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“…It’s not only wine that sings
Olive oil sings too
It lives in us with its ripe light
And among the good things of the earth
I set apart
How to Pick the Healthiest Olive Oil
For decades we’ve known about the benefits of the “Mediterranean diet” (fresh fruits and veggies, fish, whole grains, red wine, and olive oil). Modern science tells us that of those foods, olive oil appears to have perhaps the biggest impact on our health–but not just any olive oil!
Yes, we should always buy organically grown, extra virgin oils (EVOO), but that is far from the whole story when it comes to selecting the healthiest olive oil.
Read on for tips on buying the healthiest olive oil, our very favorite brands, and how to eat it to ensure you’re enjoying all of the health benefits this super food offers!
High Phenols Mean the Healthiest Olive Oil
What we should really be seeking in our olive oils is those that have high levels of health-producing high-phenolic compounds. Two of the very best are oleocanthal, a natural anti-inflammatory agent, and oleacein, a potent antioxidant.
Some of the benefits of polyphenols include:
- Reduction of “bad” cholesterol.
- Treatment of inflammatory conditions, such as asthma.
- Lowering blood pressure.
- Protection against cancer.
As you can tell, high-phenolic olive oils are not only food, they are also medicine. But polyphenols degrade over time, so the higher the parts per million (ppm) of polyphenols is at bottling, the more polyphenols will remain in the bottle over time.
Optimally, you want olive oil that is less than one year old, but when properly stored (cool, dark place–but not the fridge), you could stretch that a bit if the ppm is very high to start with. The oil should also be bottled in dark glass to discourage UV degradation.
How to Identify High-Phenol Olive Oil
High-ppm olive oil has a pleasant peppery after-taste. If your olive oil has absolutely zero peppery burn to it, it’s likely that it has very low polyphenol levels, and is thus not the healthiest olive oil (although still not harmful).
There is an age-old custom of tasting the olive oil and seeing if it’s a one-cough, two-cough, or three-cough olive oil. Sensors found mainly in the human throat—but not the mouth—latch on to a chemical found in high-ppm olive oils. Coughs can indicate high phenolic content. This “cough test” is probably the easiest way to tell if the oil you’re eating has a high phenol level.
It is important to note that phenolic content will vary from year to year from the same manufacturer. However, if you buy a good quality brand of olive oil, it should have high polyphenols. Some olive oil manufacturers publish their ppm scores and/or harvest dates either on the bottle or online. These are typically the healthiest olive oils.
Is the Healthiest Olive Oil Filtered or Unfiltered?
There is one last consideration to keep in mind when selecting the healthiest olive oil–and this is filtered versus unfiltered oil. Unfiltered oil retains minute particles of the fruit in the oil. These particles can contain certain beneficial nutrients. But those particles of fruit also rot, causing the oil to lose polyphenols much more rapidly than filtered oil might.
Bottom line: if you can get very, very fresh unfiltered olive oil, you may gain some health benefits. But if you, like most of us, don’t have access to super fresh oils, it’s probably better to stick with filtered oils.
Our pick for the absolute best, healthiest olive oil is organic Olea True. With 800 to 1,300 ppm of polyphenols, Olea True blows away the competition, and have test results from just last month that show the incredibly high levels found in this oil.
Olea True- Premium High Phenolic Extra Virgin Olive Oil$35.99 – $56.99 — or subscribe and save up to 5%Quick View
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The above categorizations are the results of our own in-house research. It is by no means an exhaustive list. There are thousands of olive oil manufacturers in the world.
One good way to sample a wide variety of quality olive oils is to join the Fresh Pressed Olive Oil Club.
Does the Healthiest Olive Oil Taste Good?
Because flavor is subjective, we are not reviewing for it in this guide. We have tried almost all the oils in the Good Stuff categories, and although each has a unique flavor, they are all pretty yummy! I admit that when I taste an oil with no peppery aftertaste these days, I just don’t want to eat it! I’m ruined from working on this guide for the last several months and becoming exposed to so many delicious oils.
We look forward to hearing your feedback as you try the healthiest olive oils and enjoy the benefits!
To your health,
34 responses to “Healthy Olive Oil Guide”
I buy HEB central market extra virgin olive oil for $9 a bottle. Is it safe and healthy? It does have a peppery tamng and it is delicious.
Is CORTO olive oil organically grown?
The plastic bladder prevents oxidation. Is it otherwise safe?
