The Mob Stole Your Virginity: Olive Oil and Health

olive oil baby funny

You may have been unwittingly deflowered by the mob. Specifically, they may have corrupted the virginity of your extra virgin olive oil.  Chances are the olive oil in your pantry is not the real McCoy and more likely a phony imposter.  A report in 2010 from UC Davis noted 69% of all imported extra virgin olive oils are not what they claim to be.  I hate to break it to you but if you buy your olive oil on the cheap, the prospects of getting duped are even greater.  Even more frustrating is the fact that spending an arm and a leg on organic “extra virgin first press olive oil (EVOO)” imported from Italy doesn’t guarantee authenticity.

Why should you care?  EVOO is very good for you and what the thieves are replacing it with is not. In some cases, it may contain other ingredients that are toxic like banned food colorings or industrial lubricants not made for human consumption.  Less healthy cheaper oils like soy and corn oils are the most commonly used adulterants. Move over Scarface, because experts believe the fake olive oil business is as profitable and considerably less dangerous than the cocaine trade.

If you do find the right stuff, don’t bother with anything less than organic extra virgin first/cold press olive oil.  It is abundantly healthier and better tasting than the promiscuous chemically manipulated counterpart. By law, EVOO cannot be treated with chemicals and/or other types of processing like what conventional olive oil is subjected to.

Strange and Interesting Olive Oil Research: A 2013 human study showed the aroma of olive oil reduced participants daily caloric intake by 200 calories.  And the people that were permitted to eat it daily (for a 3 month period), showed higher levels of appetite suppressant hormones in their blood and reported greater levels of satiety.

Extra Virgin First /Cold Press Olive Oil Health Facts:

  1. Eating a Mediterranean diet high in EVOO (more than 4 Tbl per day) has been shown to reduce heart disease and death from a cardiac event up to 30% more than those eating a low-fat diet.
  2. EVOO is full of polyphenols (non-EVOO has very little), a type of antioxidant that helps protect your cells from damage and have great anti-inflammatory properties.
  3. It is full of monounsaturated fats (omega-9 fat and some omega-3 fat) which can help lower your cholesterol specifically the LDL  (the bad kind) and control insulin levels in the body.
  4. EVOO monounsaturated fat content (specifically, its high level of oleic acid) has now been determined to be a mechanism linking olive oil intake to decreased blood pressure.
  5. Researchers found EVOO is much better at lowering inflammatory markers in the blood when compared to non-EVOO.
  6. Numerous polyphenols in EVOO have been shown to slow the growth of unwanted bacteria, including bacteria commonly responsible for digestive tract infections (E-coli and Salmonella) and ulcers.
  7. EVOO contains one of the highest levels of CoQ10, an antioxidant that is known to be highly effective at protecting the heart and fighting chronic inflammation.
  8. Olives and EVOO consumption are linked in epidemiological studies to significant decreases in cancer rates specifically breast and prostate.    

Heating EVOO over high heat may not be in your best interest, however the research is unclear. High temperatures of approximately 300-325 degrees Fahrenheit and above may cause your olive oil to smoke which may emits harmful compounds when breathed in…not a big worry unless you are standing over the stove and doing this on a regular basis.  More importantly, heating olive oil over high heat may strip it of many powerful nutrients, change its flavor for the worse and possibly cause oxidative damage.  Pouring it on salads and adding it to dishes like sauces and stews at the end of the cooking process is a good way to keep the healthy nutrients locked in.

olive oil and olive oil cartoon
Which one is real?

Unfortunately, it is quite difficult to determine if you are buying and using real EVOO.  Here are a few tips to help you:

  • Stick it in the fridge for a 24-48 hrs. If it begins to solidify, you might have yourself a bottle of true extra virgin olive oil. This shows a high amount of monounsaturated fat but other oils do too (some of these cheaper varieties are common adulterants).  If the oil stays clear and fails to solidify it is a fake.
  • Taste it! Most extra virgin olive oils have some bitterness and many also produce a peppery tickle at the back of your throat. Outstanding EVOO displays a harmony of olive fruitiness, bitterness, and pepperiness. Apparently, the mob’s been faking it so long, that even most so-called “experts” can’t tell a real olive oil from a fake based on taste alone. So good luck.
  • Burn it.  EVOO will keep a kerosene lamp burning for hours (but so will other high monounsaturated fats).
  • Grow your own olive tree and or get to know a farmer who produces it.
  • Send your oil to an independent lab to test its purity.  You are a pretty hardcore foodie if you choose this option.
  • If you see one of these certifications “DOP” (Denominazione d’Origine Protetta), “AOC” (Appellation d’Origine Controlee), or “DO” (Denominacion de Origen) on an olive oil bottle from Europe, it is generally considered to be more authentic.
  • Apparently, the Californian Olive Oil Council is less fraught with scandal and fraud than the European Union.  If you are interested in buying American EVVO look for the independent Californian Olive Oil Council Certification (COOC).
Don’t buy “extra light” olive oil, which has just as many calories but none of the health benefits of extra virgin, as well as also being highly refined.
 
 

Some Last Notes:

  • Don’t buy “light” olive oil which has just as many calories, none of the health benefits of EVOO and is highly refined.
  • Check the date on the bottle and make sure you use it within 18-24 months.
  • Keep the EVVO in a dark pantry with its lid on tight.
  • Do not buy olive oil in clear glass or plastic containers which impact the oxidative stability.
  • As tempting as it is to keep it next to your stove, the heat will degrade the nutrients and lead to rancidity.
  • Replacing full-fat oils and other foods with low-fat alternatives tend to leave people unsatisfied to the point of overcompensation of calories.  Stick to the full-fat foods your grandparents ate, it is probably better for you.

Disgusting But True:

If you ever so unlucky to have a cockroach climb into your ear canal for a nap,  you can pour some warm olive oil (or mineral oil) into it to get it out.

 

Sources:

1.The New Yorker: Letter From Italy: Slippery Business
2. Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil by Tom Muelle

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