providing clean food for their kids is not always easy. Follow our tips to make sure that you are buying the safest product for your family. Once you do, try it in some of these budget-friendly organic recipes:
- Organic Stuffed Acorn Squash and Chicken Apple Sausage
- Barley and Organic Caramelized Vegetable Salad
- Wild Alaskan Salmon and Organic Citrus and Bean Salad
- Cheesy Organic Hashbrown Breakfast Casserole