How to Find the Best Olive Oil

By Lorena Drago, MS, RD, CDN, CDE

You ran out of oil. You have your grocery shopping list in one hand and you are armed with knowledge. Olive oil is the cardiovascular health darling. “It’s all I use,” says Magaly, one of my patients diagnosed with diabetes and high cholesterol levels. “It has no cholesterol,” she adds with an approving nod.  Olive oil has once again garnished attention following the results of the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet, the PREDIMED study. A 2014 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a Mediterranean diet supplemented with olive oil or nuts was as effective in reducing total body weight and improving the blood glucose level of individuals with type 2 diabetes.

Here are some shopping tips:

Know the real meaning of “Light olive oil.” Is it really light in calories? A teaspoon of olive oil has about 40 calories. A teaspoon of light olive oil has about 40 calories. The term “light” refers to the oil’s color, not the number of calories.

Produced in Italy vs. Packed in Italy: Know the difference! Most of the olive oil bottled in Italy originates from Spain, Morocco, and Tunisia. Unfortunately, some of the olive oil that is labeled “packed in Italy” or “Imported from Italy” may be mixed with soybean oils, which are much cheaper and less healthy.  Look for the Italian Protected Designation of Origin logo, “DOP” (Denomizanione di Origine Protetta) to ensure that the Italian olive oil was produced, processed, and prepared in Italy. Spanish and French olive oils have their unique national logo. When seeking good quality American oil, search for the California Olive Oil Council (COOC) and International Olive Council (IOC) certification.

Clear vs. Dark Bottles: The quality of extra-virgin olive oil is affected by heat, air and light. Extra-virgin olive oil contains more antioxidants than virgin oils. Buy olive oil in opaque containers, within 18 months from the bottling date and use within a month of opening.


California Olive Oil Council

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Lorena Drago, MS, RD, CDN, CDE is a registered dietitian, consultant and certified diabetes educator.


Lorena specializes in the multicultural aspects of diabetes self-management education and is an expert in developing culturally and ethnically-oriented nutrition and diabetes education materials. She founded Hispanic Foodways, which received the New York City Small Business Award in 2006. She developed the Nutriportion™ Measuring Cups that has the calorie and carbohydrate amounts of common foods embossed on each cup and the Nutriportion™ Hispanic Food Cards that have pictures and nutrition composition of common Hispanic foods.


Lorena served on the American Association of Diabetes Educators board of directors from 2006-2010, Chair for Latinos and Hispanics in Dietetics and Nutrition. She was Past President of the Metropolitan New York Association of Diabetes Educators in 2004. Lorena won the Diabetic Living People’s Choice Award in 2012.


She is the author of the book Beyond Rice and Beans: The Caribbean Guide to Eating Well with Diabetes published by the American Diabetes Association. She is a contributing author and co-editor of the book Cultural Food Practices and Diabetes, published by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and print communications chair for the Diabetes Care and Education Specialty Practice Group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Lorena’s new publication, The 15-Minute Consultation: How to Enhance Learning and Get Your Message Across Every Time will be published in 2014 by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Lorena has appeared on several national TV shows speaking about diabetes management, including The Early Show and dLife TV.


Lorena graduated cum laude from Hunter College of the City University of New York with a Masters of Science degree in Food and Nutrition, and received her BA from Queens College.

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