A few years ago,there were only  3 brands of olive oil that were available on supermarket shelves in Nairobi, that was unless you knew about the Italian convenience store in Valley Arcade ,New ItalyCor , where there was more variety and not just of olive oil but a lot of Italian food products and wine.

At my last visit to a local chain of supermarkets  I counted  at least 8 different brands and was surprised to see a brand that is bottled  locally.

There has been a rise in the demand for olive oil as people are becoming more aware of its benefits.

If you visit beauty stores and if you have been following the natural hair movement you will have noticed  that a lot of people swear by olive oil for both their hair and skin as well.Olive oil forms part of a daily regimen that helps keep hair especially nappy hair moisturized and healthy as its chemical structure that makes it easier to get absorbed into our  hair follicles.

When my son was younger and suffered from bouts of eczema,I got tired of the steroid  cream we were using and resorted to using the extra virgin  olive oil from my pantry.It worked beautifully  as it easily blended and melted into his skin leaving a lovely  and healthy glow .

Now along with this  phenomenal popularity in the use of  olive oil,there has emerged a counterfeit market where blends of olive oil are being sold as the real thing and it is going  for astronomical prices.This counterfeit industry is not new and has gone on for years and it is estimated to be worth billions of dollars.

Actually ,if you can, get this book Extra Viriginty:The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive oil .

Why the rise in counterfeit versions of olive oil?

Because olive oil has for millennia been known for its health benefits like ,you can read up on a previous article I wrote on why olive oil has been revered for millennia.

And because it is grown in very few countries,it has become hard to meet the demand and a few unscrupulous individuals have found a way of selling of blends of low quality olive oil or even vegetable oil and touting them as the real thing.

Some of the health  benefits of olive oil that make it such a sought after commodity are :

1.It helps in lowering bad cholesterol because it is high in monounsaturated fats.

2.It has been known to improve digestion,metabolism and prevent aging.

3.Can help in weight loss because  its high in monounsaturated fats .

Even with these health benefits,it is recommended not to consume  more than 2 table spoons of olive oil because of  by its nature  being an oil,it is high in calories.

How can you tell  real olive oil  from fake  olive oil?

1.When buying olive oil,be sure to check the label to know where the olive oil comes from.On some bottles you may find that the olive oil has been blended from oils from Italy and Spain.Some of it just says product of Italy.

The real olive oil however should state from what region of Italy it comes from.The more information provided on the bottle,the more likely it is that it is the real thing and the more expensive it will be.

2.Do not buy any olive oil in a plastic bottle.Olive oil is stored in dark colored glass bottles usually gree on brown to protect it from UV light which degrades it..

3.Be on the look out for labels such as light olive oil,pure olive oil or just plain simple olive oil.When the oil is labelled extra virgin olive oil,it means it has come from the first pressing of the olives and color range of the oil is from yellow to deep green depending on the type of olives the oil was harvested from.

4.Check the dates for when the olive oil was produced.Ideally the best olive oil is one that has been newly harvested ,unlike wine olive oil does not get better with age and olive oil should not be stored for long.If your bottle as a harvest date then you can be sure you are getting the real deal ,as  it is bottled without any preservatives,good olive oil should keep up to two years though the idea is to use it up  as soon as you get it in order to make most use of the flavors.

Locally in Kenya,I have found that the best brands are Olitalia and Pietro Coricelli.

Recipe ideas:Drizzling some olive oil over some toasted bread topped with  cheese , tomatoes and a dash of black pepper … absolutely delish.

If you love sun dried tomatoes,soak them in olive oil and use them in your vegetable  sandwiches,….our taste buds will be in heaven!

It is also great when added to a warm bowl of pasta or for your salad dressings.

If you are planning to buy olive oil for your hair or skin,both of these brands that I mentioned above are excellent choices .