Olive Oil Health Benefits


In part 1 of the Olive Oil Buyer’s Guide, we took a look at the anatomy of a great label on a bottle of extra virgin olive oil. For a refresher, take a look the detailed and revealing look at Primo DOP from Frantoi Cutrera in Sicily.


In this update, we’ll take a look at the symbols of Organic Certification. And, let’s talk terminology: Biologica is the Italian term for Organic. On labels, this is sometimes shortened to Bio.

There has long been significant cooperation on Organic standards between the U.S. and the European Union (EU). For years, agencies in Europe have been certified to meet US Department of Agriculture standards, and the olive oils imported to the US were able to use the USDA Organic seal on their labels.

We’re now at the cusp of a transition in labeling and a new agreement features a freshly designed symbol for EU Organic products. As a result of the trade agreement, both the EU Organic seal and the USDA Organic seal may be used. For products imported to the US, either seal represents that the product meets the organic standards in the US.  We’ve already noticed early arrivals of Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil carrying this attractive new leaf symbol.

Organic certification can be costly and some smaller olive oil producers will continue to elect to grow their olives organically, without adding the costs of certification. Within the product descriptions at Olio2go, those are noted as “organically produced”.

While we have many biologica/organic olive oils on our web site at OLIO2GO, we think that the labels on Titone, Trampetti, and Volpaia do a great job of illustrating the application of the seals. Titone’s neck label clearly shows the DOP and USDA Organic symbols, Trampetti carries the leaf on the front label, while Volpaia’s label includes the EU leaf on the back of the bottle.

Advertisements
Official Blue Tasting Cups

Official Blue Tasting Cups

We recently traveled to California to take part in the Sensory Evaluation of Olive Oil Course presented by the UC Davis Olive Center and the California Olive Oil Council. Have no fear; we have not strayed from our mission to provide exclusively Italian extra virgin olive oil!

We appreciate the knowledge of the Californians and we were able to translate issues to our business. Throughout the day we tasted extraordinary to ordinary, and even some “aged” oils. Tastings were primarily oils from California, and they only shared the names of the oils that were defect free.

If there was any disappointment in the day, it’s that none of the dozens of samples were Italian olive oils. Yes, we tasted Ascolana and Leccino, but those were grown in California. It would have been great to compare a California-grown Ascolana to Azienda del Carmine’s award winning Ascolana from Marche.  In one segment we tasted California-grown Spanish Picual in early harvest and late harvest pressings. The key descriptor is that the early harvest tasted like a quality artisan oil, while the late harvest was reminiscent of grocery store offerings.

We spent time discussing nasal and retronasal aspects of olive oil. Sounds enchanting? With an element of surprise we were treated to the negative attributes found in fusty and rancid olive oils. Our session leader served a rancid Arbequina, and in the discussion that followed, we learned that she tried a 3-year-old Tuscan and found it too good to be useful for our aged sample. The bitter and pungent characteristics common to Tuscan oils are indicators of high polyphenol levels. Those same strong components hold off rancidity.

In an official tasting, there are a number of restrictions to ensure an unbiased evaluation. The tastings are conducted with blue glassware to eliminate the influence of color. There are scoring sheets designed to make fair evaluations, and the high and low score sheets are discarded. Panelists are isolated, and a minimum of 8 tasters must be present.

In our sessions, ten oils were tasted straight from cups, and then five of those oils were tasted with each of six foods (mozzarella, beans, cherry tomatoes, bread, field greens, and steak).

Our food matching plate

Our food matching plate

As we discussed industry trends, the focused moved to the future of olive oil tasting and evaluation. One bright spot is the development of Association 3E evaluating Super Premium Olive Oil in Florence. La Poderina Toscana is one of the top oils on that list. You can see La Poderina Toscana’s evaluation here.

Quality olive oil has made great strides in a relatively short period of time. The olive oils of the ancient Greeks and Romans would be far more like the oils we now identify as rancid. The characteristics of a premium olive oil (excellent quality olives, good pressing conditions, minimal introduction of oxygen, and controlled bottling, storage, and transportation) were all unknown or unachievable until relatively recent times.  While the ancients made a quality product, critical to their civilizations, they might not recognize today’s best oils.

At Olio2go we are significantly partial to Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil, we’re thrilled to see new research from Spain on the beneficial components called lignans and secoiridoids that show promise in treatment for breast cancer!

You can read about this here.

Remember, the freshest extra virgin olive oil possess the highest levels of the healthy components!

Dr. Perricone’s “Daily Perricone” did a great job extolling the benefits of olive oil in today’s posting. You can read it here. Don’t miss this “rich” list of health benefits. When you’re ready, you can go to Olio2go to purchase olive oil with high levels of polyphenols. Two tops are Frantoio Franci’s Villa Magra Gran Cru from Tuscany and Marfuga L’affiorante from Umbria.

There’s nothing like a great olive oil!