Olive Oil - Are You Being Scammed?
by Dr. Nadia Rizzo, ND
Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) has been used for centuries as a natural health remedy. With today’s unfortunate reality of our food industry, genetically modified organisms, and what goes into the process of industrialized farming, it is reasonable—necessary, even—to ask ourselves: “What the heck is in my olive oil?” Some companies mix olive oil with other chemicals or different oils, to save money in production. It is great that olive oil can serve as a supportive remedy for health concerns, but that doesn’t mean much if what you are putting on your salads isn’t actually 100% olive oil. When you are investing in an olive oil, you are investing in your health. The following are some things to consider before you make that purchase!
What To Ask About
1. The Farming
Are there pesticides used in the farming process of the olives? This may be hard to track—only the farmers know for certain. So when buying an olive oil, it helps to buy organic; there should be less pesticide use in an organic olive oil, compared to conventional olive oils.
2. The Source: Single Estate, SingleMilled
Some companies take several sources of olives and combine them together to make an oil. However, when buying an olive oil that comes from one single estate, as opposed to several different sources, it
is more controlled, which may mean better quality control, which can translate into a better quality product for you and your family, and optimized health benefits!
3. The Pressing
How soon are the olives pressed after being picked? If the olives are pressed the same day as being picked, the nutrition values tend to be higher, as the olives are not sitting around with time to ferment. Always ask for the last harvested batch—it is the freshest! The date of the harvest tends to be written on the bottle.
What to Look for in an Olive Oil
1. The Aroma
Try putting an olive oil into a glass and holding it between your two hands, warming it up; you should inhale a smooth, potent aroma of pure olive oil. If the oil doesn’t have a smell, if it smells metalliclike, or if the smell is not potent or is barely noticeable, that is not a good sign, as it may suggest that other substances have been added with the olive oil, diluting it and potentially compromising health benefits.
2. The Colour
A pure olive oil should have a slightly green colour to it.
3. The Taste
When you taste an olive oil, you should get a little bit of bitterness in the back of the throat after—a little zing of phenol antioxidants, letting you know they are there to help quench some free radicals in your body! If there is no taste to your olive oil, or you do not get that bitterness after swallowing, I would question the integrity and potency of the product.
4. The Bottle
The bottle your olive oil is stored in should be dark and made of glass. Glass is a better option than plastic, as chemicals from the plastic can leak through into your oil and be consumed. The darkness of the glass will help protect from any effects of sunlight which may lead to the oil becoming rancid or oxidizing. (No thanks!)
What to Look for in an Olive Oil
Now that you have a clear idea of what to look for in a good-quality product, let’s explore some of the potential health benefits that you may reap from consuming a quality extra virgin olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil has been used for centuries as a natural health remedy. It possesses the ability to potentially improve one’s health, when consumed on a regular basis.
In modern society, many factors—including diet, pollution, stress, medical conditions, and lifestyle habits—can increase oxidative stress within the body and lead to inflammatory processes, which can contribute to many pathological conditions, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and metabolic syndrome. As such, it is important to obtain good sources of antioxidant-rich nutrients, to help support the body and mediate inflammation. Extra virgin olive oil is a good source of antioxidants, and research supports that its consumption can lead to a decrease in inflammation. Even in a relatively healthy aging population, daily consumption of 4–5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil has been shown to help reduce total cholesterol and LDL, also known as “bad cholesterol.” As always, consult with your doctor or natural health practitioner before making a dietary change.
Olive oil is also an important source of polyphenols, shown to increase nitric oxide bioavailability. Nitric oxide acts as a vasodilator, an action that can support the lowering of blood pressure. Furthermore, olive oil—at a daily dose of two tablespoons—has been shown to be associated with improved endothelial function, which is implicated in atherosclerosis, a disease of the arteries, related to cardiovascular health.
A rampid epidemic in our society today, obesity, may also be another reason to include olive oil as part of our dietary regime. A hormone called “adiponectin,” which is thought of to be anti-inflammatory and found to help our bodies properly respond to insulin, tends to be suppressed in obesity. Despite the fact that this hormone is secreted from fat cells, it is actually present in higher amounts in nonobese, healthy individuals, whereas it is decreased in cases of obesity. Although it has been found that this antiinflammatory action can be suppressed in obesity, we may be able to find help from two constituents of olive oil—phenol hydroxytyrosol and the monounsaturated fatty acid oleic acid, both found to be anti-inflammatory in nature. By doing something as simple as adding a high-quality olive oil to our food, we may be able to help decrease the effects due to this downregulation of adiponectin thought to be present in obesity.
Aging, a highly popular area of concern—driving many of us to invest in expensive creams, facial treatments, and vitamin supplementation—may also be impacted by the effects of olive oil. Researchers have found a correlation between a decreased risk of severe photoaging and higher intakes of monounsaturated fatty acids from olive oil in both men and women. They also found that this association was not present when the monounsaturated fatty acids were coming from animal sources—dairy or meat. These findings may also be attributed to the fact that olive oil isn’t solely relatively higher in monounsaturated fatty acids, but is also low in polyunsaturated fatty acids, in addition to dairy products tending to be relatively high in saturated fatty acids. We see that the overall composition of olive oil may provide us with a greater advantage for health benefits, including a decreased risk of skin photoaging. Feel better—and look better—from the inside out!
With a clear understanding of what to look for in an olive oil, we are better able to make purchases that may be aligned with greater benefits for our wellbeing. Some evidence supports that this readily available product has potential to impact our health when it comes to inflammatory states, high blood pressure, some ill hormonal effects associated with obesity, and even photoaging of the skin! When you purchase a highquality extra virgin olive oil, you are not just investing in your culinary dishes alone; you are also investing in your health!