Here is a scandal in the olive oil industry, and if you use olive oil, you need to know about it. It’s always advisable to substitute healthy olive oil in place of the toxic refined oils typically available in the supermarket. Here is the problem: not all olive oils are created equal. Only real olive oil will provide all the health-promoting benefits of olive oil, and trying to find real olive oil is like looking for a needle in a haystack.
Olive oil has been part of the human diet for more than 5,000 years. Millennia of human experience as well as modern research indicate that olive oil is beneficial to health, and can safely be included in our diet. In fact, olive oil has been singled out as a key contributor to the health of the Greek centenarians. To preserve the same health benefits that these Greeks received, modern oil must be produced in a manner that does not damage the oil’s nutrients.
Unfortunately, most commercial olive oil is processed in a manner that damages its nutritional content, and this is only the beginning of the problems with it. Most of the olive oil on the market today does not duplicate what our ancestors were eating, and frequently people are not getting what they think they are buying. Almost all olive oil is processed and diluted in ways that result in the loss of nutrients, which are essential to health. Olive oil is almost unique among the oils, in that it can be consumed in its crude form without refining. Not refining the oil has the benefit of conserving the vitamins, essential fatty acids, antioxidants, and other nutrients. The powerful antioxidants, in real extra virgin olive oil are beneficial to health and protect us from damage caused by free radical oxidation.
Cell membranes contain fatty acids that are highly susceptible to free radical damage. This damage produces lipid peroxides that can kill the cell. Real olive oil contains antioxidants (polyphenols, vitamin E, and other natural antioxidants) that prevent this type of damage. Numerous studies show that olive oil reduces cholesterol, lowers blood pressure, inhibits platelet aggregation, and lowers the incidence of breast cancer. Because it is so rich in antioxidants, olive oil appears to dramatically reduce the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, thereby preventing heart disease. These same natural antioxidants also add to the stability, shelf life, and flavor of the oil.
Historically, high quality olive oil, rich in antioxidant ts, was easy to obtain, but not any more. Today, high quality oil is almost unobtainable. One has to seek out the small family-owned farms, where the oil is literally produced in ways similar to the Greeks and Romans. On these farms, organic olives are picked by hand so as to not damage the skin or pulp. They are transported in well-aerated containers and milled within 48 hours of harvesting. Before milling, leaves and twigs are removed; the olives are washed, dried, and then crushed. The oil is separated from the olive paste without the use of heat, hot water, or solvents, and it is left unfiltered, as filtering also re moves many nutrients. The first pressing produces the best extra virgin oil.