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really good for you?
There's been a lot of controversy lately over whether you
should or should not be cooking with olive oil. So, what’s the
story? What should we cook with and why? For generations,
household and professional cooks have used olive oil and even
extra-virgin olive oil. Culinary history coupled with a solid
track record can’t be wrong, so let’s look at the science behind
this wondrous oil and determine fact from fiction.
Words: DR. MARK HYMAN
Reporter: KRIS GUNNARS
Photography: SHUTTERSTOCK, MAURO PEZZOTTA
Many of my readers want to know:
Is olive oil good or bad for you?
All oils are made up of different types
of fat: Monounsaturated,
polyunsaturated and saturated fats.
We used to believe saturated fats
were harmful to our health, while
monounsaturated and polyunsaturated
were the optimal choices, but recent
studies have shown saturated fat can
actually be healthy.
Saturated fats are known as fats that
solidify at room temperature. They have
zero double bonds and are completely
“saturated” with hydrogen molecules.
This makes them a sturdy fat that lends
nicely to higher melting points than lesssaturated fats, such as monounsaturated
and polyunsaturated fats.There are
several subtypes of saturated fats: Short,
medium and long. Our body has uses for
each subtype. While we once thought
butter and coconut oils were bad for us,
we now understand that these fats can
belong in a healthy diet.For example,
butter contains short-chain fatty acids
such as butyrate, which help provide
energy for the gut as well as protect
us from digestive issues. Coconut oil
contains medium-chain triglycerides that
serve as direct fuel for our cells. Mediumchain triglycerides in coconut oil help us
burn fat, not store it.
It turns out sugar, not fat, is the culprit
for belly fat and love handles. Don’t fear
saturated fat; enjoy it in moderation.
Unlike saturated kinds, polyunsaturated
fats have several double bonds, which
means they have given up their hydrogen
molecules and have become less sturdy.
These fats are more fluid and liquid at
room temperature, which makes them
great for our arteries and health.
Because they have several double
bonds. When exposed to heat or light,
they become more fragile and tend
to break down and oxidize. Oxidized
fats are dangerous for your health and
your waistline.The most important
polyunsaturated fats are alpha-linolenic
acid and linoleic acid. Alpha-linolenic
acid is the famous omega-3 fatty acid
found in fish oils. These are highly antiinflammatory, and I want you to eat
plenty of them daily.
Between its molecular structure and
antioxidant status, olive oil is a great
option to use for cooking, baking and,on
its own drizzled onto salads or veggies.
What is Olive Oil ?
Olive oil is oil that is pressed from olives,
the fruits of the olive tree.
The process is incredibly simple… you
just press the olives and the oil comes
But there is still one major problem with
olive oil… it isn’t always what you think
it is. Some lower quality versions can
be extracted using chemicals, or even
diluted with other cheaper oils.
Therefore, buying the right type of olive
oil is incredibly important.
The best type is extra virgin olive oil.
It is extracted using natural methods
and standardized for purity and certain
sensory qualities like taste and smell.
Olive oil tzhat is truly extra virgin has a
distinctive taste and is high in phenolic
antioxidants, the main reason why (real)
olive oil is so beneficial.
Then we have regular, refined or
“light” olive oils, which have often been
extracted with solvents, treated with
heat or even diluted with cheaper oils
like soybean and canola oils.
For this reason, the only type I
recommend is extra virgin olive oil.
But keep in mind that there is a lot of
fraud going on in the olive oil market and
it is essential to buy from a reputable
seller. Even oil that is labelled as “extra
virgin” may have been adulterated with
If you want to read more about the
olive oil fraud and what you can do to
find real extra virgin olive oil, read this
Bottom Line: Real “extra virgin” olive
oil is 100% natural and very high in
antioxidants. Many of the lower quality
olive oils have been processed and
adulterated with cheaper oils.
