Shopping for olive oils can be tricky. With so many different options on store shelves, it can be hard knowing which one to choose. Before you put one into your cart, functional medicine doctor Mark Hyman, MD, says it’s not just your health you’ll want to factor into your decision—it’s also the environment.
According to Dr. Hyman, the popularity of olive oil hasn’t been great for the planet. “Intensive olive farming has led to widespread soil erosion and desertification (a process by which fertile land becomes desert) in Greece, Italy, Spain, and Portugal,” he wrote on Instagram. “In addition to destroying fertile lands, large olive producers rely on massive amounts of pesticides and other chemicals, which pollute waterways. Because olive production occurs on such a large scale to meet the growing demand for oil, it also puts a lot of pressure on water supplies.”
That’s why he says it’s better to purchase from companies that give you the best of both worlds—ones that are not only the most nutrient-rich, but also sourced from small farms well-managed production practices. And Amy Gorin, RDN, a plant-based registered dietitian in the New York City area, agrees.
“Extra-virgin olive oil is the highest quality olive oil you can buy. It has excellent flavor and odor and a free fatty acid content. It also has a lower level of oleic acid than other types of olive oils,” she says. “When you’re purchasing olive oil, you can buy fair trade olive oil and also purchase your oil from a company that enforces sustainable growing practices. You also want to make sure that the oil is low in pesticides and chemicals.”
The next time you go shopping, these are the best olive oils to buy, according to Dr. Hyman and Gorin.
The the best olive oils for your health and the planet, according to experts
California Olive Ranch uses 100 percent drip irrigation to use as little water as possible, as well as focuses on efficient land usage: They grow 675 trees per acre instead of 125 per acre in a traditional olive grove. This olive oil is made from 100 percent California-grown olives and is said to have a “floral, buttery, and fruity aroma” with hints of green apple.
Gorin loves Gaea because of the extra steps the brand takes to help out the planet. “This brand of olive oil makes a commitment to measuring and counterbalancing carbon emissions of its olive oil production,” she says. “It’s extra-virgin olive oils are certified as carbon neutral.”
Shop now: Gaea Fresh Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil
McEvoy Ranch produces its own organic compost from production by-products to enrich its soils, as well as uses drip irrigation and solar energy. The award-winning olive oil is certified organic and has a few prominent flavors you may taste in the mix: raw artichoke, slight green almond, tropical fruit, and green olive.
Corto strives to make its process as eco-friendly as possible, from the packaging designs to its harvesting methods. The olive oil tastes so fresh due to being harvested at peak season and sent through an on-site mill.
Shop now: Corto Truly 100% Extra Virgin Olive Oil, $25
Costco isn’t a small company by any means, but Dr. Hyman recommends this cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil that’s organic, kosher, and affordable. (The two-liter bottle is only $15.) Better yet, Costco made a sustainability commitment to maintain its carbon footprint growth to less than the company sales growth. When producing Kirkland Signature products, the company also stated its goal is that products are respectful of the environment in how they’re produced, grown, harvested, processed, transported, and packaged, and that’s done through traceability, a fair return in the supply chain, and thoughtful sourcing.
Shop now: Kirkland Signature Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, $15
This rich and flavorful organic olive oil comes straight from the Sacramento Valley. It’s said to be a great balance of bitter and peppery flavors. “The company makes an effort to prevent soil erosion and to naturally suppress weeds. It also uses solid byproducts as natural fertilizer,” says Gorin.
Shop now: Cobram Estate California Select Extra Virgin Olive Oil, $9
Bariani has a solid waste management system that focuses on recycling, creating animal feed, energy, and compost from food scraps and other organic products, as well as constantly rethinking its practices in order to preserve natural resources. As for the olive oil, the flavor is always a surprise, as it differs every year due to the company’s traditional extraction process. It’s organic, stone-crushed, and cold-filtered.
Shop now: Bariani Olive Extra Virgin Olive Oil, $15
This woman-owned and operated company only uses organic, fresh ingredients and focuses on sustainable practices all throughout its process. Also cool: The olive oil is made from small, green, and raw olives that produce less oil—and the perk in that is that they have super-high levels of phytonutrients.
Shop now: The Furies Organic Extra Virgin Greek Olive Oil, $24
These are the benefits of olive oil you should know about:
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