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Olive Oil is a Fruit Juice … and Several Other Things You Didn’t Know about this Amazing Food!

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picture courtesy iliana/freeimages

By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD

March is National Nutrition Month. In honor of that, I will be featuring several posts on this blog this month highlighting the benefits of different types of food. Today it’s olive oil!

There is an amazing video over on YouTube from New York’s Bitten conference, which I was lucky enough to attend this year. Bitten happens once a year in February,  and this video features Nicholas Coleman, an oleologist at Eataly (the famed Italian supermarket in New York City) and the founder of Grove & Vine. At Eataly, he educates guests (and staff members) about olive oil (there are over 100 types sold at the market!).

After watching this video, I can definitely tell you — Coleman really knows his stuff! The video on YouTube is only about 20 minutes long, but it is an excellent primer on how olive oil is grown and what true olive oil is and isn’t, and Coleman’s excitement about olive oil is positively contagious. Olive oil is something you may not think about much, but after watching this video, you’ll never think of it the same way again. Who realized such a simple product was this complex?

Some highlights from his talk:

  • One of the things that may most surprise you is that olive oil is a fresh fruit juice. Not that you should drink it as such, but technically, that’s what it is, and freshness is a component in how it will taste to the consumer.
  • Much of what is on our store shelves is not true olive oil. It lacks freshness and purity. It is diluted with other ingredients. If an olive oil does not have a harvest date on it, do not buy, and never consume olive oil that is over two years old.
  • Olive oil has a range of flavors and antioxidant values depending on how it is harvested and made, and what type of olives are used. Olive oil is not just one uniform product with one uniform taste. Think of olive oil like wine — know the olives as you’d know the grapes.
  • Olive oil is grown all over the world, not just in the Mediterranean. You can even find it in Australia!
  • Every year there are new oils, with flavors changing based on weather and harvest.
  • Olive oil is not always yellow — Coleman shows a green olive oil in this video.
  • Olive oil was a popular beauty treatment in olden times; it was and is an essential oil. People would infuse it with different aromas and it would act as a type of perfume.
  • Olive oil satiates you and helps you digest your food better.
  • Just a few bad olives can contaminate the whole batch.

I hope you enjoy Coleman’s video. I believe it is important to understand how your food is made, where it comes from, and how it nutritionally benefits you. I think you’ll find it makes the experience of eating that much more fulfilling and enjoyable.