Healthy Olive Oil Guide

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Olive oil pouring Gimme the Good Stuff

Suzanne-Headshot |Gimme the Good Stuff
Written by Suzanne, Chief Health Officer and Resident Grandmother

“…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
Olive oil…”
-Pablo Neruda-

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, Olive oil pouring Gimme the Good Stuffwe 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:

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 olive oil gimme the good stuffis 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.

Olea True extra virgin olive oil for Gimme the Good Stuff

The Very Healthiest Olive Oil

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.

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The Best Stuff

Best Stuff Badge

Olea True extra virgin olive oil for Gimme the Good Stuff

Organic Olea Blue

Polyphenol level: 800-1,300 ppm

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The Good Stuff

Good Stuff Badge

In addition to Olea Blue, there are a few other small brands that are doing it right. We’ve listed the polyphenol levels next to each one so that you can compare them more easily. Each of these is organic and extra virgin.
Apollo Olive Oil from Gimme the Good Stuff

 

Apollo

Polyphenol Level: 500 to 800 ppm

Amazon

Buy directly from Apollo


Sister Julies Olive Oil from Gimme the Good Stuff

Sister Julie’s

Polyphenol Level: 600-800 ppm


OlioCru Olive Oil from Gimme the Good Stuff

OlioCru

Polyphenol Level: 500-600 ppm


Living Tree EVOO from Gimme the Good Stuff

Living Tree

Polyphenol Level: 400-800 ppm


McEvoy Ranch olive oil from Gimme the Good Stuff

McEvoy Ranch

Polyphenol Level: 350 ppm

 

 

 


The Okay Stuff

Okay Stuff Badge

It’s difficult to evaluate this category because it involves several “supermarket” brands of olive oil. These companies produce very high volumes of oil, and it’s nearly impossible to tell from batch to batch exactly what is in any bottle.

So while the following olive oils or often healthful , the ppm counts and content are not necessarily consistent over time. None of these is likely to be one of the healthiest olive oils on the market, so we really can only call them Okay Stuff.

Also, be cautious of brands that do not print each bottle with a harvest date and/or test results for polyphenols.

Because heat causes immediate degradation of polyphenols, we recommend using the following brands for cooking, and eating the Good Stuff brands raw.


Kirkland Signature Olive Oil from Gimme the Good Stuff

Costco Olive Oil Brands, Such as Kirkland

Amazon


Trader Joes Olive Oil from Gimme the Good Stuff

Trader Joe’s Olive Oil

Amazon


Zoe Olive Oil from Gimme the Good Stuff

Zoe Olive Oil

Amazon


Corto Olive Oil from Gimme the Good Stuff

Corto Olive Oil

Amazon


California Olive Ranch Olive Oil from Gimme the Good Stuff

California Olive Ranch Olive Oil

Amazon

 

 


The Sneaky Stuff

Sneaky Stuff Badge

Many olive oils that claim to be EVOO are not in fact extra virgin, and some even mix their olive oil with less expensive oils like sunflower oil (these will still be labeled as extra virgin olive oil!).  Tests can determine if oils are mixed or not. They can also tell if an oil is extra virgin or not. One such test, conducted by U.C. Davis, found that the following “100% EVOO” brands failed to meet the standards.
365 by Whole Foods Olive Oil from Gimme the Good Stuff

  • Bertolli
  • Carapelli
  • Colavita
  • Star
  • Filippo Berio
  • Mazzola
  • Mezzetta
  • Newman’s Own
  • Safeway
  • Whole Foods

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,

Suzanne's signature

 

 

 

 

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34 responses to “Healthy Olive Oil Guide”

  1. I have just placed an order and can’t wait for my first shipment! After doing basic research on high polyphenol content, I realize I don’t know what an appropriate daily dosage is for health purposes,,,,a teaspoon, a tablespoon, or is it dependent on the weight of the person? Any guidance would be appreciated. And thank you!

  2. Is CORTO olive oil organically grown?

    The plastic bladder prevents oxidation. Is it otherwise safe?

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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

    • Good for you! Yes, the harvest date counts and once you start tasting the Good Stuff when it comes to olive oil you can never go back. Of course, at some point you might want to try our Olea True ( Experience Olea True (formerly Olea Blue) and join the “going beyond extra virgin” movement. Olea True is the purest and most potent high-phenol olive oil on the market, with antioxidant levels scientifically measured and included on their labels.) I don’t use it for cooking and include it in my diet as a health supplement and it tastes great. I can just steam some vegetables for dinner and then pour some Olea True on top or dip a good sourdough bread in a small dish of Olea True! California Olive Ranch is in our guide as Ok Stuff https://gimmethegoodstuff.org/safe-product-guides/healthy-olive-oil-guide/ They don’t list the numbers for the polyphenols. You could contact them and ask.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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?

  9. 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?

    • I always prefer organic over non-organic oils. Sometimes small businesses don’t have their products organically certified but they don’t use pesticides. As with everything it can be complicated. Also there is some evidence that there is so much glyphosate in the soil that even organic foods have exposure.

    • Organic extra virgin is a great choice but I don’t know the polyphenol levels. The older the oil is the less polyphenols.

  10. 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?

    • I haven’t found a vegetable oil that I am comfortable with. Coconut oil or ghee or the only ones that I feel comfortable with. Or olive oil at low heat.

  11. Thank you for this great information

    We use the Cosco brand Kirkland USDA Organic
    Extra Virgin. Would you recommend this one?

  12. 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.

  13. 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

    • Yes, I do know this. I cook on low heat. I have not found another oil that I am comfortable cooking with but I do use ghee.

  14. 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.

    • It is not a typo but it can be confusing. You actually want the filtered because it oxidizes more slowly. Olive oil like many healthy foods is best when it’s first harvested and made. It begins to oxidize immediately so if you buy the filtered you don’t have to worry as much about the particles that are subject to rot. Does that make more sense?

      • [oh. then it is a typo. ^ please check again and you’ll see. thx for the question and clarification!]
        Excellent article. Love the Apollo oil! My mom orders that, and purely for taste. 🙂

        • oops, you were right! That last sentence did say “unfiltered” when I meant “filtered.” Thanks for noticing!

    • 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.

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