Extra virgin olive oil is one of the few foods that health experts seem to unanimously praise. In fact, the list of benefits is so extensive that extra virgin olive oil is widely considered to be a superfood.
In our previous IL DIVINO Blog we discussed the importance of low extra virgin olive oil acidity and the beneficial Oleic Acid in fresh extra virgin olive oil.
In this Blog we are going to focus on perhaps the second most important components in fresh extra virgin olive oil: Polyphenols.
Polyphenols are a group of over 500 phytochemicals, which are naturally occurring micronutrients in plants. These compounds give a plant its color and can help to protect it from various dangers. When you eat plants with polyphenols, you reap the health benefits as well.
The polyphenols typically act as antioxidants. They can help prevent cellular damage from free-radicals that occur with pollution, smoking, eating rancid foods, and as a byproduct of normal metabolism. It’s also thought that polyphenols contribute to the body being in an anti-inflammatory state. This is also associated with a lower risk of several chronic diseases.
There are a number of different types of polyphenols in extra virgin olive oil, including oleuropein, tyrosol, hydroxytyrosol, oleocanthal and oleacein. Each are considered extremely strong antioxidants, and are linked to a number of different benefits, including:
- Maintenance of normal blood pressure
- Upper respiratory tract health
- Affects certain proteins in the brain that are involved in memory, learning and thinking
- Helps keep blood sugar under control
- Potentially treat or reduce the symptoms of and/or prevent type 2 diabetes
- Protects blood lipids from oxidative damage
Three examples of polyphenols in extra virgin olive oil are Vitamin E, Oleocanthal, and Vitamin K.
Vitamin E is thought to decrease the risk of many cancers. It reduces formation of free radicals, which can lead to the development of certain types of cancer or chronic diseases. Vitamin E also prevents vascular complications like arteriosclerosis, chest pain, leg pain due to arterial blockage. It also alleviates diabetes and its symptoms. Vitamin E is used for asthma, skin disorders, cataracts etc.
Oleocanthal is one of the important polyphenols that produces a stinging feeling in the back of your throat in especially peppery or bitter olive oils. Though that taste is a learned one for some people, the properties of this component are known to be some of the best parts of the oil for you. This component mimics the effects of ibuprofen, by reducing inflammation. This has a particular effect on long term inflammatory illnesses, including certain cancers and is considered beneficial in the prevention of Alzheimer’s.
Vitamin K is another important nutrient that provides various health benefits. It serves as an important factor in the blood clotting mechanism and stops excessive bleeding. It also strengthens the bones and can prevent osteoporosis in older women. Comparing the amount of Vitamin K in Sunflower Oil vs Olive Oil:
- Sunflower Oil: has barely 1 microgram of vitamin K per tablespoon.
- Olive Oil: contains more than 8 micrograms of Vitamin K per tablespoon.
In summary, pure, fresh Extra Virgin Olive Oil provides so many beneficial nutrients for our bodies. Yes, of course in makes our food taste great. But it’s what is on inside that makes it such a beneficial component of the Mediterranean Diet.
However, buyer beware!!! If the extra virgin olive oil you are buying has been exposed to light for a long period, is over 18 months old, or has been exposed to oxygen, many, if not all of the beneficial properties of your olive oil have been lost.
This is the reason, here at IL DIVINO Extra Virgin Olive Oil (www.ildivinooliveoil.com) we take exhaustive steps to:
- Harvest early, maximizing the polyphenols, such as oleocanthal, in our oil;
- Press our harvested olives within 24 hours to prevent any spoilage of the olives;
- Store in stainless steel fustis right until bottling in dark glass;
- Maintain an inert atmosphere above our fresh extra virgin olive oil to prevent oleic acid and polyphenol oxidation leading to rancid tastes and smells.
At IL DIVINO Extra Virgin Olive Oil we do not believe you can purchase a finer extra virgin olive oil with higher nutrient values.