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 refers to olive oil that has less than 0.8% acidity. Extra virgin olive oil is prepared without the addition of chemicals or excessive heat.

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

The main difference is in the acid levels. Virgin olive oil’s acid levels have an acidity value below 2% whereas extra virgin olive oil should have acidity below 0.8%. There are a few chemicals added to virgin olive oil compared to extra virgin olive oil.

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%.

What do free fatty acids level 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.

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.

Polyphenol content in olive oils reduces over time. It is recommended to consume and buy fresh extra virgin olive oils to obtain maximum benefits.

Is extra virgin oil healthier than regular olive oil?

Extra virgin oil does not undergo excessive processing. This helps in the retention of essential nutrients and antioxidants. Olive oil, on the other hand, undergoes processing and is exposed to heat which could lead to loss of nutrients.

What is the peroxide value in extra virgin olive oil and what does it indicate?

Extra virgin olive oil should have a peroxide value below 20. Peroxide value below 12 indicates a superior quality of extra virgin olive oil.

Peroxide value would depend on the processing and storage conditions of the olive oil. The unsaturated free fatty acids react with oxygen to form peroxides. This contributes to the development of free radicals that result in the rancidity of the oil.

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

How to ensure that the extra virgin oil is original?

  • Extra olive oil should have the certification from the International Olive council and should pass the parameters set by them. You can read more about the parameters set by them here.
  • Extra virgin olive oil would be costlier than refined or virgin olive oils.
  • Extra virgin olive oils should come in dark green or black glass bottles as sunlight can break down the composition of the olive oil.
  • Look for the harvest date or best by date in the bottle of the extra virgin olive oil. Good olive oils would last for at least 18 months.

How to store extra virgin olive oil?

  • It is essential to reduce the extra virgin olive oil’s exposure to light and oxygen. Avoid storing the bottles close to sunlight or near a glassy window. Also, avoid storing the olive oil close to warm equipment like the oven. 
  • Store the oil at a temperature of 60 to 75℉.  You can also store the oil in the refrigerator. This could be ideal especially during the summer season. While removing the oil from the refrigerator for later use, cool down the oil at room temperature as it tends to solidify.
  • Do not store the olive oil in iron bottles, copper bottles, or transparent plastic bottles as a chemical reaction can break down the oils. The olive oil should be stored in an airtight container having a proper lid. 
  • Avoid buying olive oil in bulk as the polyphenol and antioxidant levels would reduce over time.


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.



Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.