Where does olive oil comes from?
Primarily, Mediterranean countries such as Italy, Spain and Greece where it is available year round due to the favorable climate and soil. A good percentage of olive oil also comes from California where it is harvested in late August and the middle of November. Shimbo's organic extra virgin olive oil comes from a secluded family owned small farm in the southern California.
Olives are picked at a variety of times which impacts the flavor, smell and even color of the olive oil as does its area of origin. Extra virgin olive oil is traditionally viewed as the highest quality olive oil since the olives are picked at their peak freshness and are not left in the potentially harsh weather conditions for too long.
Once the olives are picked they are then pressed to produce the oil. You might be surprised to learn that a lot of companies cut these small corners and use chemical extraction processes that damage the actual oil or they will often mix the oil from fresh olives with rancid oils or cheaper oils such as canola and vegetable oil that are not even oil from olives!
What type of olive oil should I buy?
Traditionally the best type of olive oil available is extra virgin olive oil for reasons that we previously stated. It has the most natural extraction method and also has the highest standards for labeling in the United States.
Olive oil and Virgin olive oil is always available but those oils are often a waste of money. These oils have been extracted with chemicals and are often mixed with cheaper oils like canola or soybean oil. On top of that, the extraction process often reduces the healthy antioxidants founds in olive oil. Unless the bottle clearly states "extra virgin olive oil", you likely are buying a mix of regular olive oil, virgin olive oil and canola or soybean oil. Canola and soybean oil are opposite "bad" fats from the "good" fats found in extra virgin olive oil.
If you truly want the most benefits for your buck, I choose organic extra virgin olive oil since organic foods have been shown to retain their antioxidant levels more than conventionally raised foods. Plus you want to be sure you get top quality foods and the organic label ensures that.
What are the best ways to use olive oil.
Routinely most people don’t give too much thought into how they use their olive oil. The two main uses are either for greasing a pan before cooking meat or a drizzle over your salad. There are so many more uses for olive oil, especially organic extra virgin olive oil.
Personally, I’ve always mixed my extra virgin olive oil with a variety of herbs and spices such as basil and parsley for added flavor which I’ll then cook with or dip bread into. Most consumers are surprised to learn that olive oil can be used for moisturizing skin when directly applied in a lotion or as a high quality aftershave or a balm for chapped lips.
There’s even hair products containing olive oil these days. Who would of thought of that years ago?
Are there a lot of calories in extra virgin olive oil?
The calorie counting of every food often leads to unfair assumptions about olive oil. Yes, the majority of calories in extra virgin olive oil comes from fat but we’ll get into that in a minute. Per a 100 grams of olive oil you’ll find the following
13.8% Saturday Fat
73 % Monounsaturated Fat
72% of the RDA of Vitamin E
75% of the RDA of Vitamin K
While those are impressive “stats”, olive oil really becomes a food superstar when you look at the antioxidant content. Recent studies have examined these nutrients and found that they help fight a variety of diseases including heart diseases and cancer
When we talk about the benefits of olive oil we’re really talking about the oleocanthal and oleuropein, micronutrients found in olive oil which fight inflammation and cholesterol among other diseases.
The Diet Benefits Of Olive Oil
If you google “Mediterranean diet” you’ll find tons of information on this particular way of eating which promises life extension and fat loss . This diet includes eating lots of fish for their omega-3 content while minimizing starchy carbohydrates. The Mediterranean diet also encourages large amounts of olive oil and nut consumption for their health benefits. Believe it or not, this diet is not too different from my Physique Formula diet or many diets used in studies to reduce the risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases.
Anti-inflammation benefits of extra virgin olive oil.
TIME magazine recently featured a piece on how inflammation over the years can be a key component to many diseases including cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer's.
Studies on olive oil have found that oleocanthal is able to fight this inflammation, sometimes more effectively than ibuprofen.
Interesting enough, the study showed that roughly 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil per day has a similar effect to about 10% of the adult dose of ibuprofen.
Olive oil also contains oleic acid that has been found to reduce inflammatory signals such as C-Reactive Protein.
The take away is that olive oil not only fights high inflammation but can keep low grade inflammation, such as inflammation induced by training, low enough so that it may not damage your body.
Heart healthy benefits of extra virgin olive oil
Surprisingly, subjects in studies who use the Mediterranean diet exhibit less incidences of cardiovascular disease, which just happens to be one of the top killers in the world.
We can directly attribute some of the benefits of the Mediterranean diet to the healthy fat consumption in those regions. The antioxidants in extra virgin olive oil have been shown to fight cardiovascular disease on a few levels.
We’ve already discussed the anti-inflammatory benefits of EVOO and we know that olive oil helps to lower LDL or “bad” cholesterol while also pushing excessive cholesterol out of the body.
