Olive oil is one of the most nutrient dense and effective foods on the planet. It is considered a healthy monounsaturated fat with multiple bioactive compounds. These compounds lead to a large amount of polyphenols and powerful antioxidant activity. However, with so many options to choose from at the grocery store, it can be difficult to know which is best for your shopping cart and your health.
Regularly consuming extra virgin olive oil can have multiple health benefits:
1. Extra virgin olive oil can reduce the risk of dying from disease.
A study 2022 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that consuming half a tablespoon or more daily reduced the risk of death from neurodegenerative disease, heart disease, respiratory disease and cancer.
2. Extra virgin olive oil is super fuel for the brain.
A study from Temple University found that when mice consumed a diet enriched with extra virgin olive oil, they performed better on memory and learning tests and had better synaptic connections between neurons in the brain. Other studies show similar brain health benefits.
3. Extra virgin olive oil is the enemy of chronic inflammation.
A recent meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials have assessed the effect of regular dietary intake of olive oil on three inflammatory markers: C-reactive protein, interleukin-6, and tumor necrosis factor alpha. All three characteristics were enhanced with regular consumption of extra virgin olive oil. Additionally, two studies have found similar mechanisms in extra virgin olive oil and ibuprofen. A study in the Journal of Neuroscience found that a compound in extra virgin olive oil called oleocanthal was responsible for both the anti-inflammatory benefits and the pungency that often leads to coughing when consuming sources containing the compounds. high phenolics. Another one study also indicated the role of oleocanthal as a powerful anti-inflammatory. These studies identify olive oil as a natural source of NSAIDs that may be a treatment option for chronic inflammatory diseases.
4. Extra virgin olive oil may play a role in reducing the risk of cancer.
Several studies show that the same compound found to reduce inflammation may also play a role in cancer cell death.
How to Choose the Best Olive Oil
The olive oil industry is not without controversy, and not all olive oils are created equal. Studies have shown that some olive oils can be adulterated with other oils, leading to the theory that a large percentage of olive oils are fake. A 2020 study breaks down the essential components of a quality olive oil: “It must be obtained by exclusively mechanical processes, its free acidity cannot be greater than 0.8%, it must not present sensory defects and it must possess a fruity taste.”
How do these guidelines translate to the grocery aisle? Here are some tips for buying the highest quality olive oil.
- Go only for the extra virgin. Look for labels that identify the oil as “extra virgin.” This means that the olive has not undergone any chemical treatment to extract the oil. The Extra Virgin label also implies that the olive has been pressed without heat (or, first, cold pressed).
- Choose options revealing the harvest date. Although not mandatory, the harvest date will give you a lot of information about freshness and quality. Most oils will also have a best before date or best before date (for unopened bottles) which will provide guidance based on when the oil was bottled. However, only the harvest date will indicate when the olives were removed from the olive trees and harvested. Early or first harvest means that the olives have been pressed before ripening. Although often the most expensive, an early harvest or first harvest produces the tastiest and highest nutritional quality option.
- Be selective about where your olives come from. The country or origin indicates where the olives were harvested. It will also show you if the olives come from one place or multiple places. Choose oils where only one country of origin is supplied. This ensures that all processes, from harvesting to pressing to bottling, take place in one place.
Bottle and time of use are important to maintain quality
Light, heat and oxygen will degrade taste and quality. Dark colored glass bottles (or UV protected glass bottles), metallic or opaque canisters, ceramic bottles with dispensers or stainless steel are all suitable options to maintain the quality contained.
Since all fats go rancid, you should consider the time that passes after you expose the olive oil to air, heat, or light. For these reasons, you will want to consume within a few months and purchase your oil within 18 months of the harvest date. The fresher the oil (which can be indicated by the harvest date), the greater the polyphenol activity.
What can consumers look for to ensure quality?
Certifications are voluntary but can help ensure that olive oil has the highest quality during harvesting and processing. The California Olive Oil Council, The North American Olive Association have quality certifications. You can also look for labels indicating the mill or the estate. Many smaller mills and estates will provide extensive information on their websites about their individual process to ensure quality.
How to use olive oil
Studies show that consuming at least ½ tablespoon to 4 tablespoons a day is the key to living longer. A larger amount will likely produce greater benefits. Olive oil can be used as a drizzle on vegetables or toast or as a finish to a cereal dish. It is often used in whole grain or bean-based Pasta as well. Cooking with olive oil is a great way to increase nutrient density and improve flavor. Saute vegetable and animal proteins or even use them in making chocolate and pastry shop. You can even drink a spoonful on its own.
Olive oil can help you live longer. It’s easy to incorporate it into a healthy diet, now you have the tools to choose the best options.