More than half of olive oil users agree choosing an olive oil is confusing because they aren’t sure what’s important. In fact, only 25 percent say they are “very knowledgeable” about olive oil, according to a new study conducted by the North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA).
Currently only 4 in 10 U.S. consumers use olive oil, accounting for about 15 percent of the retail volume sales compared to other cooking oils. The NAOOA is sharing its findings, tips on how to help consumers increase their olive oil knowledge and reminding health experts gathered at the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics annual Food & Nutrition Conference and Expo in Atlanta of the mounting evidence of olive oil’s health benefits.
Setting the Record Straight
“There remains a lot of work to be done to help make olive oil a mainstay in kitchens across the U.S.,” says Eryn Balch, executive vice president, North American Olive Oil Association, Neptune, N.J. “The nation’s top food and nutrition experts have embraced the health messages about olive oil already. Now we hope they’ll be a key part of addressing consumer confusion, debunking myths and fostering a better understanding of olive oil’s taste, versatility and well-documented health benefits.”
According to the NAOOA, many U.S. olive oil users lack knowledge when it comes to olive oil uses and health benefits, including:
- 1) Only six percent know the color of olive oil is not related to the quality
- 2) A mere 15 percent understand light-tasting olive oil does not have fewer calories than other olive oil
- 3) Only one in four regular users knows that unlike wine, olive oil does not get better with age.
“Our aim is to help food and nutrition experts do what they do best – translate from the textbook to the table and debunk myths that persist, as well as be sure they are aware of new confusion from the distracting California regulations,” explained Balch.
Knowing Olive Oil Options
Understanding the different olive oil types and usage occasions are paramount to increasing consumption, including:
Extra virgin olive oil is the most flavorful olive oil, with an unlimited range of flavors spanning from smooth and subtle to peppery and pungent. A finishing drizzle of extra virgin olive oil can enhance the texture, taste and aroma of food.
Olive oil, sometimes referred to as “classic” or “pure” olive oil, has a milder flavor with just a hint of fruitiness. The subtle flavor of olive oil makes it perfect everyday cooking oil and easily adapts to a number of cooking methods such as grilling, sauteing, roasting, frying and baking.
Light-tasting olive oil is almost flavorless, bringing the benefits of olive oil to recipes without influencing the overall taste. Light-tasting olive oil is the perfect choice when looking for an oil that won’t alter the flavor of a dish.
Additional tips include:
- 1)Purchase bottle sizes to be used within 8 to 12 weeks of opening.
- 2)Pay attention to labels and choose the type of olive oil that is best suited for the intended use. Choose a best-by-date that is as far out as possible. With proper handling, olive oil can keep in a sealed package for up to two years.
- 3)Look for brands with a Global Quality/Authenticity Seal such as the NAOOA Quality Seal.
- 4)Dark bottles or tins are best at reducing potential damage from light, especially for extra virgin olive oil.
- 5)Avoid packages that show signs of improper handling or storage such as dust on the bottle, broken or loose seal on the cap or an orange tint to the oil which could indicate overexposure to fluorescent lighting and/or that heat has damaged the oil.
- 6)Look for a country of origin statement, which is required by federal labeling laws and is typically found on the back label near the nutritional information.
SOURCE North American Olive Oil Association