8 Olive Oil Buying Cheats to Avoid Fake and Rancid Purchases

by Steven Wright


Recently, we talked about how important polyphenols are for health.  

We forgot to talk about one of the biggest sources almost everyone with a gut issue can eat and should eat — Olive oil.

Olive oil seems to have been forgotten.  

Why use it when there are all these other fats: coconut oil, avocado oil, animal fats? (Experts on the internet coo.)  

There are lots of reasons, including that it tastes way better on certain dishes and many of the blue zones (areas where people live over 100 regularly) consume a ton of it.

There’s people who don’t use olive oil anymore because they don’t think it’s heat stable to cook with, or because they think it contains the wrong kind of fat. Both of those are just theories and there’s plenty of ideas on how both are FALSE.  

I think olive oil is delicious, healthy and a great addition to anyone’s diet. I enjoy it regularly, cook with it 20% of the time and honestly think it tastes WAY better than coconut oil.  

Of course, that assumes you’re buying high-quality, non-rancid oil, which I’ve found to be extremely confusing and hard. In fact, if you think olive oil tastes kind of like canola oil or other manmade toxic oils (rapeseed, vegetable oil, soy, etc) — then it’s highly likely you’ve never actually tasted real olive oil.

How to Get Real Olive Oil

Visit any supermarket, gourmet store, or corner grocery and you’re likely to find an intimidatingly large selection of olive oils. Go online and the options multiply a hundredfold. Talk about a paradox of choice! I’ve spent what feels like hours in those aisles trying to figure out what bottle of olive oil to buy.

One of the reasons I would spend so much time on this decision is because the olive oil industry has taken a ton of flack since the UC-Davis study from a few years ago discovered that up to 69% of olive oil labeled “extra virgin” on supermarket shelves was fraudulent.

If the oil is fake, then it will likely not only taste like junk but also be harmful to my health, so it’s worth taking some extra care to figuring this out.  

It’s kind of like figuring out who has the best eggs or sauerkraut or beef near you. It takes some time but once you figure it out the work is so worth it.

How can you choose the most nutritious olive oil for yourself and your family and avoid being duped?

8 Olive Oil Buying Cheat Sheet Tips

Use the tips below to help you buy authentic extra virgin olive oil with confidence:

  1. The Olive Oil Secret: freshness is key to flavor and nutritional value. Forget about “use by” or “best by” dates. Look specifically for a harvest date on the label. Be suspicious of bottles that don’t include this information, as many don’t. Unlike wine, olive oil does not improve with age. Anything over a year old is past its prime.
  2. Purchase olive oil from a retailer that has a fast turnover. This increases the likelihood that the oils are fresh. (There is even a special club that ensures the delivery of fresh-pressed olive oil once a quarter, whose oils are guaranteed to be extra virgin from the latest harvest.)
  3. Always buy olive oil certified to be “extra virgin.” The terms “pure” or “light” indicate that the oil did not meet international standards for “extra virgin” and has been chemically refined to mask defects. Also, ignore terms like “cold-pressed” or “first-pressed.” They are meaningless in today’s olive oil industry.
  4. Buy olive oil in dark glass bottles, tins, or other opaque containers. Clear glass bottles might be aesthetically pleasing, but they do not protect the oils from natural or artificial light. (Prolonged exposure to light hastens deterioration of the oil.) At home, store olive oil in a cool, dark place – not next to the stovetop.
  5. Look for the country of origin on the label. Spain, Italy, and Greece may be the world’s largest producers, but high-quality olive oils are also being produced in Chile, Australia, the US, Argentina, South Africa, New Zealand, and even Croatia. You can maximize the freshness of olive oils in your kitchen by seasonally alternating your purchases between countries in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. (In September, for example, oils from the Southern Hemisphere are the freshest in the world. In January, the freshest oils will be from the Northern Hemisphere. Here is a source – the only one we know of that procures olive oils according to the global harvest schedule.)  
  6. Find the olive oils that create a peppery tickle in the back of your throat or even induce a cough or two. This reaction is common when the oils are fresh and their polyphenol levels (natural antioxidants) are high. If you are not experiencing a certain pepperiness and bitterness with the oils you use, they are likely old, rancid, or fake.
  7. Look past the packaging – fancy bottles mean nothing, and price is not always an indicator of quality. However, high-quality olive oil with character and personality will not be cheap: a lot of labor and expertise go into creating an excellent product. Winners of international olive oil competitions will almost always feature these honors prominently on their labels. Gold and silver medals are especially prestigious, as they mean the oils’ producers have been recognized for their excellence by trained palates.
  8. When you try an oil, know that color is not a predictor of flavor. A golden-hued oil will not necessarily be buttery tasting. An intensely green oil would seem to suggest pepperiness and pungency, but might be very mild on the palate. Even judges fall prey to color prejudices, which is why professional tasters use color-obscuring tasting glasses, usually blue or brown.

