Olive oil has been touted as an oil that should be on every person’s kitchen counter. And for good reason. It’s an incredibly powerful oil, delivering monounsaturated fats in large quantities. Monounsaturated fats can help control insulin levels, boost brain activity, lower the risk of heart disease, and even fight weight gain when used in moderation.
Unfortunately, as with anything good, everyone jumped on the olive oil bandwagon and now you must know a little more about the silky dressing before you use it.
The first thing to know about olive oil is location matters. Olive oil is commonly diluted with other inferior oils like hazlenut, rapeseed, soybean, corn, or even walnut. These don’t get listed on the labels and are often passed off as authentic. You want to look for oils that have some sort of authentication on the label, or better yet, find a local producer of olive oil. There are olive oil distributors popping up which deal exclusively with different oil types and you can taste them before you buy.
Taste and smell are another way to determine the freshness of olive oil. Most people buy olive oil with the expectation that it’s an oil and it can’t go bad. That’s just not the case. Olive oil needs to be treated like any other perishable item. There are a few distinguishing marks of bad oil.
1) Rancidity- If the oil smells like crayons or rancid nuts or has a greasy mouthfeel, it probably is rancid. This is the oil going bad. Every time you open the oil to pour on your salad, you’re exposing the oil to air. This encourages oxidation, a breakdown that will eventually make your oil go bad. Think of an apple slice that sits for a while and then turns brown. That’s oxidation happening. The same thing happens to the oil.
When shopping for an oil, look for a harvested by date instead of a best by date. The difference is how fresh the oil is compared to how long it’s expected to last on the shelf.
2) Fermentation- IF you olive oil tastes like it has undertones of wine or vinegar, the olives probably fermented before they were pressed for oil.
3) Moldy Olives- If your oil tastes musty or dusty, the olives were moldy. Return it to where you bought it and ask for a refund.
Lastly, another way to have “bad” oil is to actually cook with it! This is a very common mistake, but cooking with olive oil causes the oil to break down. You see, olive oil is a delicate oil and can’t stand hihg-heats. If you cook with it, you’re ruining any nutritional benefit you thought you were receiving. Instead, cook with an oil like coconut oil which can withstand higher heats without damage to the chemical structure.
As with anything of value, you get what you pay for. There are cheap oils out there with substitute fillers. There are also oils that are more expensive, but the region, harvest date, flavor, and nutrition are a lot more important to the manufacturer. Those tend to be the better agent for your health.
Did you ever have a bad oil? How did you identify it? Let us know in the comments below.