It is believed that chronic inflammation
is among the leading drivers of many
diseases.This includes heart disease,
cancer, metabolic syndrome, diabetes,
Alzheimer’s and arthritis.It has been
speculated that one of the mechanisms
behind olive oil’s benefits, is its ability
to fight inflammation.There is some
evidence that oleic acid itself, the most
prominent fatty acid in olive oil, can
reduce inflammatory markers like
But the main anti-inflammatory effects
seem to be mediated by the antioxidants
in olive oil, primarily oleocanthal, which
has been shown to work like ibuprofen,
a popular anti-inflammatory drug.
Researchers estimate that the amount
of oleocanthal in 50 ml (about 3.4
tablespoons) of extra virgin olive oil
has an effect similar to 10% of the adult
ibuprofen dosage for pain relief.
There is also a study showing that
substances in olive oil can reduce
expression of genes and proteins that
Keep in mind that chronic, low-level
inflammation is usually fairly mild and
it takes years or decades for it to do
damage.Eating plenty of extra virgin
olive oil may help prevent this from
happening, leading to a reduced risk
of various inflammatory diseases…
especially heart disease.
6 Tips for Recognizing Real
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1.Do not buy light olive oil or a blend; it
isn’t virgin quality.
2.When extra virgin olive oil costs less
than $10 a litre it may not be real.
3.Only buy oils in dark bottles, as this
protects the oil from oxidation.
4.Look for a seal from the International
Olive Oil Council .
5.Look for a harvesting date on the label.
6.Olive oil can get old and rancid. A simple
test for a “good” olive oil is to taste a little
on a spoon. Not rancid, real olive oil will
have a fruity taste in the front of your
mouth and a peppery taste in the back of
How about the fridge test as stated by
Dr Oz? He said that when you put a real
extra-virgin olive oil in the refrigerator, it
will become thick and cloudy as it cools
completely. That is not a for sure test (some
oils made from high-wax olive varieties
will even solidify) according to a Fridge
Extra virgin olive oil is fairly nutritious.
It contains modest amounts of Vitamins E and
K and plenty of beneficial fatty acids.
This is the nutrient content of 100 grams of
Saturated Fat: 13.8%.
Monounsaturated Fat: 73% (most of it the 18
carbon long oleic acid).
Vitamin E: 72% of the RDA.
Vitamin K: 75% of the RDA.
But where extra virgin olive oil really shines is
in its content of antioxidants.
These substances are biologically active
and some of them can help fight serious
diseases.Some of the main antioxidants are
the anti-inflammatory oleocanthal, as well
as oleuropein, a substance that protects LDL
cholesterol from oxidation.
Some people have criticized olive oil for
having a high Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio,
but keep in mind that the total amount of
polyunsaturated fats is still relatively low, so
this shouldn’t be a cause for concern.
Bottom Line: Olive oil is very high in
monounsaturated fats and contains a modest
amount of vitamins E and K. True extra virgin
olive oil is loaded with antioxidants, some of
which have powerful health benefits.
Vitamin E prevents mental decline as we age.
Especially in the presence of vitamin C, works
to maintain a good memory, slow memory
loss, and significantly reduce the risk of
Alzheimer’s and dementia.It can minimize
the damage caused by a stroke by redirecting
blood supply after the event.
During cooking, fatty acids can oxidize. It
is mostly the double bonds in the fatty acid
molecules that are responsible for this.
For this reason, saturated fats are resistant
to high heat, while polyunsaturated fats
are sensitive and become damaged.
It turns out that olive oil, which contains
mostly monounsaturated fatty acids, is
actually fairly resistant to high heat.
In one study, researchers heated extra
virgin olive oil to 180 degrees Celsius for
Take Home Message
Olive oil is super healthy.
For people with heart disease or at a high
risk of getting it in the future, olive oil is
most definitely a “superfood.”
However… it is extremely important to get
the right stuff. That is, extra virgin olive oil
that hasn’t been diluted with cheaper oils.
The benefits of this wonderful fat are
among the few things that most people
in nutrition actually agree on. Now that’s
something you don’t see often.