Thanks Suzanne for the great article on polyphenols and the myriad of health benefits of olive oil. Great to have McEvoy Ranch included in your “Good Stuff” extra virgin olive oil round-up too. Our current 2018 harvest/release of Olio Nuovo is out now thru February 28, 2019 and comes in at 452 ppm…..so an even higher count than the 2017 release mentioned and pictured in your piece above. If looking for the healthiest olive oil, search for Olio Nuovo (“new oil”) releases from producers as they will always have the highest polyphenol counts as compared to a later-season harvest or blended olive oils.
Thanks for helping me understand that filtered oil is the healthiest choice since there will be no particles that can rot. I will choose this when I buy one since we need to live healthy this year. Especially me, I have been getting sick most of the time starting this year. My UTI is coming back, and my acid reflux is getting worse.
Hello.I have been trying to eat healthier and after reading a book Genius Foods where the author talks about 3 cough evoo I tried to find one. Your article really helped. The one I had previously found in the supermarket was the California Olive Ranch first cold press Extra virgin. Rich and Robust which seems to have that cough inducing taste you spoke of and the harvest date on bottle. Is this still not one of the better ones to use? Hoping to try one you rec omend
What do you think about the Badger brand olive oil? Its called Soler Romero EVOO
Certified Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil and its made from over 100 year old olive trees. Its from southern Spain.
Whats the best way to find out the amount (Oz?) of oil in the bottles? I couldn’t find it on the description on the bottle from Apollo on Amazon and I can’t read it on the bottle.
I see a lot of comments about not being comfortable with cooking with oils other than coconut, ghee and sometimes olive oil at a low smoke point. What about cooking with Avocado Oil? That has been our default since learning that it’s not ideal to cook with olive oil when using high heat. Just want to verify that is safe. Thanks!
I’m curious about this as well. We use OO, but have also used avocado oil, which I like. Any issues with it?
I see that you recommend non-organic US oils. Do you take into account the glyphosate/pesticide content, or are you excluding chemical content all together from your healthiest data?
HI! I love the great information on your site! Wondering if you have any info on https://thrivemarket.com/p/thrive-market-organic-extra-virgin-olive-oil.
I love shopping THRIVE and would love to support their brand if the polyphenols add up.
Thanks in advance!
What oil is recommended for cooking with then? Anything that is liquid (meaning, not coconut oil) and easy to put in a pan in a pinch?
Thank you for this great information
We use the Cosco brand Kirkland USDA Organic
Extra Virgin. Would you recommend this one?
I’m curious about this one as well!!
Great article, Suzanne! And thank you for bringing attention to the health benefits of polyphenols and their relation to an oil’s longevity and pungent flavor. With an increased awareness of the benefits of polyphenols, we found it important to state this information when available from our producers on our product pages on Olive Oil Lovers. While it’s not a required parameter in testing for authenticity, it is something more producers are testing as a quality parameter as more consumers look for high phenolic oils. And also thank you for addressing the difference between filtered vs. unfiltered olive oils – something that often confuses consumers. An unfiltered oil such as an early harvest Nuovo is excellent, as long as it’s consumed fresh and within a few weeks after opening; otherwise, as you said, stick to the unfiltered stuff for a longer shelf life.
Thoughts on Braggs Organic EVOO first cold pressed? This is all we use. Thanks!
Yes I have the same questions! Thanks !
Recommending to cook olive oil is unhealthy and does not fall in line with this website. OO does not have a high smoke point and when you cook it, you oxidize the fatty acids which contribute to a high # of LDL cholesterol and other inflammation in the body.
-also, thank you…I’ve been waiting for this guide for a while
In the “Bottom line:” section, did you mean to end the sentence with: better to stick with “filtered” instead of unfiltered, since filtered would last longer due to less particles subject to rot? Sorry, I’m confused and thinking maybe a typo? KIND THANKS for your articles and product recommendations. VERY helpful and informative. Thanks for all the work you guys do researching products.
From what I gather, robustness in an olive oil indicates polyphenol content. That being said, I noticed that rather inexpensive Pompeian Extra-Virgin Robust Olive oil is VERY robust and peppery. Can I pretty much assume the polyphenol content is high?
(Not on topic of above comment) Speaking of “sneaky stuff”, the description of Olea True conveniently lacks the ounce size, and even when magnifying it the ounce size is blurry. Instead, on their site they list the ounces in weight, which is pretty comical.