Olive oil has grown in popularity because of its rich taste and how it sometimes acts as a healthy substitute for butter or other oils. However, is olive oil acidic or alkaline? And...more to the point, why should it matter? Before we answer those questions, let's first find out what exactly is in those elegant and tall bottles that line the grocery store aisles and farmer's market shelves.
What is Olive Oil?
Olive oil is a fat obtained from the fruit of the olive tree (yes, olives are fruits). The fat is obtained primarily by pressing, but it may come in liquid form via centrifuge and even as a solid via freeze-drying. It's available in traditional, natural flavors and in various infused flavors for cooking, baking and making salad dressings.
It's also used to make olive oil supplements for health benefits such as weight loss and high cholesterol reduction, among others. It's also one of the most important ingredients in healthy Mediterranean cuisine.
Is Olive Oil Acidic or Alkaline?
Olive oil, like most plant-based oils, is a weak acid. Additionally, olive oil's acidity is used to measure its quality, giving a clear indication of the health of the tree and its fruit. Virgin olive oils’ acidity ranges between 0.8% to 2%.
The range requirement is a little stricter for extra virgin varieties though. The International Olive Council, which sets the standards that apply to olive oils, says that extra virgin olive oil must have acidity levels below 0.8g per 100g or 0.8%, in other words.
Olive oil manufacturers follow these stringent guidelines, so extra virgin olive oils are known to contain less than 0.8% maximum acidity. For instance, Arlotta Extra Virgin Olive Oils contain 0.5% maximum acidity (which is one of the aspects of our highest quality standards).
The Science Behind Olive Oil Acidity Levels
When oil is generated within an olive, it naturally forms triglycerides. Triglycerides are fats that are found in your blood. They are composed of three fatty acids linked by an alcohol glycerol molecule.
The link between glycerol and these fatty acids is a weak one. So when olive oil is subjected to oxidizing or aggressive air, it breaks its molecular bonds, setting free the three fatty acids and causing the oil to break down and degrade.
How Olive Oil Acidity (Oleic Acid) Levels are Measured
Acidity measures how much of the free fatty acids are in virgin olive oils, and it is the proportion of free fatty oleic acid (a monounsaturated fat) to the olive oil. The measure is a general indicator of their quality, and the lower the acidity of a virgin olive oil, the better.
When looking for nutritious choices, it's best to choose those that have a low acidity level. In addition to this, lower acidity also means that the fruit has undergone less damage, thereby offering healthier qualities.
Why Olive Oil Acidity is Important
Oleic acid is a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid. Diets rich in the unsaturated fatty acids found in virgin olive oil have beneficial properties, such as helping to control stress and inflammation.
Olive oil, extra virgin olive oil, and even extra light-tasting olive oil naturally contain high levels of oleic acid, which is very desirable from a health perspective.
Are Extra Virgin Olive Oil Acids Good For You?
Extra virgin olive oils have stronger, delicious flavors because they're made from the first press of olives and don't go through as much processing.
They also have a lower smoke point, meaning that they can only be used for low to medium heat cooking since high temps will burn it easily, resulting in an unappealing taste.
In other good news about extra virgin olive oil, its low acidity levels make it the best choice in olive oils for those who suffer from heartburn and acid reflux.
So extra virgin olive oils are definitely acidic, but there's nothing wrong with it. In fact, it's the good kind of acid that gets you to eat more vegetables and get into better shape!
Choosing the Best Olive Oil
When choosing the best olive oil, looking for the following will help:
- A dark-colored glass bottle or tin can protect the contents from light and oxygen. Fresh oils have been known to turn rancid quickly due to oxidation.
- A harvest date that indicates when it was made is important, as you want one that's recently harvested so that its healthy compounds are not yet deteriorated.
- The International Olive Council's logo. It indicates that the olive oil has been certified under international standards of quality and purity. Look for a seal that says "Extra Virgin" to ensure freshness, flavor and healthy compounds like oleic acid.
- Extra virgin oils with low acidity levels (below 0.85%). They are best to use for low-heat cooking.
- Olive oil acidity levels are indicated on the bottle. So look out for it when you're choosing olive oils at your supermarket next time.
- Trusted dealers like Arlotta Foods. We are recognized for selling kosher and organic flavor-infused olive oil that is of the highest quality.
To sum up the key takeaways, olive oil is slightly acidic. However, don't let that discourage you from consuming it since the good kinds are really beneficial to your health. Just make sure to purchase an extra virgin brand with low acidity levels, and you'll be in great shape soon enough.
Also, read about how different flavors are infused into olive oil to give you more reasons why it's so healthy.
Arlotta Foods is the best source of flavor-infused kosher and organic extra virgin olive oils, which are great for your health! Check us out at arlottafoods.com or come visit us in person at one of the New York farmer's markets that feature our California premium olive oils and traditional and flavored balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy!