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All Things Olive Oil

By Annette Demeny

What is Olive Oil? 

Olive oil is oil that has been extracted from olives, the fruits of the olive tree. Extra-virgin olive oil is considered to be the healthiest type of olive oil. It’s extracted using natural methods and standardized for purity and certain sensory qualities like taste and smell. It’s super important to purchase and consume only Extra-Virgin Olive Oil. Other oils are not 100% natural and through the cheaper production process, could be rancid and contain chemicals from treatment.

 

Health Benefits of Olive Oil

One of the biggest meta-analysis from Food and Science Nutrition Journal showed that olive oil actually leads to a distinct drop in blood pressure with no change in cholesterol or triglycerides. And at the same time, olive oil consumption will decrease triglyceride count and also increase HDL count. There’s also research on how a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil can cause a direct decrease in depression and mental health symptoms, decrease markers of inflammation, prevent heart disease and stroke, and decrease progression of rheumatoid arthritis. If that’s not enough, olive oil is associated with anti-aging and longevity.

What is it about the profile of olive oil that is causing all of these benefits? Well, the primary fatty acid that we find in extra-virgin olive oil is called oleic acid. It’s a monounsaturated fatty acid, one unsaturated bond or only one double bond in the chemical structure. When there’s only one double bond in the chemical structure of fat versus a polyunsaturated fat which has multiple double bonds, the one double bond makes that fat far less susceptible to oxidation, which contributes to the high stability of extra-virgin olive oil even under heat.

Beyond oleic acid, there are other compounds in olive oil that serve up incredible health benefits. They can act as cancer prevention agents, and also anti-inflammatory agents, and may play a role in reversing some cognitive disorders as well, things like dementia and Alzheimer’s.

 

What Should I Look For?

The number one thing to look for on a bottle is harvest date, not just an expiration date.  The finest producers always put the harvest date proudly on their olive oil. The use-by date can be a little deceptive since it is usually 18 months from bottling, rather than from harvest. You want to look definitely for dark glass bottles or dark bottles.

When storing your oil, place your bottle out of sunlight and somewhere cool, perhaps a pantry. Use your oil! When you have fresh oil, you want to use it up within six months. Don’t purchase big jugs that you will most likely not use for months or even a year. Don’t be afraid to cook with extra-virgin olive oil. It is perfectly stable up to about 420ºF.  Remember…light destroys olive oil, time destroys olive oil, and temperature destroys olive oil.

 

5 Great Ways to Use Olive Oil

  1. Make a salad dressing
  2. Drizzle over your avocado toast
  3. Make a dipping sauce
  4. Toss on roasted veggies
  5. Use for skin care 🙂

 

Extra-virgin olive oil is such a simple change and it can become the backbone of your healthy cooking. Enjoy!

 

References

Ben Greenfield podcast

Science database of olive oil research

 

SFY Recommends

Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club

 

 

Share a recipe that you’ve used fresh extra-virgin olive oil! 

 

 

 

 

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