Above all, remember lesson #1, the biggest thing that matters for olive oil is FRESHNESS! And a peppery or bitter tasting oil is one of the biggest indicators of freshness.

If you’d rather sit back and put olive oil buying on autopilot (which is what I did), then I’d love for you to get a complimentary bottle of some of the best in the world (while supplies last).  

Click here to grab a complimentary bottle of the Olive Oil that I use – for just $1 to help cover shipping and handling.

Do you have brands you trust? Please tell me what they are and why you trust them in the comments below.


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About the author

Steven Wright Steve Wright is a health engineer and author. In 2009, he reached a breaking point when IBS took over his life and the doctors didn't know how to help. Since then, he has transformed his health and started SCDLifestyle.com to help others naturally heal stomach problems. You can check out his story here and find him on Google+, Facebook or Twitter.

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Alan November 6, 2015 at 8:35 am

This is interesting to me. A friend and neighbor is Greek and his family owns a olive tree farm near Argolida Greece. He gets his olive oil direct from his farm. Recently he had them send him unfiltered olive oil. His oil is great and my wife says it’s the best she has ever had. He sells it to all the neighbors and all agree on how good it is. His family, him and two sons age 20 and 22 use like a quart every two weeks. I find that allot of oil to consume. None of them are fat, all thin. They eat very little bread or other starches, so they are only cooking with it. What is your thought on unfiltered all pure natural olive oil? It is always in tins or dark glass container. Thanks, Alan


Mariel Heiss November 6, 2015 at 11:09 am

Hi Alan – direct from the farm in Greece sounds like the ideal way to get your olive oil. If only we could all be so lucky 🙂


Sandy cardy November 6, 2015 at 9:09 am

Hello. I tried to order your large quarterly olive oils only to find that this offer is only in the US. I live in Canada. Just a suggestion, but perhaps a good idea to mention countries you do not ship to right at the start before we spend the time to read everything only to find, when we go to place an order, that we cannot. Please let me know when this might be available in Canada. Many thanks. Sandy.


Mariel Heiss November 6, 2015 at 11:27 am

Hi Sandy – we’re really sorry that Steve’s suggested oil isn’t available in Canada yet.

We hope you’ll use the tips in the article to find a great olive oil available where you live.


Sophia Sutton November 6, 2015 at 9:58 am

I would only eat olive oil that is organic.


Bolette Tuxen November 6, 2015 at 11:18 am

Thank you for good advices. Why don’t you mention that organic (or biodynamic) grown olives are free from pesticides etc. ?


Hannah November 6, 2015 at 11:28 am

I like Bariani’s olive oil. It’s produced at an olive farm in California. Harvest date and bottling date are on each bottle.


Deb Norris November 6, 2015 at 11:56 am

I am a member of this olive oil club and I get soooooo excited when my quarterly box arrives. The olive oil is fresh and aromatic and peppery and yummy! I also love the stories they include about the owners of the groves and the procurement of the olive oil as well as the recipes provided. I want that job!!! Before I went Paleo, I was probably drinking at least bottle of wine a month. Now I use a bottle or more of olive oil a month. Much better to be part of an olive oil club than a wine club!


Beth November 6, 2015 at 12:12 pm

I would like to know more info on why Olive oil is NOT easily destroyed by heat, most science says otherwise..


Mariel Heiss November 6, 2015 at 12:57 pm

Hi Beth – you might be interested in this article: http://chriskresser.com/is-it-safe-to-cook-with-olive-oil/

Thanks for commenting!


