Olive oil is known as one of the best ways to get healthy fats in your diet. Eventhough, we have spent decades directing the population away from saturated fats and towards unsaturated fats, our rates of heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes continue to increase. Why is this? Isn't olive oil supposed to be amazing for your heart?
Yes, olive oil is beneficial to health. However, there are certain qualities that matter in relation to oils in general that are often not added to the heart healthy conversation. It is not enough to just use olive oil, it needs to be the right type of olive oil.
Olive oil is a monounsaturated lipid. As with all oils it has the ability to become oxidized (which creates health damaging molecules in the body). Oils are sensitive to heat, light and air. The more exposure to these, the more oxidation. This oxidation of low density lipoproteins (a component of cholesterol in our body) is why heart disease is increasing.
When purchasing olive oil it needs to be in as dark of a container as possible. This will help keep damaging light exposure while it sits on the shelves of your grocery store. It is best to choose expeller pressed or cold pressed. These methods use less heat in the process of extracting oil from the olive. Also, purchase a size bottle equivalent to what you can use in a reasonable time period (1-2 months). If it is opened too often air exposure will begin oxidation.
When you get your olive oil home, it needs to be stored in a cool, dark place with a sealed lid. It's best to keep it in a pantry or cabinet away from heat (oven, microwave, etc) and light (sunlight or artificial). To protect it from excessive oxygen exposure, recap it when not in use and only keep a pour spout in a bottle that is smaller and used for short time period. For example, a small salad dressing container you put on the table at dinner.
As far as oils and health are concerned, olive oil, flaxseed oil, hemp oil and coconut oil are the best choices. It is best to stay away from polyunsaturated oils such as, corn oil, canola oil, safflower oil, cottenseed oil and sunflower oil. These oils tend to be from genetically modified crops (more on this to come, but for now - there isn't enough research on this method) and they oxidize more easily.
Olive oil is great, but which type you choose is also important. Don't worry, I stand in the oil isle holding bottles up to the light to see how opaque they are, too.
Happy oil hunting! Dr. A