The health protective properties in extra virgin olive oil used to be attributed entirely to monounsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats can help reduce bad cholesterol levels in your blood which can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. This idea was further reinforced by the popular and widely accepted Mediterranean diet which also emphasizes the importance of monounsaturated fats. However, we now know that there are other compounds that significantly, if not almost entirely, contribute to making high phenolic olive oil one of the most healthful foods. Below we discuss three phenolic compounds found in olive oil, and surprisingly in the olive leaf, with health benefits that may surprise you.
1. Olive oil has antioxidants
Oleacein is an antioxidant found in high phenolic olive oil that strengthens your immune system and helps your body to become resistant to infections and illnesses. It also gives olive oil it its bitter taste - bitter is better when it comes to health.
2. Olive oil contains natural anti-inflammatory agents
Oleocanthal acts as a natural anti-inflammatory and has the same properties as commercial pain killers like ibuprofren. Your immune system becomes activated when your body recognizes anything that is foreign which triggers a process called inflammation. Many common diseases including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and Alzheimer's have been linked to chronic inflammation. Oleocanthal has even been shown to effectively kill cancer cells. It also adds the pleasant peppery after taste found only in high phenolic olive oil.
3. The olive leaf has many therapeutic benefits
Oleuropein contains antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and disease-fighting properties. Olive leaf extracts have also shown that they can prevent heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke, Alzheimer’s, and arthritis. Oleuropein is also responsible for the biting, astringent taste of high phenolic olive oil.
And remember…fresh is best. Olive oil naturally oxidizes over time so look for a harvest date, not a bottling date, that is within a year and make sure you consume opened bottles within a few months. Look for olive oil in a dark green or blue glass bottle (plastic contains harmful toxins that leach into the oil) and store in a dark, cool place. High phenol olive oil has a slightly higher shelf, 18 months, due to the variety of olives production methods. You should also look for olive oil brands like Olea Blue that scientifically measure and include phenolic compound levels right on the label. As a frame of reference, it is estimated that most super market brands have phenolic levels in the 0-200 mg range compared to 1,500+mg found in Olea Blue. Oils with the highest levels of heart-healthy compounds will have a pungent and peppery flavor that tells you the beneficial polyphenols really are there. Lastly, try to consume olive oil raw as health protect compounds quickly deteriorate at high temperatures. Once you experience the flavor of high phenol olive oil you will never go back! It's a completely different experience and makes other brands taste like a watered-down version of olive oil.