It is well known that extra virgin olive oil is good for the body – boosting heart health and even lowering the risk of certain kinds of cancer. But not all olive oils are created equal.
According to Nicholas Coleman, the chief olive oil specialist at Eataly in New York City, olive oil has to be fresh in order to maintain its health advantages.
“Even the best producer in the world – if their oil is old, you’re not going to reap the health benefits from it,” Coleman told FoxNews.com.
Coleman said it’s important to pick your oil like you would pick your wine – taking into account when it was bottled, the kinds of olives that are in it, and the region from which it came.
"When you taste a really, really great olive oil, you might notice a peppery finish build in the back of the throat – this tingle,” Coleman said. “And what causes that is oleocanthal, which is an antioxidant. The more of that peppery burn you feel, the higher the presence of antioxidants in the oil and the healthier it is for the body."
Oils from Tuscany, Puglia and Sicily have the most antioxidants of the Italian extra virgin olive oils, Coleman said. And price is an important factor too: Cheap olive oil from the grocery store may not cut it.
“Usually they take olives from all over the world, and they buy oil that is left over at the end of the year,” Coleman said. “And they blend it all together and ship it to America.”
While the oil’s color doesn’t affect its health benefits, Coleman said the bottle’s color does. He advised picking a dark, glass bottle or tin, so the oil doesn’t photo-oxidize and degrade.
And when you finally cook with your newly purchased olive oil in the kitchen, make sure to warm it slowly to preserve the antioxidants.
For more information on how to choose the perfect olive oil, visit http://www.eataly.com/.
Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. For more information on Dr. Manny's work, visit AskDrManny.com.