What is it?
Olive oil is the natural oil extracted from olives aka the fruit of the olive tree and is known for it’s ‘healthy fat’ composition. About 14% of the oil is saturated fat, 11% polyunsaturated (i.e. omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids (1)) and the predominant fatty acid in olive oil is a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid, making up 73% of the total oil content (2).
What are the health benefits?
Oleocanthal, a type of plant compound found in Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO), possesses anti-inflammatory effects so powerful that it is comparable to taking a small dose of ibuprofen but without the side effects (3). Inflammation can negate neuroplasticity (aka the ability for your brain to change and grow throughout your life) and even lead to things like anxiety and depression.
In addition, EVOO has some promising effects in studies conducted on Alzheimer’s disease. One of Alzheimer’s key features is a buildup of “beta-amyloid plaques” inside your brain cells.One study conducted in mice showed that a substance in olive oil can help remove these plaques (4)
According to a source written in the book ‘Genius Foods‘ (PS: great read), consuming up to a liter per week (yes, a LITER), can actually improve your cognitive function and ability to think clearly. Have a big presentation or exam? Eat some EVOO.
Remember how people used to tell you to go low-fat everything because fat is made up of a lot of calories? Sorry, but they were wrong. It’s now coming to light that the quality of your calories plays a much bigger role than the quantity. EVOO has been shown to block an enzyme in fatty tissue called “fatty acid synthase” which creates fat out of excess dietary carbohydrates (5). Additionally, it’s rich source of monounsaturated fat maintains the health of your blood vessels and liver, assisting in detoxification and downstream weight loss.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil is said to be one of the most nutrient dense and anti-oxidant foods on earth. Studies have shown that it has the ability to do everything from prevent cancer, treat bacterial infections, cure rheumatoid arthritis, and protect against heart disease. Olive oil is one of the main reasons that the Mediterranean diet is often recommended to those who are trying to up their health game. Take our tips below for purchasing and usage and you will reap all the benefits that this lovely oil has to offer.
How to Buy it?
There are actually some very important things to consider when buying olive oil. Fun fact: color actually does not matter at all when it comes to the quality of your olive oil (we were shocked by this one)! The best way to assess the quality of your olive oil is to do a little taste test. Rule of thumb: grassy over greasy, always. If you find yourself coughing after or feel a little burn in your throat, that is actually a good sign. The spicier the oil, the higher the concentration of oleocanthal that we talked about above.
In addition to the taste test, you should always ask questions. It is most important to know exactly how the olive oil was obtained from the olive. ‘Virgin’ olive oil is obtained from the olive only which do not alter the oil in any way and meets a set of chemical standards. Refined olive oil is obtained by treating low quality or defective virgin olive oil with the use of charcoal and other chemical and physical filters. An alternative phrase often used may be “pure olive oil”. You should also be aware that the term ‘olive oil’ by itself generally refers to a blend of refined olive oil and virgin olive oil (cause likely due to the restaurant wanting to save money)(5).
Rule of thumb is to try and have extra virgin olive oil on hand at home at all times. When you’re out to eat it may be worth asking but obviously you will have to pick and choose our battles.
How to Use it?
You can basically use it on everything! One tip to keep in mind: olive oil does not have a high smoke point which means it’s actually not a great oil to use on the pan or in your oven. If you’re going to roast, opt for avocado oil or coconut oil and use olive oil after the fact. We absolutely love dry roasting and sauteing veggies and adding olive oil on top afterwards. This preserves all of the nutrition and prevents chemicals from being released in the heating process.
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