5 olive oil myths debunked

Always choose the olive oil that you think tastes great. Picture: Supplied

Always choose the olive oil that you think tastes great. Picture: Supplied

Published May 2, 2024


In an age where the pursuit of health and mortality occupies the forefront of many minds, the information available at our fingertips can be both a blessing and a curse.

As society grapples with an array of health issues, ranging from chronic diseases to nutritional deficiencies, the distinction between fact and myth becomes increasingly blurred, leading to a complex matrix of beliefs and practices that may not always align with scientific evidence.

Extra virgin olive oil, like other cooking oils, has a limited shelf life. Picture: Ron Lacho

Myths, often dressed as age-old wisdom or cutting-edge health hacks, proliferate through social media channels, blogs and word of mouth, sometimes overshadowing evidence-based advice.

For instance, the demonisation of certain foods as unequivocally “bad” ignores the complexity of nutrition science and the principle that moderation is key.

Similarly, the glorification of so-called “superfoods” can lead to the misconception that health can be achieved through specific foods alone, neglecting the importance of a balanced and varied diet.

African Gold Extra Virgin Olive Oil – a delicious blend of locally grown extra virgin olive oils – is on a mission to debunk these misconceptions and shed light on the real facts about olive oil.

From its handling in the kitchen to its storage and flavour profile, let’s explore the truth behind the myths that surround our favourite liquid gold.

Cooking at high temperatures is a no-go

Fact: You might have heard that extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) can’t handle the heat in the kitchen. But actually, extra virgin olive oil can handle temps up to around 190°C – perfect for sautéing, baking and frying your favourite dishes.

However, using extra virgin olive oil for super hot cooking might tone down some of its delicate flavours and aromas.

So, for those high-heat dishes, consider using a refined oil and finishing with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to preserve those fresh flavours.

Extra virgin olive oil gets better with age

Fact: Extra virgin olive oil, like other cooking oils, has a limited shelf life. It’s best to use it within two years of bottling, and once opened, within a few months.

And here’s a fun fact: Extra virgin olive oil naturally breaks down over time, especially when it’s exposed to light and air.

Storing it in a cool, dark place away from sunlight and heat helps keep it fresh.

Imported EVOO is better than local

Fact: Some imported oils can be excellent, especially if they're packaged with care and kept cool during transit, but many imported oils just can't match the freshness of the local stuff.

No long voyages, no extended storage periods – just the freshest olive oil you can get.

In addition, South African olive oil isn’t just fresh, it’s also of exceptional quality. South Africa is blessed with its own thriving olive oil industry and our extra virgin olive oils have won awards around the world.

Cloudy olive oil indicates rancidity

Fact: If you see your olive oil looking cloudy, don't worry, it doesn’t mean it’s spoiled. Most of the time, olive oil goes bad because it's been exposed to too much air or light, not because it looks cloudy.

If your extra virgin olive oil is fresh from the harvest and looks a bit cloudy, it's likely just tiny drops of water mixed in.

And if it turns cloudy after being in the fridge, there’s no problem at all. It will go back to being clear once it warms up to room temperature.

Olive oil must always taste fruity and bitter

Fact: Have you ever heard that if it’s real extra virgin olive oil, it has to taste fruity or bitter? Turns out, that’s not exactly true. Sure, extra virgin olive oil can sometimes have a peppery or bitter kick because of certain natural compounds, such as oleocanthal.

But, the strength of these flavours can differ.

Olive oil is a lot like wine in that way; its taste can change based on many factors, including the types of olives used, when they were picked and conditions – such as the soil and weather – in which they grew.

This variety means there are lots of olive oils out there that can match perfectly with different kinds of dishes. So, remember, it’s not always about the strongest flavour being the best. Choose the olive oil that you think tastes great!