World’s oldest Olive trees are found in Greece with estimated age between 2000-3000 years old. Drought tolerance, disease and fire resistance has contributed to their longevity.
We toured the The Governor Olive Mill on Corfu, Greece. This particular farm grew the olive variety Lianolia, native to Corfu. It has the reputation of producing an exceptional quality extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) with unusually rich content of beneficial polyphenols. Harvesting begins in early October, usually within a 3-week window, and the pressing of the olives must been under 24 hours. A fast harvest and processing time is needed to preserve the nutrients. Green olives have more beneficial compounds than the more ripe black ones.
During our tour, we learned 4 important facts about olive oil.
The beneficial olive oil compounds are destroyed by Heat, Oxygen and Light. Hence quality olive oil must be made by Cold press (versus chemical extraction and warmer temperatures). Extra virgin is defined by lower Fatty Free Acid (FFA)) content. The better Olive oils have a low acidity. . EVOO should have acidity of < 0.8% acid (Less than 2% is called virgin, 2% to 3% acid content is called “pure”). The highest quality oils have < 0.3% and this fact should listed on the container. As olive oil begins to degrade, the FFA content increases. To reduce the exposure to oxygen, the milling should to happen quickly ie < 24 hours. Finally the bottle or cantainer must be completely opaque. You should not be able to see the oil at all, meaning zero light exposure. Those dark glass bottles would not be good enough, if you are a purist.
Olive oil should not be used for cooking as heat destroys the health benefits. Also olive oil has moderate smoke point of 350 F degrees. This means Olive oil will start to create smoke at around 350 F (range 325-374 depending on the quality of the oil). When an oil started to create smoke, carcinogens start to form. I recommend if you have to fry with olive oil, do it at low heat, quickly and use a cheaper brand because you are losing the healthful nutrients anyway. Hence, heating olive oil means you are just using it for flavoring and not the health benefits.
Best to consume olive oil raw, uncooked such as in salad or with bread or directly in a spoon like a medicine. If you do the latter you need to remove from your diet some saturated fats or carbohydrate calories to remain calories neutral ( 1 tbsp EVOO = 120 cal). Also once the container of EVOO has been open, best to consume it within 30-60 days. With exposure to oxygen, EVOO starts to degrade.
A good EVOO should have a fruity smell (not rancid). It should taste slightly spicy, bitter and fruity. It creates a tingle in your mouth and throat as you swallow it.
When purchasing high quality Extra Virgin olive oil look for certifications of California Olive Oil Council (COOC) or North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA). Much better if it is organic and the acidity is listed on the container. Make sure your container is opaque such as in a can or a non see through glass bottle. In my local groceries stores, I could not find any with EVOO in opaque containers. Trader Joe’s had an organic Tunisian Olive Oil no the acidity is listed but there is a date. That date says expiration is 2 years form canning. Not sure if canning happened here in USA or Tunisia. EVOO should be consumed within 12- 18 months of harvest. So I cannot vouch for the quality of TJ’s EVOO but I will email TJ and ask what their date means and update you when I find out. The Governor EVOO is rather pricey in the USA but there are high quality EVOO from California. I will be ordering those once my supply from Greece runs out.
Now that you know what to look for in a top notch Olive Oil, here is a list of the health claims from from the The Governor Olive Oil Mill, specifically for their EVOO. We were told that they alone can make these claims because it was their oil that was used in several medical studies. On the tour, the owner showed us a binder full of medical studies where they supplied the oil.
The Governor EVOO, “Our premium olive oil has been subjected to exacting scientific testing, and has been found to contain extraordinarily high levels of polyphenols, with a rare concentration of Oleocanthal. These compounds are at the heart of our extra virgin olive oil’s benefits”.
The Governor extra virgin olive oil has been awarded a prestigious health claim report from 3 universities: The National Kapodistrian University of Athens, in cooperation with UC Davis Olive Centre; Hunter College, in cooperation with the University of New York; and the University of Louisiana at Monroe.
Health benefits of EVOO based of daily intake of 20 gr (1.46 tbsp) of Olive oil containing >5mg of Hydroxytyrosol, tyrosol or its derivatives:
Biological Properties of Oleocanthal:
Action against Alzheimer’s disease, osteoarthritis, inhibition of the cycloxygenase enzyme COX-1 and COX-2 , anti-cancer activity, prevents skin aging, antibacterial action. Researchers estimate that the amount of oleocanthal in 50 ml (about 3.4 tablespoons) of extra virgin olive oil exerts effects similar to 10% of the adult ibuprofen dosage for pain relief.
Biological preterites of Oleacin:
Antioxidantive action, anti-ageing action, anti-Inflammatory action
Biological properties of aldehydic form of oleuropein aglycon has protective effects against Diabetes
Oleic acid, the most prominent fatty acid in olive oil, has been found to reduce inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein, and beneficial effects on genes linked to cancer (30).
Keep in mind that chronic, low-level inflammation is usually fairly mild, and it takes years or decades for it to do damage.
EVOO protects against heart disease via numerous mechanisms (16):
- Reducing inflammation: Olive oil protects against inflammation, a key driver of heart disease
- Reduces oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol: The oil protects LDL particles from oxidative damage, a key factor in the development of heart disease
- Improves blood vessel health: Olive oil improves the function of the endothelium, which is the lining of the blood vessels
- Helps manage blood clotting: Some studies suggest that olive oil can help prevent unwanted blood clotting, a key feature of heart attacks and strokes
- lowers blood pressure: One study in patients with elevated blood pressure found that olive oil reduced blood pressure significantly and lowered the need for blood pressure medication by 48% (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29141571)
These benefits mirror the Mediterranean diet which is low in saturated fats and high in olive oil (mono-unsaturated fats)
With very low acidity (0.17%) – The Governor EVOO, Total phenolic compounds: 1.427 mg/Kg (Harvest 2018) – (CERTIFICATE OF ANALYSIS AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST)
One tablespoon (13.5 grams) of olive oil contains the following:
- Saturated fat: 14%
- Monounsaturated fat: 73% (mostly oleic acid)
- Vitamin E: 13% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Vitamin K: 7% of the DV
Given the biological effects of olive oil, it’s not surprising that people who consume the greatest amounts of it are significantly less likely to die from heart attacks and strokes.
In fact, the evidence is strong enough to recommend that people who have or are at a high risk of developing heart disease include plenty of extra virgin olive oil in their diets ( remember when you add calories to remove (esp the unhealthy ones) calories eslewhere) in your diet or you will gain weight.
Let every bite of food help you heal.