With the catapulting trend of organoleptic analysis (tasting) of olive oil, many consumers are being distracted from the point of including super foods such as extra virgin olive oil in our diet in the first place. Do we use it for the taste or for the many phenolic compounds bursting with medicinal qualities? Why not both?
Olive oil is well known and documented to support heart health and help prevent strokes. Continuing scientific research affirms the use of olive oil for the prevention and/or treatment of many illnesses, such as diabetes, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and rheumatoid arthritis.
As long as it is not rancid, all olive oil is good for you. It has monounsaturated fat, which is the "good" fat and can replace animal fats for health and longevity. The latest scientific research in olive oil focuses on the health promoting aspects and uses of phenolic compounds, in particular oleocanthal. Recent research at Rutgers University led by nutritional scientist Paul Breslin has shown oleocanthal to kill cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed.
This is where the bitter and peppery taste of olive oil presents itself. Oleocanthol triggers a reflex at the back of the throat 2-3 seconds after swallowing. This can cause you to cough. You will know you have a high medicinal quality olive oil if you encounter this peppery affect in your throat. The other major compound Oleacein gives the slightly bitter taste on the tongue. The Ancient Greek doctors idenitfied this peppery and bitter affect in the healthiest early harvest olive oils and recommended mixing it with wine, which could be why balsamic vinegar has come down through history as a partner to olive oil.
If you are looking for the highest quality olive oils to add to your daily health regimen, taste before buying and begin watching for the labels that will bear the EU labelling regulation 432/2012. This allows olive oils with phenolic compounds above 250mg/kg to make a health claim to reduce LDL oxidation, which supports heart health. These high phenolic olive oils -- or HPOOs as they are now being called -- are being discovered as more and more olive growers learn of these studies and the potential to measure and sort their oils and supply them to a growing health conscious market.
The NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) method, which accurately measures individual phenolic compounds in olive oil, was discovered by Dr. Magiatis and his team of researchers at the University of Athens, Greece. Thousands of olive oils from around the world have since been tested. The Aristoleo Test Kit, invented by Magiatis-Melliou, is now being used in the field for growers to test their oils in the olive mill. Here are a few high phenolic olive oils that are measuring well above the EU standard. As consumers become informed and the olive oil industry responds there will soon be greater supply of this superior EVOO.
An enterprising Spanish brand, OliveHeart, is blending EVOOs with high phenolic olive oils to provide the high polyphenol health benefit with a milder, award winning taste. But if you are looking for optimum health quality in a pure single variety then discover for yourself that a bolder taste can be a welcome addition to your list of super foods for combining with other nutritious ingredients for health and flavor. After all, it's not wine and while it is to our health -- we don't expect to toast with it.
Photo Credit: Athan Gadanidis