What does extra virgin olive oil mean?

In this brief guide, we will answer the question, “What does extra virgin olive oil mean?” and the difference between virgin olive oil and extra virgin olive oil.

What does extra virgin olive oil mean?

Extra virgin olive oil is the most reputable olive oil. Virgin olive oil is obtained through physical methods where the rules prohibit the use of solvents.

The olive oil which fulfills the conditions for direct marketing is classified as Virgin Olive Oil (VOO) or Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO). Such olive oils must be of high or acceptable quality, both on their sensory and physic-chemical characteristics.

The Standard needed for EVOO is the presence of the fruity attribute and the complete absence of sensory defects, and other physico-chemical characteristics such a free acidity below 0.8%. 

In contrast, the VOO admits the presence of sensory defects below 3.5 on a scale of 10, and 2% maximum acidity. (1)

What is the difference between virgin olive oil and extra virgin olive oil?

The main difference is in the acid levels. Virgin olive admits the presence of sensory defects below 3.5 on a scale of 10, and 2% maximum acidity. whereas extra virgin olive oil should have acidity below 0.8%. (1)

What do oleic acid levels in extra virgin olive oils indicate?

Oleic acid is a monounsaturated fatty acid found in olive oils. Higher oleic acid levels indicate longer shelf-life as the olive oil would be resistant to oxidation. It also indicates the nutrition content of the oil. Extra virgin oils contain oleic acid levels between 55% to 85%. (2)

What do free fatty acids levels in extra virgin olive oil indicate?

Extra virgin olive oil has a free fatty acid level below 0.8%. Free fatty acid levels below 0.4% indicate that the oil is of superior quality. Free fatty acid levels provide an indication of the condition of olives that were used for processing.

If the olives were unripe, damaged, or infested by pests, it would increase the percentage of free fatty acids levels in oil making them inferior. Overheating during production can also increase free fatty acid levels. (2)

What is the polyphenol content in extra virgin olive oil?

Polyphenols are a type of antioxidants present in higher amounts in extra virgin olive oil. Extra virgin olive oils contain around 100-250 mg/kg polyphenols. Oils containing the highest amount of polyphenols would contain a bitter flavor. (1,2)

Is extra virgin oil healthier than regular olive oil?

Yes, All VOOs are characterized for being obtained by mechanical processes (only washing, decantation, centrifugation and filtration) under specific thermal conditions which do not cause any alteration. 

Afterward, they are divided according to their acidity, which gives an idea of the content in free fatty acids based on the percentage of oleic acid. 

Lower acidity values guarantee a high-quality oil, showing it has been obtained from healthy olives and under ideal conditions making extra virgin olive oil healthier than virgin olive oil.(2).

What are the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil?

The bioactivities associated with EVOO are numerous, many related to its antioxidant capacity. 

The inclusion of EVOO in the daily diet supposes health benefits and helps to prevent the appearance of certain diseases such as heart and vascular, neurodegenerative, cytotoxic, metabolic and inflammatory diseases, among others.

This is mainly due to its content in functional compounds such as polyphenols, tocopherols, carotenoids, sterols, fatty acids, squalene, etc.

Its lipid fraction is responsible for protective properties on coronary, autoimmune and inflammatory disorders, granting anti-thrombotic and regulation effects of blood pressure.

Although in a smaller quantity, other compounds such as tocopherols or polyphenols are also present, which are associated with the powerful antioxidant and inflammatory activity of EVOO, among other qualities. 

It provides substances capable of preventing the appearance or development of diseases of various nature, from heart and circulatory diseases to metabolic disorders, including carcinogenic processes. (2)

How to store extra virgin olive oil?

You should store olive oil in a cool, dark place,  like a pantry with a door, a cabinet, or a refrigerator.

The most significant factors affecting the olive oil quality after processing and during storage are environmental: temperature, exposure to light and contact with oxygen

You should store your olive oil away from direct sunlight and heat. As sunlight and heat can increase the rate at which oil can go rancid or stale.

Olive oil starts to lose its characteristic flavor and aroma when it comes in contact with the air and sunlight owing to the oxidation reactions which can ultimately make it rancid. 

Therefore to seal the quality of oil for quite a long time we recommend you always close the lid/cap of the oil bottle as soon as you are done pouring the oil that you need to reduce the air exposure of oil. (3-5)

Other FAQs about olive oil which you may be interested in.

Can olive oil expire?

Can you replace vegetable oil with olive oil?


In this brief guide, we have answered the question, “What does extra virgin olive oil mean?” and the difference between virgin olive oil and extra virgin olive oil.


  1. Cayuela, J. A., Gómez-Coca, R. B., Moreda, W., & Pérez-Camino, M. C. Sensory defects of virgin olive oil from a microbiological perspective. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 43(2), 227–235. 2015.
  2. Jimenez-Lopez C, Carpena M, Lourenço-Lopes C, Gallardo-Gomez M, Lorenzo JM, Barba FJ, Prieto MA, Simal-Gandara J. Bioactive Compounds and Quality of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Foods. 9(8):1014. 2020.
  3. Natalie Butler, Lisa Wartenberg, Does Olive Oil Expire? Them. Healthline Media LLC. 2020.
  4. Gargouri B, Zribi A, Bouaziz M. Effect of containers on the quality of Chemlali olive oil during storage. J Food Sci Technol. 52(4):1948-59.2015.
  5. Sanmartin C, Venturi F, Sgherri C, Nari A, Macaluso M, Flamini G, Quartacci MF, Taglieri I, Andrich G, Zinnai A. The effects of packaging and storage temperature on the shelf-life of extra virgin olive oil. Heliyon. 2018.

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