Written Jul 31, 2022 by Jorryn Yapadi, Brain and Cognition Student - University of British Columbia, Canada.
It’s just oil. And you’re absolutely right. That’s what olive oil is - you use it for frying, sautéeing, for dressing salads, or a drizzle over pasta. It’s just oil.
Certified organic extra virgin olive oil that is 100%-unadulterated is unmatched when it comes to keeping our health in check. Keep in mind that adulterated olive oils are impure, meaning that they are mixed with oils of inferior quality to sell at a lower value - thus trans fats enter the equation, which is not exactly what we want in our diet.
Olive Oil for 500: What is it that sets apart raw, virgin olive oil from refined olive oil?
What are Polyphenols?
Well, what are they indeed? Polyphenols are aromatic organic compounds which are experienced by our smell and taste buds; vanillin has plenty of them (produces the smell/taste of vanilla), as well as cloves, peppermint, and star anise, among many others.
The following whole foods are the richest in polyphenols:
- Herbs and spices (as mentioned above)
- Fruits and vegetables
- White and black beans
- Coffee and tea
- Nuts and seeds
- Cocoa powder
Olives are rich in these polyphenols, with 20g of olives containing about 113mg of polyphenols - that’s a hefty amount! What is all of this aromatic stuff doing in our food?
What’s the deal with Polyphenols?
Believe it or not, polyphenols in extra virgin olive oil are more useful than you might think. These 3 benefits below have been supported by human, animal, and epidemiological studies correlating to polyphenols, and are a result of evidence of polyphenols showing anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Important Tip: Preparation is Key
Before you click off, we have to remind ourselves and each other that polyphenols are highest in foods that are in their rawest forms.
As an example, polyphenols in vegetables decrease in a range of 10-80% when cooked with heat, with larger losses in high heat, in comparison to its raw, uncooked form.
This is the same with extra virgin olive oil: during a study, it was observed that polyphenolic content in the oil decreased by 40% during low-heating (120°C) in a pan, and 75% on high heat (170°C).
Moreover, in another study, the physicochemical parameters of extra virgin olive oil were observed to deteriorate under high heat and produce low levels of harmful compounds like trans fatty acids when heated past its relatively low smoke point (~175°C, which is the standard cooking temperature of an oven!). I will write more about this in my upcoming blogs, but two oils I would recommend for cooking are coconut oil and avocado oil.
So, a quick tip about olive oil: don’t cook it, don’t heat it, and certainly don’t use it for frying.
How do we recognize Polyphenols?
Since they are aromatic compounds after all, they’ve got to be distinguishable, right?
The polyphenols in extra virgin olive oil are recognized by the pepperiness and bitterness in taste and aroma, and the stronger that sensation is, the stronger the presence of olive oil.
Which one do I choose?
Extra virgin olive oil contains an average of around 150-400 mg/kg of polyphenols, which is substantially higher than that of refined olive oil or common olive oil, which contain 0-5 mg/kg and 10-100 mg/kg of polyphenols, respectively.
I was pleased to find out that Tucan Canada’s Zenolive contains 300mg of polyphenols per kg of olive oil. It’s a certified organic extra virgin olive oil, and 100% unadulterated; I don’t know if I’ve ever seen another olive oil with that description, which gets me wondering about whether or not other “extra virgin olive oils” have other oils or additions, all of which I consider contaminants. The peppery aftertaste was to my liking, and is just the right amount of intensity: not too bland and not too intense.
Don’t sautée it, and certainly don’t fry it. But use it for dressing salads, and for drizzling over pasta? Absolutely.
Extra virgin olive oil that is 100% organic is polyphenolic. It’s meant to be bitter. It’s meant to be peppery. It’s meant to be intense.
It prevents neurodegenerative diseases.
It promotes cell proliferation.
It protects from diabetes and heart disease.
It’s not just oil. It’s much more than that.
Click here to find out more about Zenolive and how you can get those polyphenols quickly.
Click here to uncover the shocking truth about vegetable and canola oil.
Contributors, W. M. D. E. (2020, October 26). 8 foods high in polyphenols and why you need them. WebMD. Retrieved July 31, 2022, from https://www.webmd.com/diet/foods-high-in-polyphenols
Cory H, Passarelli S, Szeto J, Tamez M, Mattei J. The Role of Polyphenols in Human Health and Food Systems: A Mini-Review. Front Nutr. 2018 Sep 21;5:87. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2018.00087. PMID: 30298133; PMCID: PMC6160559.
Dordevic D, Kushkevych I, Jancikova S, Zeljkovic SC, Zdarsky M, Hodulova L. Modeling the effect of heat treatment on fatty acid composition in home-made olive oil preparations. Open Life Sci. 2020 Aug 24;15(1):606-618. doi: 10.1515/biol-2020-0064. PMID: 33817249; PMCID: PMC7874674.
García-Martínez O, De Luna-Bertos E, Ramos-Torrecillas J, Ruiz C, Milia E, Lorenzo ML, Jimenez B, Sánchez-Ortiz A, Rivas A. Phenolic Compounds in Extra Virgin Olive Oil Stimulate Human Osteoblastic Cell Proliferation. PLoS One. 2016 Mar 1;11(3):e0150045. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0150045. PMID: 26930190; PMCID: PMC4773235.
Giuffrè, Angelo & Zappia, Clotilde & Capocasale, Marco. (2017). Effects of High Temperatures and Duration of Heating on Olive Oil Properties for Food Use and Biodiesel Production. Journal of the American Oil Chemists' Society. 94. 10.1007/s11746-017-2988-9.
Gorzynik-Debicka M, Przychodzen P, Cappello F, Kuban-Jankowska A, Marino Gammazza A, Knap N, Wozniak M, Gorska-Ponikowska M. Potential Health Benefits of Olive Oil and Plant Polyphenols. Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Feb 28;19(3):686. doi: 10.3390/ijms19030686. PMID: 29495598; PMCID: PMC5877547.
Lozano-Castellón J, Vallverdú-Queralt A, Rinaldi de Alvarenga JF, Illán M, Torrado-Prat X, Lamuela-Raventós RM. Domestic Sautéing with EVOO: Change in the Phenolic Profile. Antioxidants (Basel). 2020 Jan 16;9(1):77. doi: 10.3390/antiox9010077. PMID: 31963124; PMCID: PMC7022658.
Memnune Şengül, Hilal Yildiz & Arzu Kavaz (2014) The Effect of Cooking on Total Polyphenolic Content and Antioxidant Activity of Selected Vegetables, International Journal of Food Properties, 17:3, 481-490, DOI: 10.1080/10942912.2011.619292