Have you ever wondered why it's so hard to find a great tasting extra virgin olive oil? I did until quite recently when I discovered a confidence game that’s been going on for years. Let me tell you about it. A worldwide adulteration of olive oils has been taking place for years. Extra virgin oils are being diluted, contaminated, and filled with additives, which destroy their taste, texture, and health value to those of us who buy them. Between 75% and 80% of all extra virgins oils sold in the United States as well as 50% of brands sold in Italy and elsewhere do not even meet the legal standards required for them to be labeled “extra-virgin.” They are being fraudulently diluted with poor quality oils and other substances from North Africa and elsewhere. As a result, many bottles labeled "virgin olive oil" contain very little olive oil. Instead, they are filled with seed oils like sunflower, peanut, and canola as well as liquid fats. These counterfeit oils are then deodorized using chemicals and heat to take away the rancid smells they carry. These processes kill off the magnificent taste of genuine extra virgin olive oil. They destroy this oil’s health-giving properties.
Scientists at University of California, Davis collected 186 extra-virgin olive oil samples from different countries found on the shelves of retail stores in California. Seventy-three percent of these failed to pass an authenticity and valuation test. They’d been doctored with cheaper oils, filled with omega-6s like corn, soya, and peanut oil. They’d been exposed to high temperatures, light, and aging. Some had developed processing flaws because of improper storage and their having being filled with over-ripe olives. With all of this going on, how can anyone find a true, top-quality extra virgin olive oil? We’ll look at this in a moment. In the meantime, there’s some wonderful breaking news about extra virgin olive oil—the real McCoy—that you will want to know about.
For many years scientists had assumed that olive oil’s greatest value comes from its high content of monounsaturated fatty acids. For half a century these people continued to promote the value of one particular monounsaturated fat—oleic acid—on the grounds that it can increase high density lipoprotein (HDL), known as "good" cholesterol, and decrease low-density lipoprotein (LDL) believed to be "bad" cholesterol. They were so in love with this assumption that they even experimented with it by feeding people pure oleic acid on the assumption that this would do the same thing. Their experiment failed.
Here’s the great news. Intelligent new research has discovered the greatest health benefits we get from a fascinating other source—namely, from the polyphenols that top-quality extra virgin olive oils contain.
How much do you know about polyphenols? These are naturally occurring compounds in fruits, vegetables, tea, wine, and cocoa as well as in extra-virgin olive oil. Polyphenols are secondary metabolites of plants, which plants themselves rely on to protect themselves from UV radiation and attacks from pathogens. They have marvelous benefits for fighting disease. So far more than 8000 polyphenolic compounds have been found in common plant species.
We now know that monounsaturated fatty acids, which were once believed to be of great benefit to us, come nowhere near close to matching their health-enhancing benefits. However, polyphenolic compounds improve LDL density, increase HDL functions, reduce LDL oxidation, and even enhance blood. So it is they that make unadulterated extra virgin olive oil such a blessing for our health and our enjoyment.
Anti-inflammatories, free-range scavengers, and some polyphenols also carry heart-protecting and anti-carcinogenic properties. They enhance the availability of nitric oxide. This helps prevent the lipid oxidation associated with atherosclerosis. Recently, many studies have indicated that polyphenols can work together to protect against diabetes, endothelial dysfunction, neurodegenerative illnesses, osteoporosis, and many other long-term diseases. And they bring these gifts without creating any known side effects. It's also polyphenols that create top-quality extra virgin olive oil’s unique spicy-peppery and fresh-fruity taste. Their presence even improves the shelf life of top-quality olive oils and helps protect them from rancidity. Try frying top-quality extra-virgin olive oil together with water and see how it goes. This not only preserves the initial antioxidant value of the food you’re cooking; it can even boost a food’s antioxidant content. Finally, if you want to know what polyphenols feel and taste like, then put a tiny bit of top-quality extra-virgin olive oil in your mouth and wait a few moments. You’ll experience a tingling at the extreme back of your throat. This is a sure-fire indicator that the olive oil you are testing is rich in polyphenol. Go for it!
How do you find a truly top-quality extra virgin olive oil you can trust? It can take some serious searching, but here are two brands that I personally trust, which you might consider.
The first is Life Extension’s California Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil
. Authentic, unadulterated, and organic, it is grown by a small family in Yolo County California. It is made from handpicked green olives within hours of harvesting. It has also been tested and found to be extraordinarily high in polyphenols—in fact, more than 600 mg per kilo.
The other that I use all the time myself is Bionaturae Extra Virgin Olive Oil
, which comes from Northern Italy and is based on five varieties of Italian olives grown on a small family farm where olives ripen more slowly. Within 24 hours of hand harvesting these olives are pressed at a century-old frantolio where expertise and passion have transcended three generations. Of course all the olives are cold pressed, at temperatures no higher than 27 degrees Celsius.