I was recently introduced to the myths surrounding olive oils and a website that has people turning their heads away from cooking with this healthy oil.(1) So, for me it was important to debunk the misinformation that surround these important questions. Does olive oil turn into trans-fats? Are you afraid to cook with olive oil? Is it a good or bad vegetable oil? If the label on my olive oil says it’s from Italy, why isn’t it? OR… How can I be sure my olive oil is real?
First you may want to know olives are fruits and not vegetables. “Phrases like “packed in Italy” or “bottled in Italy,” do not mean that the oil was made in Italy. Generally speaking, avoid oils whose precise point of production – a specific mill – is not specified on the label.” (1a) According to Health Impact News, they claim olive oils are one of the safest oils to eat. Well, this was a pretty good start. Olive oil came in as both healthy and safe. (2)
What about myths surrounding how heating olive oil destroys it’s nutritional qualities? According to a scientific study from Spain, Estación de Olivicultura y Elaiotecnia, “they’ve concluded that despite the heating conditions, VOO maintained most of its minor compounds and, therefore, most of its nutritional properties. (3)
Next, a recent study by Silva et al., shows that olive oils are more stable against heat. The four products with lowest alkenal content after heating were all olive oils.(4) Great, but I wanted a few more references to make it clear.
The journal of Food Science talks about the chemistry in frying oils(5) which of course, as a Health Coach, I wouldn’t recommend. But, if you fry at home and you want to know which oil is best to use, it’s extra virgin olive oil. This is because they have the highest levels of antioxidants, and therefore the most heat resistant to high-heat cooking or frying.(6) And just in case you are concerned with the smoke point when frying oils, extra virgin olive oils are safe.(7)
Can Olive Oil Turn Into Trans-fats?
Well what I found was, turning oils into trans-fats takes several hours, according to the Olive Oil Source. This type of transformation will not occur under normal home cooking conditions.(9) Olive oil turns to trans-fat only when repeatedly reused and heated to very high temperatures.(9) This means you save your oil, cool it and use it again (more than once) at very high temperatures. Yuck! This can’t be someone I know.
Are Olive Oils Mislabeled?
Unfortunately, many olive oils available on the market are adulterated and mislabeled extra virgin olive oils. I have found this to be true in Trader Joes. What was my first clue? The label on the bottle read: Extra Vergin Olive Oil from Italy!
Additionally, avoid olive-pomace oil because of the chemicals and/or refining process,(10) as well as pure olive oil and light olive oil. These I’ve seen in big box stores.
Is Olive Oil a Healthy Emollient to Use on Our Skin?
With all the attention coconut oil is getting for a facial moisturizer allow me to give extra virgin olive oil equal praise. Extra virgin olive oil helps with acute dermatitis, (11) and has antioxidant properties.(12) So, I give it two thumbs up! According to the Department of Dermatology, “olive oil topically applied after UVB exposure can effectively reduce UVB-induced murine skin tumors…reducing DNA damage by reactive oxygen species.”(8) ROS is the free radical theory of aging. This mean olive oil fights premature aging. Carol Firenze, in her book, The Passionate Olive, suggests making a moisturizer made of Italian parsley, water, and extra virgin olive oil. Yummy on your face and salad!
Now, how do we take the confusion out of buying Real Olive Oil?
We’re told to look for extra virgin on the label to get the best nutrients and flavor. What stores are the best? I’ve visited olive oil specialty shops and found most tastings fun, flavorful and their staff extremely helpful. Avoid plastic and purchase extra virgin olive oil in dark glass bottles. Organic is best.(13)
And oh, by the way, leave the canola, soy, corn, and pure vegetable oils on your grocery store shelf. Why? These are refined, industrial, processed foods and can release toxic chemicals linked to cancer.
Connie Rogers is a Certified Integrative Holistic Health Coach and Published Author of Path to a Healthy Mind & Body