5 Ways You are Using Olive Oil Wrong

August 8, 2014

EVOO spoon1. You use it for special occasions
You may have bought a nice bottle of extra virgin cold pressed olive oil once and save it for special occasions and that bottle is sitting there for months even for a year waiting to be used. Drizzling it on some heirloom tomatoes you found at the farmers market or just to dip in some bread when you had company over. But the reality is that you are doing a disservice to the olive oil and yourself. Olive oil is best used when fresh for two reasons: it tastes good and it retains its nutrients when it is fresh. Let’s not forget that olives are fruit and as with every fruit you prefer their juice fresh. After 3-6 months from the harvest date olive oil is no longer fresh. So next time you find a nice olive oil, make sure you use it.

2. You never cook with it
So you use corn oil or canola oil or some other tasteless vegetable or seed oil to cook with. Over and over and over I read about how bad it is to fry with olive oil. I’m surprised this piece of misinformation still is in the media. So here is the truth: olive oil does not have an extremely low smoke point. As a matter of fact extra virgin olive oil has a higher smoke point than many refined olive oils, it also contains the polyphenols that reduce the rate of oxidation. Smoke point ranges at about 365 to 410 degrees Fahrenheit. So unless you are doing industrial deep frying you will not reach the smoke point on your home stovetop. Of course as with most foods, heating will cause some loss of the antioxidants. Also just for the record, all those Greek people in the 60’s who had no heart disease? Well guess what? They fried with olive oil all the time and cooked and baked with it. A Spanish study, based on information gathered from over 40000 Spaniards, showed that there was no association between eating fried food and coronary heart disease, but one of the details was that the food was fried in olive oil and was not reused, in other words they did not fry with the same oil over and over again.

3. You don’t eat too much of it
The average consumption of olive oil in the U.S. is 1 teaspoon a day. However, if you are looking to get the benefits of olive oil, that one teaspoon won’t cut it. Study after study that shows health benefits of olive oil point to the amount of 2-3 tablespoons a day whether that is heart disease, blood pressure, cancer or cognitive function. If you are following a Mediterranean diet that is vegetable centered and with little processed food, you will be within your calories even if you consume this amount of olive oil daily. And remember olive oil should be your main source of fat in your diet, if you are trying to follow a Mediterranean diet that means that the olive oil used in your salad and cooking will be the majority of fat you are getting in your diet.

4. You buy “Olive Oil”… but is it really olive oil?
Well kind of. Of course you buy olive oil. But labeling can be tricky. When you see on the label “Olive Oil”, in the U.S. that means that it is a blend of refined olive oil and virgin olive oils. Refined olive oil is a low quality olive oil that is refined physically and chemically to remove undesirable qualities such a free fatty acids and unpleasant flavor and odor. This olive oil does not have the beneficial qualities of extra virgin olive oil (polyphenols) or the taste. So try and buy extra virgin olive oil.

5. You prefer mild tasting olive oil
Studies have shown that many people do not know what fresh olive oil tastes like and that in fact they are used to and prefer the taste of rancid olive oil. Olive oil should not taste “buttery”, many people think that a buttery taste and an oily feel is what olive oil is about. Absolutely not,  it should have some bitterness to it and fresh olive should taste “green”, fresh, a bit peppery, it should not be tasteless or have an “old nuts” taste. Check this post for more specific information on what good olive oil should taste like.

Photo by Andreas Levers for flickr

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20 Comments

  • Reply Jade August 8, 2014 at 10:56 am

    Living in the Mediterranean, I use olive oil all the time. I love drizzling cold pressed unfiltered extra virgin olive oil on bread with some tomatoes and capers. Lovely post, and the thing I love most about olive oil is the bite and peppery-ness it has.

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD August 10, 2014 at 8:36 am

      Me too! Love that slight bitterness.

      • Reply Vasilis August 25, 2014 at 1:33 am

        The problem is that “agoureleo” is scarcely found fresh and bitter. You need to have access to fresh supplies of oil made from green (unripe) olives. After some weeks it looses its wonderful taste! Unfortunately only few people and for a short time can have access to “agoureleo” Commercially available “agoureleo” has no trace of the taste of the fresh product!

