Are You Buying Rancid Olive Oil?

Are You Buying Rancid Olive Oil?

by Michelle on March 24, 2011

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I have used olive oil for a long time in cooking and for salads, but until recently I haven’t explored the basics of purchasing a healthy, good quality olive oil. At a local health meeting recently, I heard that olive oil should always be purchased in dark bottles and that if it is a clear bottle it can be rancid- even before you buy it.

This caught my attention as although I have a dark glass bottle of unfiltered, cold-pressed olive oil, I can only afford to use it on special occasions as it’s $26 for a regular size bottle. The other kind I have on hand is in a generic brand of extra virgin olive oil in a clear plastic bottle. This is what I use most often as it’s simply more economical. After doing some research, however, I know this has to change.

Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Dr. Mary Enig recommends looking for an olive oil that is golden yellow (showing that the olives used were entirely ripe) and cloudy (meaning it has not been filtered). This type of olive oil contains antioxidants and can be used for salad dressings or moderate heating as it is relatively stable.

The book also states that to get the health benefits from olive oil, it must be processed correctly so that the antioxidants, which work to keep the fatty acids in the oil from going rancid, are not compromised. The processing recommended is expeller or cold pressed with olives crushed by steel rollers or stone. Once processed, the oil should be poured into dark/opaque bottles which help it to remain fresh with the antioxidants in tact.

However, if not processed correctly, heat, light, and oxygen can create free radicals in the oil which make it subject to rancidity and further oxidation. This decreases the nutritional value of the oil and presents a problem to our bodies as free radicals can do serious damage.

Unfortunately, olive can start becoming rancid before we can smell or taste it, which is why it’s important to know what kind to purchase. For storage in your home, it is recommended to keep it well sealed and away from the heat and light. At least I was doing one thing right by keeping it in a dark cupboard! But since I now need to find a replacement for my economical olive oil, do you have any brand recommendations I should try?


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Kami March 24, 2011 at 4:38 pm

Oh my gosh! So good to know, the olive oil I normally buy isn’t REALLY expensive but is in a greenish bottle, like above, so that is considered good, right? But, like you, I oftentimes find myself purchasing a cheapy, store brand in a bind – but I will not anymore!

Michelle March 25, 2011 at 9:06 am

Kami, a dark glass bottle is definitely a good thing! The one in the picture is just like my $26 one and I know that one is great quality. If you want to know exactly how it was processed, that would probably require a little more digging (or it may tell you a bit more on the ingredients list), but that type of bottle is a great start!

Lane' March 25, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Interesting! I usually buy the organic label from New Seasons although I think my last purchase was from People’s bulk so I would have no idea if it was okay or not. I use olive oil for just about everything as I’m anti-canola oil. I try to purchase everything in bulk so I don’t have to keep acquiring new containers, but maybe with olive oil it’s not such a good idea?

Michelle March 26, 2011 at 10:09 am

Hi Lane’, from what I’ve read, if purchasing in bulk it is best to transfer the oil into smaller dark bottles. My guess is that the oil would be exposed to less oxygen this way as you are using it up and the bottles will also protect the oil from light. However, this site ( notes that olive oil only lasts about 6 months stored in a cool, dark place so it might be best to buy it as you need it, depending on how quick you use it up.

Lane' March 28, 2011 at 4:43 pm

That’s good to know! When I fill it up, I do store it in a dark container and since I cook with it a LOT, I don’t think it lasts quite 6 months.

Michelle March 28, 2011 at 9:22 pm

That’s great, Lane’! You’ve been storing it perfect all along! :)

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