Olives transcend many of the commonly held beliefs about healthy food. Not only are they delicious – but the oil produced from their milling is dense in both flavor and nutrients. In fact, it's so vital to good health and great meals that many cooks have lovingly dubbed it “liquid sunshine”.
Extra virgin olive oil is the most widely-available source of healthy fats. Its benefits are so strongly supported that the FDA has even approved the statement of specific health claims on the labels of authentic EVOO sold within the U.S. - an accomplishment which requires rigorous scrutiny and scientific assessment.
Real extra virgin olive oil is both low in saturated fat, and high in omega-3 fatty acids which help reduce the risk of heart disease. Because olives are a fruit, they contain antioxidants and polyphenols which oils made from seeds or vegetables don't – boosting the anti-inflammatory benefits of extra virgin olive oil, and promoting healthy cardiovascular function. High levels of oleic acid add further benefits to the human body – helping to guard against aging and cancer, and aiding digestion and absorption of other vitamins and nutrients.
On top of its fresh flavor and wide usefulness, it is these beneficial qualities which have made real extra virgin olive oil such a highly desirable substance. Perhaps that explains why it is also one of the world's most commonly counterfeited products.
In order to be labeled as EVOO, authentic extra virgin olive oils must first pass a series of strict tests, including chemical analysis by a trusted verification service, and sensory testing by a panel of expert tasters. According to a 2011 study by UC Davis, 73% of olive oils imported into the U.S. under the label “extra virgin” failed to meet the legal standard for this designation.
Though flavor and taste rely strongly on factors such as the olive varietal, location of origin, climate, and harvesting conditions, extra virgin olive oil must (by definition) maintain an acidity level of less than 0.8%. Still, it can be preferable for authentic EVOO to be lower than 0.5% at the time of bottling.
Olive varietals, the location of origin, climate and harvesting conditions all influence an EVOO's flavor profile. Authentic EVOO—by definition—has an acidity level of less than 0.8%. However, it can be preferable for an EVOO to be lower than 0.5% at the time of bottling. The lower the acidity, the longer the oil retains its freshness – maintaining both its flavor and beneficial properties.
Other grades of olive oil have had defects requiring refinement with heat or chemicals. These lesser olive oils have neither the flavor nor the nutritional value of EVOO's health-giving polyphenols. They are often euphemistically labeled "Virgin", "Light", or "Pure" – descriptions which have no real meaning when it comes to freshness or quality.
Oils which claim to be “extra-virgin” but do not meet the strict quality standards of authentic EVOO are often blended or mixed with other nut or vegetable oils – or simply “watered down” with olive oils of lower quality – such as those leftover from last-year's harvest. Their flavor is not impacted by olive varietals, the quality of cultivation, or location of origin – they are indistinguishable from other bottles of low-quality oil.
So – how can you be sure you're getting the real thing? Authentic EVOO will be labeled with a harvest date – not just an expiration. It will be certified by a trusted 3rd-party reviewer, such as Bureau Veritas. And it will arrive packed with the rich, unmistakable flavor of freshness which cannot be faked. Check out the video below, and you'll begin to taste the difference.
If all that seems too much – you can always rely on Bellucci to deliver fresh, high-quality authentic EVOO, from farm to table. Each bottle arrives fully certified, with a unique code which allows you to trace it back to its birthplace in rural Italy. From the root – always fresh. Always Italian.