Hello! Welcome to Beyond Soy!
That olive oil in your pantry most likely isn’t as good for you as you might think. No, it isn’t going bad because you’ve kept it for too long. Instead, it probably wasn’t very good in the first place.
Olive oil is generally considered to be a good-for-you food. It is a staple of a Mediterranean-style diet and is a good source of monounsaturated fatty acids (typically considered to be a healthy dietary fat). While everything should be consumed in moderation, olive oil is often recommended as a healthy food in replacement of other fats and oils (think: butter, soybean oil, etc.).
The problem? Food processing. While true olive oil is good for you, the olive oil in your pantry probably isn’t true olive oil. When processing olive oil, manufacturers often try to increase the amount of oil they produce but sacrifice the quality of the oil to do so. They even go as far as intentionally deceiving the consumer by mislabeling products or mis-representing ingredients. They might add in leftover oil from last year’s crop, or substitute lower quality olive oil for high quality oil, but still label the oil as the high quality “fresh-pressed extra virgin” oil. This old or low quality oil won’t kill you, but it doesn’t have the health benefits of true fresh, extra virgin olive oil. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there: olive oil manufacturers will sometimes cut the olive oil with a different type of oil including canola, sunflower, and soybean.
Adding soybean oil is most definitely a problem. Olive oil is naturally soy-free, but adding soybean oil adds soy—an allergen! This fraudulent practice means that the ingredients on olive oil do not list soy, even though the food might knowingly contain soybean oil! As a result, the ingredient list might be false and we might accidentally eat soy when we thought we were eating soy-free olive oil.
Fortunately this hasn’t been a problem for us yet (that we know of). Since we use olive oil in our cooking (especially when cooking vegetables), we need to take the time to read the label fully and understand if it is likely to be a good oil or not instead of grabbing a bottle off the shelf out of convenience.
There are numerous resources online to help in selecting a bottle of true olive oil. The California Olive Oil Council has some useful tips like checking for a harvest date and ensuring that the oil comes only from a single region. They also provide a list of certified California olive oil manufacturers, which could be useful in selecting an olive oil to buy. There is no one right (or wrong) brand to choose, but be careful when buying olive oil to ensure that you can take full advantage of its health benefits without unnecessarily adding soy to your diet.