5 Facts About Olive Oil You Probably Don't Know

According to the Mediterranean Diet and Health Conference

 

Wine and Meze board at our restaurant in Cargo Bristol.

Wine and Meze board at our restaurant in Cargo Bristol.

Every year there is a conference that takes place in Greece that discusses anything related to the Mediterranean Diet and Health along with their roles in every day life, their benefits etc.

Just think of it as a conference about everything natural, healthy and delicious that comes out of Greece. This year it took place in Chalkidiki, situated in North Greece, it included several guest professors from Harvard Medical School alongside several Greek researchers and University professors.

A big part of the conference was the numerous findings on Olive Oil; its uses and what should you know when buying and using it, and since here in the Athenian we proudly use extra virgin olive oil in a lot of our products we wanted to share with you!

 

1. Don't confuse other "healthy oils" with extra virgin olive oil

 

Not all oils are created the same. There are several cooking oils on the market that are rich in monounsaturated fats (as opposed to saturated fats) like sunflower oil, peanut oil, sesame oil and safflower oil, that are promoted and marketed as being healthy.

But as Dr. Magiatis notes, olive oil is not only a simple source of good fats: it contains monounsaturated fats but also unique minor compounds that can have a positive impact on health and most importantly can ONLY be found in extra virgin olive oil! So while other oils may be promoting themselves as heart healthy, the reality is that "only olive oil has antioxidants and other compounds that play an important role in health".

 

2. It's called extra virgin for a reason

 

                                                      Wouldn't that label seem a bit suspicious to you?

                                                      Wouldn't that label seem a bit suspicious to you?

Not very common here in the UK, but more so in countries that export a lot of oil, such as Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain to market their as such to hide the fact that are of lower quality than the standard local brand. It makes sense right? To get customers to pick a product that was imported from a different country you would need something to make you stand out, even if it meant to mislead them a bit.

More examples have “classico”, “extra light” and “pure” olive oils. These olive oils are not classic or extra light or pure.

They are in fact  low quality olive oils that have been refined physically and chemically to remove undesirable qualities such a free fatty acids and unpleasant flavor and odours.  

 

The word meze means a selection of dishes typically served as an appetiser, usually to be shared.

The word meze means a selection of dishes typically served as an appetiser, usually to be shared.

3. sealed Products that are made with olive oil

 

You may have thought that buying a pre-made olive oil vinaigrette or other ready-to-consume products made with olive oil are good for you.

However, all the compounds that make E.V. Olive Oil so good for you like oleocanthal, oleacein and the numerous antioxidants are very sensitive to water.  

So if those products ever did contain any real quantity of olive oil, it will most likely NOT have any beneficial qualities as they would have diminished long ago due to the long contact with water.

 

 

4. Yes you can cook with Extra Virgin Olive Oil

A very popular misconception is that olive oil is not so ideal for frying, as it has a low smoke point compared to sunflower oil or peanut oil. First let’s think about the Greeks and Italians in the 1960’s and 70's who were virtually cooking everything with olive oil, because that’s all they had (butter was back then a luxury) and they had the highest life expectancies in the world. But more specifically, extra virgin olive oil has a higher smoke point than many refined olive oils, it also contains the polyphenols that reduce the rate of oxidation.

Smoke point ranges at about 185 to 210 degrees Celcius. So unless you are doing industrial deep frying you will not reach the smoke point on your home stovetop. Of course as with most foods, heating will cause some loss of the antioxidants. And by the way if you are deep frying that often, maybe the oil you use is the least of your worries.

5. Big olive oil containers are not a good idea

I know, I know you found some 2 quart extra virgin olive oil at Costco at such a great price, but the reality is if you don’t use it somewhat quickly you are missing out on a lot of those antioxidants that are sensitive to oxygen. As Dr. Melliou mentions leaving a container with olive oil half empty for a long time can be detrimental to those protective compounds. Buy small bottles or alternatively empty the olive oil in small dark bottles and keep them closed so that the exposure to oxygen is minimal.