Store olive oil to avoid spoilage and maintain nutritional quality

Olive oil is has become known for its healthful benefits. Knowing how to store olive oil properly can preserve its nutritional value and avoid spoilage.

More and more people are cooking with olive oil these days. Olive oil is one of the healthier choices of oils. When compared to other common oils such as corn, canola or safflower, it has the highest level of monounsaturated fat. Unadulterated virgin and extra-virgin olive oils have a relatively high phenol content. Phenols are powerful antioxidants that remove body-damaging free radicals. Olive oil made through a cold-press process maintains the highest level of these phenols.

Though olive oil is a good choice, oils should be limited to two to three servings, one teaspoon each, per day, according to the American Heart Association. All oils have about 120 calories per tablespoon. Michigan State University Extension says that you want to be careful not to add additional oil to your diet, but instead substitute healthier oils for the less-healthy oils that are already being used.

Knowing how to store olive oil for maximum quality is important. When olive oil is exposed to oxygen, light, and heat, it may become rancid. Proper storage can prevent this. Industry experts recommend storing the oil at between 55 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit for best results. Storing it at the usual room temperature of about 70 degrees Fahrenheit is ok, but if your kitchen is routinely warmer than that, refrigerate the oil for best quality.

Refrigeration is best for long-term storage of all olive oils except premium extra-virgin ones. Consider keeping a small amount of olive oil in a sealed container at room temperature in your kitchen. This way, your olive oil is instantly ready to use. Tinted glass that keeps air and light out is an ideal container; avoid plastic, as the oil may leach harmful substances from it. Keep the oil in a dark place, away from the stove and other heat producers.

Put the remaining oil in the refrigerator, but remember that refrigerated olive oil will solidify and turn cloudy at cold temperatures. This does not alter the health benefits or nutritional value. Returning the olive oil to room temperature for a short time restores its liquid texture and color. You don’t want to “melt” the entire refrigerated supply of oil each time you want to use some, so another option is to refrigerate the olive oil in a wide-mouth glass jar. Even though it solidifies, you can easily spoon out any amount you need. Clear jars are fine for this purpose, as it is dark in the refrigerator most of the time.

Unlike wine, oil does not improve with age. As olive oil gets older, it gradually breaks down and the acidity level rises and flavor weakens. You'll get the best quality and flavor from your olive oil if you use it within one year of purchase.

For more information on nutrition, food safety or other issues of interest to families, contact your local MSU Extension office.

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