The Number One Mistake You’re Making When You Buy Olive Oil That’s Sacrificing Its Disease-Fighting
by KELLY McPHILLIPS
My strategy for buying olive oil is a simple one: The bigger the bottle, the better. So just imagine my shock when Joseph Profaci, the executive director of the North American Olive Oil Association, informed me that my approach to purchasing the ultra-healthy cooking oil was, to put it politely, dead wrong.
When you’re considering what size olive oil to buy, you need to know that those extra-large jugs of the stuff are more likely to go bad - and lose their myriad benefits as a result.
“Olive oil does not get better with age,” says Profaci. (It’s not wine.) “Olive oils are bottled with a stated shelf life, which should be no more than two years from bottling. Once you open the bottle and let air in, the clock ticks much faster.” Unless you’re cooking that olive oil into baked trays of veggies, chicken breasts, and stir-fries fast, you stand to sacrifice both the nutritive value and the flavor profile of your oil. Once you open the bottle, it begins to oxidize (meaning, lose its electrons) - and there’s some pretty interesting chemistry behind why that leads to lackluster oil.
On a chemical level, Profaci explains that this happens because the oil’s micronutrients - the good-for-you polyphenols and antioxidants that guard against chronic diseases like diabetes, dementia, and even cancer – are primarily responsible for that nutty, rich flavor olive oil imbues in every dish. “When an olive oil’s taste dissipates due to oxidation, there are less and less polyphenols available in the oil,” explains Profaci. “Bottom line, as olive oil ages, it still remains healthy and it still has the desirable fatty acid profile - but its polyphenol and antioxidant content will diminish.”
Make no mistake: Cooking with old olive oil is still better than cooking with no olive oil at all - but why not opt for small bottles that will lock-in their nutrients and flavor?
Below, Profaci explains how to pick a bottle that’s oozing with flavor, polyphenols, and antioxidants. Just make sure you’re using every last drop in 90 days or less (and 30 days or less with the nicer bottles).
When it comes time to choose your olive oil of choice, Profaci has a very unique recommendation for testing the bottle’s merit. “Taste, taste, taste. Consumers need to learn to taste olive oils straight up. I always open a bottle as soon as I get it home and take a swig,” he says. “If you don’t like what you bought, take it back to the store and get a refund. And remember, all olive oils are healthy, but the more flavor, the more potential health benefits.”