        • Reply Elena Paravantes RD August 25, 2014 at 9:06 am

          Thanks Vasilis, Yes, this is true, in my other post about buying olive oil, I mention how it is important and ideal to find olive oil with a harvest date rather than just an expiration date, so that you have an idea of the freshness of the olive oil.

  • Reply Sophie August 8, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    I think it is such a shame so many of us have the ‘fat’ fear, and restrict olive oil!

    What would you recommend as a Greek/ Mediterranean breakfast – bread with oil/olives and tomatoes, and Greek yogurt?

  • Reply karen rose August 8, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    Terrific Post- these are the most common concerns we receive from new customers when tasting olive oil in our stores. Thank you for putting out there!

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD August 10, 2014 at 8:37 am

      Thanks Karen. Glad the post is useful!

  • Reply cydney robbins August 8, 2014 at 5:45 pm

    Thank you! I am delighted to see I am doing none of these 5 things wrong! I buy only the biggest bottle they have at the store because I use extra virgin olive oil for EVERYTHING Every Day! I cook with it to saute veggies, I put a drop in my boiling rice water, I make salad dressings, and I bake with it. I bake ONLY with Extra virgin olive oil. I grease my cookie sheets with it. It is the only oil I ever have in my pantry. YAY!

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD August 10, 2014 at 8:36 am

      Bravo Cydney!

  • Reply Rick Anaston August 12, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    Wait . . . I keep reading conflicting reports about cooking with virgin and extra-virgin olive oil. One says to only fry with virgin olive oil because of its higher smoke point. I’ve only been using extra-virgin for non-cooking purposes (salads, bread, etc.) and virgin for all cooking, marinating, baking and frying.

    What’s the definitive answer to this and please show the source.

    By the way, I eat olive oil just about every day unless I’m on the run and don’t have time to properly cook.

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD August 13, 2014 at 9:09 am

      Olive OIls depending on their quality and variety of olive used have different smoke points, however high quality extra virgin olive oil is more stable when heated because at has low acidity and high polyphenol content. Virgin olive is OK, but not as stable because it has low acidity. Chemically processed oils including plain “olive oil” have higher smoke points but not comparable, as they are chemically processed. So unless you are as I mentioned at an industrial level , smoke point of extra virgin olive oil is fine for household cooking. The International Olive Oil Council can provide you with smoke points of the different olive oils, but again there is no one specific smoke point (which is why I provide a range). For more info you can also check this post: https://www.olivetomato.com/how-to-buy-good-olive-oil/

      • Reply Carla August 5, 2015 at 8:23 pm

        So I bought Light Olive Oil to cook with because I had heard/read that the Extra Virgin was not good to fry/sauté with. So should I throw out the light and fry/sauté with Extra Virgin? How much damage is done to the Extra Virgin when frying/sautéing? Is the Light Olive Oil good for anything? Thanks for your expertise. I love your articles and recipes.

  • Reply Bill Bradley, R.D. August 13, 2014 at 2:36 am

    It is harder to find really good olive oil in the United States, but there are still plenty of great oils to be found in specialty stores such as Greek, Italian, Spanish, or Middle Eastern specialty stores. Thanks Elena. Another great article!

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD August 13, 2014 at 9:10 am

      Thanks Brad! Yes, just make sure that they are somewhat fresh olive oils.

  • Reply Yasser March 19, 2015 at 9:50 am

    Hi Elena

    Great article, if you don’t mind can i add it to our Delis Blog here https://marosiamart.com/index.php?route=pavblog/blogs

    Thanks

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD March 19, 2015 at 10:10 am

      Thank you Yasser. However all my articles are copyrighted and I do not re-publish. If you are interested in content for your site, send an email my way.

  • Reply The Surprising Effect of Adding Olive Oil to Your Meal and Why Other Oils Do Not Compare | Olive Tomato July 30, 2015 at 10:47 am

    […] not “one” smoke point for olive oil, it ranges from 365 to 410 degrees Fahrenheit. Read here for more information on using olive oil […]

  • Reply Sofía May 11, 2016 at 2:13 pm

    hello! Uruguayan follower here! Olive oil production is quite recent here, but apparently very good, as far as they promote themselves… Could you give your opinion if you have some free time to read about? I’ve bought a big bottle of just virgin oil, I’m disappointed with myself =(

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