Courtney Gillis November 14, 2015 at 3:17 pm

If olive oil is fresh and good quality (most supermarket olive oil’s aren’t) you can use it to cook with. The smoking point of extra virgin olive oil is somewhere around 400 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the impurities and acid content of the olive oil. The better the quality, the higher the smoking point.


Kevork Der Alexanian November 6, 2015 at 2:28 pm

Hello, My name is Kevork Der Alexanian, I was born in war torn Syria in a town called Latakia, Syria,. We didn’t have a refrigerator until I was 12 years old, every thing was cured pickled sundried, it was a process through the whole year each season had some thing to add in our basement. When it comes to olive black olive and olive oil, it was the autumn season we would get the Green olives and crack them with a wooden hammer than soak them in water to reduce the bitterness, when it come to black olives spred them on trays and saturate them with mine salt, until it was dehumidified and ready to be stored, the choice of the family. All this came from connections and places for flavor and quality, east of Mediterranean specifically natural Syria is the Origen of the Olive Tree, the best grows on mountain slopes where the soil is white, and lots of orchards are thousands of years old. On my last trip before the war on my way to Kessab the Armenian village, I realized that it was harvest time, the harvesters were family members sitting on the soil havig breakfast some tea herbs cheese, they looked very happy.
When the olives goes to the press and settles down they deliver it in 16 litter tin cans to the customers, for our family of five we consumed three sixteen liter cans.
A good source on the California Market is Aldaffe from west bank.


Kelly November 6, 2015 at 9:42 pm

Hi – I’m interested in this club, but as someone else mentioned, I don’t see any mention of the oils being biodynamic or organic. I know that organic standards vary from country to country…but I would want to know that there were not chemicals, pesticides, etc. used in the growing or production of the olives and olive oil


Mariel Heiss November 9, 2015 at 4:15 pm

Hi Kelly Thanks for asking about the oil.

I reached out to the olive oil company and they let me know that the oil isn’t certified organic,but often comes from farms that use organic farming methods. They also said you can opt to only receive certified organic oil, but then you may not receive oil every quarter.

Please let me know if you have any other questions!


Tracy Karbula November 7, 2015 at 10:30 am

I use Bragg’s Olive Oil because I’m pretty new to learning to eat real food (sad we even have to say that). They seem to be a trusted source by many who seem to know more than me from information I’ve read about using food for health and healing. Had to start somewhere = )


Liftoff November 8, 2015 at 12:10 pm

Thanks so much for this piece about your experience with olives and olive oil in Syria, Kevork, it’s very evocative. I never thought about Syria as a source of olive but it makes sense. I wish you peace. And fresh olive oil. 🙂


Darlene November 8, 2015 at 9:01 pm

I wish this article had a Facebook logo so it could be posted to Facebook.


Mariel Heiss November 9, 2015 at 2:21 pm

Hi Darlene – you can share this to Facebook by clicking the blue Facebook symbol on the far left side of the screen.

Thanks for spreading the word!


Laura November 14, 2015 at 1:47 pm

There are a number of affordable organic fair trade olive oils from Palestine. Proceeds support small farmers. Also, it’s pretty delicious.



Courtney Gillis November 14, 2015 at 3:11 pm

Thanks so much for bringing awareness to this topic! Tom Mulleur wrote an excellent book called Extra Virginity about olive oil fraud. His website is a great source of information on extra virgin olive oil and he even lists his recommended places to buy here:

My family owns an olive oil tasting room called Blue Door Oil & Vinegar in Calgary, Alberta. Our olive oil comes from Veronica Foods out of Oakland, CA. They source the freshest, highest quality single varietal olive oils available in the world. Oils come from both northern and southern hemispheres in order to ensure freshness. We post harvest dates and chemistry for all of our olive oils. The oils are tested for proper chemistry and quality by a third party lab. Our huge selection ranges from mild to very robust and peppery. Visit our website! http://www.bluedoorcalgary.com


Karen Otazo November 23, 2015 at 9:51 am

Your olive oil has the best flavor I’ve ever tasted, including at an entire week of olive oil tasting in Italy! Your selection process is amazing!


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