Here at IL DIVINO Extra Virgin Olive Oil (www.ildivinooliveoil.com) we have written a lot about our focus on:
- Traveling to Tuscany, Italy for the yearly olive harvest to supervise each step in production;
- Harvesting our olives generally in late October – considered very early but producing the finest olive oil;
- Cold-pressing our harvested olives within 24 hours of harvest to ensure no degradation of the oil in the olives;
- Storage of our extra virgin olive oil in completely dark, oxygen-free containers (fusti);
- Bottled in our dark glass oxygen-free bottles right before shipping to our great customers.
Today we would like to write briefly about one aspect of what is it inside Extra Virgin Olive Oil that makes it so good for you. While we love the taste of our amazing IL DIVINO Extra Virgin Olive Oil, as a PhD Chemist, it’s what’s inside the oil that is so interesting.
The component we would like to discuss today is acidity. Why is this important? Oils such as sunflower, canola, general vegetable, and olive oil are composed to triglycerides. This is what makes them “oils”.
A triglyceride is basically a glycerol molecule with 3 fatty acids attached to it. In olive oil the most prominent fatty acid attached to the glycerol backbone is Oleic Acid.
Oleic Acid is a monounsaturated fatty acid that not only reduces bad cholesterol in your blood but it has also been shown to suppress oncogenes in our bodies serving as a powerful anti-cancer agent. It also has been shown to protect cells from toxins released by carcinogens as well. It also reduces the amount of carcinogens formed in meats when they are cooked.
Getting back to acidity, as long as the fatty acids are attached to the glycerol background the oil has an acidity value of zero. But as the connection between the fatty acids and glycerol backbone are broken, the free fatty acids are released resulting in “acidity”. Therefore, the more free fatty acids the greater the acidity of the oil.
Increased acidity of an olive oil is an indication of the “damage” that has been done to the natural olive oil by the breaking of these fatty acids from their normal glycerol backbone. So, the lower the acidity value of an olive oil, the higher the quality.
Because this acidity is important, standards have been developed to rate olives oils based on their acidity value. They are as follows for California (where we reside):
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Free Oleic Acid acidity of < 0.5 grams/100 grams of oil
Virgin Olive Oil: Free Oleic Acid acidity of <1.0 grams/100 grams of oil
Crude Olive oil: Free Oleic Acid acidity of >1.0 grams/100 grams of oil – not fit for human consumption
So as you can see from these values (1) you need to know the acidity value of the olive oil you are buying and (2) to be called Extra Virgin Olive Oil your oil must have a free oleic acid acidity of <0.5 grams/liter.
As a point of reference, our award-winning 2019 IL DIVINO Extra Virgin Olive Oil had a free Oleic Acid acidity of 0.13.
The highest quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil is much more than just something we cook and eat with. It is a treasure of nature that makes our food delicious and is so good for us.
As you can see above, taking care of our Extra Virgin Olive oil all along the production process is so critical to producing the very best. This is one of the reasons most modern olive mills (Frantoio) have switched to the much more gentle cold-pressing process for olive oil production.
In the “old” days, olive oil was produced from huge grinding stones that smashed the olives repeatedly slowly pushing out the oil while generating heat from this rather violent process.
Today’s cold-presses are much gentler on our olives and maintain a lower constant temperature thus reducing damage to these triglycerides we discussed at the beginning of this blog.
Next time we will discuss another very important health component of our IL DIVINO Extra Virgin Olive Oil, that being Polyphenols.