The Truth About Olive Oil

It’s no secret that out of all the healthy fats we can choose from, olive oil is most definitely high up on the list. It forms the basis of the mediterranean diet, the most studied diet in the world. But did you know that within the olive oil industry there is a lot of corruption? During my recent trip to Greece and a tour around an olive oil farm, I learned about one simple number you can check, that will ensure you are not only getting what you pay for, but can be the difference between helping or harming your health.
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Olive Oil Brands

Ok, so today I have a powerhouse tip. Sometimes there are just these little facts that can really move the needle on our health. Now, I do want to say that while I am speaking about the physical body here, we must remember always that if we want to have a sense of wellbeing, we must first be being well. Beingness comes from a balanced mind, and there are few better ways to achieve that than through meditation. So while I am talking about the body here, I want you always to remember that first and foremost it is our mind, our spirit, that shapes our wellbeing.

But let’s talk about olive oil. Why olive oil? It’s one of healthiest fats in the world and makes up a large part of the diet in many of the healthiest and longest living people in the world, such as the Blue Zones. You can learn all about the 9 Pillars of Longevity from the Blue Zones in my Longevity Series which is from episode 40 to 49. It’s made up of mainly monounsaturated fatty acids, of MUFA’s as some call them.

And if you are a like me, your body may be setup genetically to run better on MUFA’s, so getting a high-quality source is essential. If you want to learn about your genetically preferred fat source, the best DNA test to do is called Smart DNA.

The main MUFA in olive oil is called Oleic acid which has been proven to fight free radical damage or oxidative stress, which in this modern day and age is uber important. There are also biologically active compounds which have a powerful effect on cellular function, inflammation and antimicrobial activity.

Olive oil has been proven to protect your heart health, help fight cancer, support weight loss, brain health, balance hormones, increase your mood, slow ageing, reduce the risk of diabetes and is associated with a lower risk of breast cancer.

In a nutshell, if you are not using olive oil as a fat source in your diet, then now may be the time. Or you can just eat olives if you prefer a whole food source. Whatever floats your boat. But I love me some olive oil. I usually use around 2-3 tbs at lunch and dinner.

When I was in Greece recently I visited an olive oil farm and learned some pretty amazing facts which to be honest, I couldn’t believe I didn’t know. First of all it’s important to know some olive oil 101…

Cold Pressed and First Pressed

Back in the days of the original olive oil press, you would have a donkey or a few strong men, hitched to a grindstone and walking around in circles crushing the olives. You would then take that crushed up mushy mix and put into special hand woven sacks that would be stacked on top of each other under a heavy plate which you would start to press down and squeeze using a winch which you turn. That is where ‘first press’ comes from and it yields the richest and healthiest oil.

If that oil is kept below 27 degrees celsius, then it is considered ‘cold pressed.’ If the temperature exceeds that point, it starts to oxidise too much, become rancid and destroy the healthy properties, and is not considered cold pressed. Make sense?

The thing is, nowadays in modern processing facilities, all olive oil is first pressed and cold pressed, so it’s pretty much just a marketing term.

This also leads me to another critical point; don’t cook with olive oil. You can hear more about fats in episode 66, Don’t Eat This Fat. But for now, think of most fats as a dressing, not for cooking. This is especially true for olive oil;, which even though it does have a higher smoke point that many plant based oils, do we really want to be pushing something to the point of smoking before we deem it unsafe? Definitely not. We want our foods in the most natural form possible, and when it comes to fats this is even more important.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)

Now let’s talk about the real numbers that matter, and what you need to look out for when buying olive oil. This is what will determine whether an oil is in fact EVOO, or just ‘virgin’ or ‘light’ olive oil. I had heard before that the olive oil industry does have some shister’s and shams who market their oil as Extra Virgin when it can in fact not be anywhere near that. This is a shame because olive oil can be expensive and we want to know if our money is being well spent. But more important is that anything other than true EVOO is very damaging to your health.

To be true EVOO, an oil must have an acidity of equal to or less than 0.8%. Anything over that is not EVOO and should be avoided. I also learned that one reason for higher acidity is that olives can have a specific insect that lays eggs in the olive, and when pressed, this extra protein causes the higher acidity. These lower quality olives are sold off and usually pressed as a cheaper type if oil, but not always. The problem is that most bottles don’t have this information on their label. So you need to do some digging. You can look online but it’s not easy, actually it’s rare to find. So you can call the companies and ask.

Keep in mind that olives are a very hardy plant, and don’t need herbicides and pesticides to be healthy, so in many cases you may find a local oil that is simply not certified. So don’t let that stop you from finding a non-organic gem, but to be safe I will always recommend organic.

I truly believe this is one of those simple tips that can shift things in your life. Imagine not knowing this and consuming inflammatory olive oil, thinking you are doing the right thing? That’s just damn annoying. Whether you are vata, pitta, kapha or any combination of these body types, healthy fats are essential. So let’s make sure we are getting the very best for our beautiful earth suits. Deal?

I would love to hear from you, so please tag me @iamnickbroadhurst on social media. Please also leave me a comment below (I read every single one!). And if you could take a minute to leave me a review on iTunes I would be very grateful. Tell me what you want more of! I am at your service.

P.S. Always listen to your intuition (and your doctor or practitioner) before trying any new health practice.

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