Olive cultivation is said to have began around 5000 B.C and has since been recognised not only as food but also for its health benefits1. It was labelled liquid gold by a Greek poet1, but is it really worthy of this title?
First we need to look at the different types of olive oil to answer this question.
In Australia, you will commonly find a range of oils labelled “olive oil” these include extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), virgin olive oil, extra light & pure olive oil1.
Now you may be thinking extra light olive oil is a good choice due to it being lower in kilojoules or that pure olive oil is the least refined and would be the best option. Unfortunately these misleading titles are the cause of much confusion surrounding olive oil. Both oils are refined, low in antioxidants and have the same calorie content as other olive oils 1. The term “extra light” actually refers to the flavour not the kilojoule content.
EVOO is the highest grade olive oil you can buy, it is naturally rich in good fats, antioxidants and polyphenols (which I will explain later) followed by virgin olive oil, which is a lower grade but still contains moderate amounts of antioxidants3.
Thanks to Australia’s processing techniques and short time from harvesting, Australian EVOO is of high quality and healthier than oils imported from other countries such as Spain or Italy3.
But doesn’t EVOO lose its antioxidants and become harmful when heated to high temperatures?
No not unless you are cooking at extreme temperatures. It is a common misunderstanding that olive oil becomes toxic when heated, however thanks to its fatty acid profile and high antioxidant properties, olive oil is stable at temperatures below 200 °C making it ideal for every day cooking. High quality olive oil can even stand temperatures of up to 215 °C 3.
As I mentioned earlier EVOO is a rich in good fats, antioxidants and polyphenols but what exactly does this mean for your health?
- Monounsaturated fat – raises your HDL (good) cholesterol and decreases LDL (bad) cholesterol for a healthy heart and blood vessels1,5.
- Antioxidants and Vitamin E – prevents the oxidation of free radicals in the body which breakdown cells and tissues therefore, protecting us against the effects of ageing including protection against skin cancer 1,5.
- Polyphenols – oleocanthal is just one of the 36 found in EVOO, amazingly it acts similar to ibuprofen having anti-inflammatory properties. You might be thinking you don’t need to worry about inflammation but many diseases such as such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer, asthma and Alzheimer’s disease are all associated with long-term inflammation in the body 1. Other benefits phenols have shown are weight control, lowered blood pressure and decreased cancer risk 2,8.
Many may be wondering how EVOO compares to coconut oil due to its recent hype in the media. Coconut oil, even the extra virgin types contain virtually no antioxidants or polyphenols, has a lower smoke point (170 degrees) and is high in saturated (bad) fat 6.
I know which one I’ll be choosing.
So I think it is safe to say, yes EVOO really is like liquid gold when it comes to your health.
How much do you need to gain the benefits?
- Two tablespoons per day.
Whether you drizzle it over a salad or sautee your vegetables in it, you will be doing your health a favour.
 Explore Crete, “History of Olive Oil,” [Online]. Available: http://www.explorecrete.com/nature/olive-oil-history.html. [Accessed 17 November 2016].
 Cobram Estate, “Extra Virgin Olive Oil,” 2016. [Online]. Available: http://health.cobramestate.com.au/.
 Dietitians Association of Australia , “Extra Virgin Olive Oil,” 2016. [Online]. Available: http://daa.asn.au/for-the-public/smart-eating-for-you/nutrition-a-z/extra-virgin-olive-oil/. [Accessed 17 November 2016].
 E. Whitney, S. R. Rolfes, T. Crowe, D. Cameron-Smith and A. Walsh, Understanding Nutrition: Australian and New Zealand Edition, Melbourne , Victoria : Cengage Learning, 2011.
 National Health and Medical Research Council, “Australian Dietary Guidelines,” 2013. [Online]. Available: https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/guidelines-publications/n55. [Accessed 17 November 2016].
 F. Visiolo and C. Galli, “Olive Oil Phenols and Their Potential Effects on Human Health,” Journal of Agriculturel and Food Chemistry, vol. 46, no. 10, p. 4292–4296, 1998.
Dietitians Association of Australia , “Coconut oil,” 2016. [Online]. Available: http://daa.asn.au/for-the-public/smart-eating-for-you/nutrition-a-z/coconut-oil/. [Accessed 17 November 2016].
 M. Bes-Rastrollo , A. Sanchez-Villegas, C. de la Fu, J. de Irala , J. A. Martinez and M. A. Martinez- Gonzalez , “Olive oil consumption and weight change: the SUN prospective cohort study,” Lipids, vol. 41, p. 249–56, 2006..