Can olive oil be harmful? The answer to that goes deeper than just yes or no (like almost any other product on the market). There are many things to consider when choosing an olive oil, and knowing how to use it properly to obtain the health benefits from it.
Ask any random person what the best oil to cook with is, and 99% of the time the response will be olive oil. I hear this all too often, especially when my clients first start to work with me. What surprises them the most is that this is NOT the safest fat to cook with, and can actually be harmful consuming in any way, if the right type of olive oil is not used.
Do NOT Heat!
Real olive oil is composed of mainly monounsaturated fats (usually 70-85% oleic acid). This particular fat is very delicate and unstable when exposed to heat. This means that the type of fat that olive oil contains, will change its molecular structure when heated to a fat that is rancid and harmful to your health.
Exposing olive oil to heat is not only a mistake many do at home in the cooking process, but most harm actually occurs in the manufacturing of olive oil from compression to heat extraction, filtration, and addition of other toxic ingredients. Most are mixed with cheaper, refined olive oil, often not from the same country and many times with another vegetable oil such as canola or soybean. It is then chemically colored, flavored and deodorized, and sold as “extra-virgin olive oil” to a producer.
In the News
An Independent test at the University of California in Davis reported that 69% of imported European olive oil (and a far smaller proportion of native Californian) sold as extra virgin in grocery stores on the US west coast were found to be fake. The New York Times revealed that “50 percent of the olive oil sold in America is, to some degree, fraudulent.” The Wall Street Journal reports, “American grocery stores are awash in cheap, fake extra virgins” and CBS News adds, “Consumers who think they’re buying one of the healthiest foods on the planet often get something very different.”
Uses of olive oil date back to 5000 BC. Traditionally it was not used in cooking as much as for other needs, perhaps due to animal fat being much more accepted and one of the only sources of cooking fat at that time. The Minoans used olive oil in their diet, as a cleanser instead of soap, as the base for scents and ointments, as a medicine, in tanning, for lighting and to protect delicate surfaces.
Olive oil was also used as medicine with Greek doctors. Hippocrates mentions 60 different conditions which could be treated with it, such as skin conditions, wounds and burns, gynecological ailments, ear infections and many others. Thus showing that olive oil has many different uses and health benefits other than just consuming it as food.
The Fridge Test
To test the purity of your olive oil, place it in the fridge to see if it solidifies. Many of the oils that are being mixed with real olive oil are polyunsaturated fats and do not solidify where real olive oil does. So if your oil does not harden, toss it, as you know for sure this is not a good quality oil to use. On the other hand, you still want to be cautious if it does harden; recently these rancid oils are being mixed with other olive oils that have been chemically altered to solidify as well.
Why Should You Care?
Beyond not getting a quality product and being deceived, consuming these fake and cheap oils can have severe consequences, such as:
-Excessive intake of Omega 6 fats- causing inflammation
-Free radical formation and cell damage, which can lead to increase aging, skin problems and many symptoms and diseases
-High risk for cardiovascular complications
Tips to help you purchase high quality REAL Extra Virgin Olive Oil:
1. Buy in small quantities, do not buy in bulk! Olive oil goes bad quickly, do not stock up.
2. Buy in dark, glass containers to keep light from oxidizing oil.
3. Always buy Organic and local if possible. Toxins are stored in fat cells!
4. Look for the words “cold pressed” and “unfiltered”.
5. Taste it if you can! Olive oil should taste bitter, pungent, spicy, and slightly abrasive. This ensures high levels of antioxidants. However, it should never burn the back of your throat. Avoid flavors such as moldy, cooked, greasy, meaty, metallic, and cardboard.
6. Look for “Extra Virgin”. Other labels such as “pure” or “light” oil, “olive oil” and “olive pomace oil” have undergone chemical refinement.
7. Try to buy oils only from this year’s harvest – look for bottles with a date of harvest. Try farmers markets or specialty stores- they usually let you sample.
8. Not a necessity but credible to see, PDO (protected designation of origin) and PGI (protected geographical indication) status on bottle.
Do you have any brands, companies, farms that you love purchasing your Olive Oil from? Share below and try some new varieties! Join the Wise Roots Facebook community for more health and food tips!