Olive oil helps to protect our blood vessels from the damage of plague, sugar and cholesterol and has been shown to help prevent excessive blood clotting which is key for preventing heart attack and strokes.
Yet another benefit from using olive oil is on blood pressure. Olive oil has also been shown to lower elevated blood pressure and bring high blood pressure into normal, healthy levels.
The brain boosting benefits of extra virgin olive oil
Recent research on brain function shows that beta amyloid plague builds up in the brain of individuals with Alzheimer. A recent study found that substances in olive oil help to flush those plagues from the brains.
The cancer fighting benefits of extra virgin olive oil
One of the telling signs of the Mediterranean diet is that certain studies show lower risk of cancer and the healthy fat content may be a key why. For starters, olive oil has been shown to reduce oxidative damage which has been linked to cancer growth and uncontrolled inflammation. Studies on mice has shown that the healthy antixodaints in olive oil may help fight cancer on the cellular levels.
Is Olive Oil Safe To Cook With?
Growing up in an Italian family I remember my grandmother cooking with olive oil. Then the internet comes around and you read articles talking about why olive oil might not be the best oil to cook with and it can magically turn from being very good for you to being very bad when exposed to high heats.
What’s the truth really? When oils and fats get heated, a few of their compounds can be transformed to potentially cancer causing compounds.Often times these carcinogenic compounds may contribute to lung cancer when inhaled. While I’m not telling you to run out of the kitchen, it is a fair warning.
The answer is to choose those cooking oil and fats that have a high smoke point and stability.
Let’s define those term.
Smoke Point- A temperature limit where fats and oil transform to smoke.
Cooking Stability- How slowly the fats transform when exposed to heat.
It is true that olive oil, being a double bonded fat, is very unstable when exposed to high temperature. Coconut oil, on the other hand, since it is just made up of single bonded fats, is very good to cook with. This is an assumption, however, as recent studies have shown that a monounsaturated fat, like olive oil, CAN stand the heat. It’s the polyunsaturated fats like soybean and canola oil that break up when cooked. Olive oil actually is very heat resistant and fine to cook with.
What many of these articles miss is that extra virgin olive oil contains high amounts of Vitamin E which fights free radical damage and can serve to protect olive oil under high heat.
We’ve already established that since olive oil is a monounsaturated fat with a high amount of antioxidants that olive oil is stable under high temperatures but what do the studies say?
For starters, olive oil has been tested under high heats for extended periods of time.
These high heat studies measured both the quality and nutritional components of the oil. Even when olive oil was under extreme heat for a long period of time, the olive oil maintained its quality and nutritional components.
A specific study used deep fryers to heat olive oil for 24 hours and concluded that the olive oil was “highly” resistant to oxidation with the extra virgin olive oil doing better since it has more antioxidants. Now imagine how good organic extra virgin olive oil would do!
A specific study heated olive oil at 356 degrees Fahrenheit for 36 hours and found that the antioxidants and Vitamin E did decrease but many of the vital compounds were intact.
A second study heated olive oil at 464 degrees Fahrenheit for 90 minutes and found that oleocanthal, one of the anti-inflammatory compounds in olive oil, was reduced by 19%.
People have confused the studies when the research concluded that polyunsaturated fats oxidized during high temperature. But it’s not the olive oil since the olive oil has antioxidants. The vegetables oils are the oils that become harmful when heated.
Some people point to this study that showed when you eat a meal with heated olive oil that oxidative markers were high in the blood compared to people who ate a meal with unheated olive oil. The key, however, is that the olive oil used was NOT extra virgin so who really know what was in the olive oil!
Can heating olive oil transform it to a trans fat?
The answer is NO. One study has shown that frying olive oil 8 times in a row had no meaningful impact on trans fat formation.
The question of smoke point has always been an interesting debate. Generally, when oil is heated it turns into numerous harmful and toxic compounds but since olive oil contains vitamins and antioxidants, many of those vitamins and antioxidants burn off and it is not the olive oil, in fact, that is oxidized.
Vegetable oils, since they have no antioxidants, readily transforms since the smoke point of vegetables oils is generally lower. Anyone that tells you that there is a definite smoke point temperature has no clue what they are talking about.
Does cooking with olive oil destroy the antioxidants?
As shown in studies, long term cooking does not transform olive oil into some nasty compound. Cooking with olive oil under normal circumstances is fine. Short duration heating does seem to reduce key compounds and long term heating does lower antioxidant levels but no research at this date shows that heating olive oil releases toxic compounds.
In conclusion, organic extra virgin olive oil displays numerous health benefits and should be a part of your daily diet. Short term cooking with olive oil does not appear to have any negative impacts on the oil quality and olive oil is a better decision than using vegetable oils.