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Extra Virgin Olive oil decreases in flavour and health benefits over time. Fresh crushed olive oil is like fresh squeezed fruit juice as that it contains the most flavour and nutrients. Old, poorly made and improperly stored extra virgin olive oil yields fewer, if any health benefits, and undesirable flavour.
Becoming familiar with a particular extra virgin olive oil's flavour characteristics and chemistry (i.e. antioxidant content, oleic acid, FFA, and crush date) will help you make an educated decision about which olive oil is right for you.
Oleic Acid: is a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid found in olive oil. Olive oil is generally higher in oleic acid than other vegetable fats. The range found in extra virgin olive oils is between 55-83%. Extra virgin olive oil high in oleic acid has a greater resistance to oxidation
FFA: Based on IOOC standards the maximum limit for free fatty acid in extra virgin olive oil is 0.8g per 100g or (0.8%). A low FFA is desirable. Free fatty acid speaks to the condition of the fruit at the time of crush. The higher the FFA the greater the indication of poor quality fruit such as damaged, overripe, insect infested, overheating during production or too much of a delay between harvest and crush.
Peroxide Value: Based on IOOC standards the maximum peroxide value for extra virgin olive oil is 20. A very low peroxide value is desirable. Unsaturated free fatty acids react with oxygen and form peroxides, which create a series of chain reactions that generate volatile substances responsible for typical musty/rancid oil smell. These reactions are accelerated by high temperature, light and oxygen exposure.
Polyphenol Count: Polyphenols are a class of antioxidants found in a variety of foods. Polyphenols such as Oleuropein, Oleocanthal, and Hydrooxytyrosol impart intensity connected with pepper, bitterness and other desirable flavour characteristics. Recent studies indicate that these potent phenols are responsible for many of the health benefits associated with consuming fresh, high quality extra virgin olive oil. Phenols in olive oil decrease over time or when exposed to heat, oxygen and light. Consuming fresh, well made olive oil with high polyphenol content is crucial when looking to obtain the maximum heath benefits commonly associated consuming extra virgin olive oils.
- Oleuropein has been linked to several pharmacological effects among them the strengthening of the immune system.
- Oleocanthal has been found to be have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It is suggested that long-term consumption of small quantities of oleocanthal from extra virgin olive oil may be responsible in part for the low incidence of heart disease associated with a Mediterranean diet. It has been demonstrated that oleocanthal shows potential as a therapeutic weapon for the treatment of inflammatory degenerative joint diseases.
- Hydrooxytyrosol is believed to be one of the most powerful antioxidants. Its oxygen radical absorbance capacity is ten times higher than that of green tea. Hydrooxytyrosol is used for medical purposes, including its immunostimulant and antibiotic properties which stimulate the immune system and kill or slow down the growth of bacteria.
PPP Test/Score: This test was developed to measure the degradation of chlorophyll in olive oil. This degradation of chlorophylls to pyropheophytin was found to take place at a predictable pace, making it possible to gain information about the age of an olive oil. The rate at which the degradation occurs can be accelerated by even short periods of high temperatures – such as that which is utilized during the deodorizing or soft column refining process – making it a useful indicator of the presence of deodorized olive oil as well as the age of the oil.