The top five tips when buying olive oil

Olive oil: Getting the most from your budget

Choosing olive oil in a grocery store. Credit: M-Production/

The price of good quality olive oil doesn’t show signs of dropping any time soon. With this in mind, experts reveal the top five tips to help the discerning shopper get the most from their money.

Olive oil, a cornerstone of Spanish and Mediterranean cuisine, has been cherished since the Greeks and Romans deemed it sacred. This liquid gold, revered for its culinary, medicinal, cosmetic, and religious uses, remains integral to Mediterranean identity and culture.

Olive oil’s role extends beyond culinary delight, it’s also good for one’s health. Research highlights its preventive benefits against cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases, cancer, diabetes, and obesity.

Rich in monounsaturated fats and polyphenols, it bolsters heart health and fights oxidative stress. Vitamins, minerals, and bioactive compounds in olive oil further support bodily functions.

Top five tips

Not every olive oil on the market shares the same quality or standard. Various grades and labels can lead consumers astray, tempting them into purchasing olive oil of inferior quality or even counterfeit products.

Hence, it’s crucial to be equipped with the knowledge to discern and select the finest olive oil, both for the enjoyment of your taste buds and the benefit of your health. Here are five key pieces of advice to ensure you’re not misled when shopping for olive oil.

  • Ensuring extra virgin quality. Choosing the finest olive oil means insisting on ‘Extra Virgin Olive Oil’ as its sole ingredient. This grade, free from additives or chemicals, retains the olive’s nutritional and sensory attributes. Beware of oils with added refined oils or artificial agents, which compromise quality and health benefits.
  • Opt for Cold Extraction. Quality olive oil stems from cold extraction, ensuring a temperature below 27ºC to preserve flavours and antioxidants. The absence of the ‘cold extraction’ label may signal compromised extraction methods, affecting the oil’s integrity.
  • Acidity Matters. Low acidity, indicating minimal free fatty acids, signifies higher oil quality. Extra virgin olive oil should have acidity under 0.8 per cent (virgin olive oil cannot exceed 2 per cent), reflecting its freshness and nutritional richness. Higher acidity levels denote deterioration or below-par olives.
  • Packaging Protects Purity. Dark glass or stainless steel packaging shields olive oil from light, air, and heat, preserving its quality. These materials also offer eco-friendly advantages. Plastic containers are less recommended, as they can transmit odours or flavours to the oil. Another thing to consider is the container size based on usage to minimise oxidation after opening.
  • Prestige of Designation of Origin. Designations of origin validate an oil’s geographical and qualitative pedigree. Opting for oils with these marks supports local craftsmanship and ensures distinctive taste profiles. Celebrated Spanish origins include: Sierra de Cazorla, Baena, Priego de Cordoba, Sierra Magina, Sierra de Segura, Antequera, Les Garrigue, Terra Alta, Poniente de Granada, Sierra de Cadiz, Montes de Granada among others, each offering a unique culinary experience.

By adhering to these guidelines, you can navigate the complex olive oil market with confidence, ensuring you bring home a product that enhances your meals as well as your health.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.