There are numerous health benefits associated with olive oil, but are you getting the real deal when you pick up that bottle of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) off the shelf of your grocery store? In the past few years, this issue has become a contentious one. Beside the taste factor, many people had taken to an increased consumption of olive oil for its purported health benefits.
Several reliable studies and sources had told us that we can gain immense health benefits from the use of olive oil (we will come to that shortly), but this is true when we are talking of real olive oil and not fake or adulterated ones. Before we go on to that, there is one thing we need to be clear about. According to international standards, edible olive oil falls primarily into two categories: refined and unrefined. The virgin and extra-virgin olive oil belong to the latter category whereas the refined versions are simply labeled as pure olive oil or light olive oil.
The primary difference between these two is that the extraction of olive oil of the unrefined category is done mechanically whereas in the case of refined oil, it may involve the process of heating, or in some cases, use of non-harmful chemicals. It is true that refined olive oil come with fewer health benefits when compared with virgin olive oil. On the flip side, the former is also less affected by high temperatures when compared with the unrefined versions. The smoke point of light olive oils is at approx. 240 degrees C, which is considerably higher than those of virgin and extra virgin oil.
This means that you will normally use the light variety for processes like frying, baking, grilling, or sautéing or for dishes where you do not desire a strong olive taste. On the other hand, you use the virgin varieties when you do desire that strong and pungent flavor, for example, when you are preparing salads, dips, or dressings.
That said, what has really prompted the fake olive oil debate in the recent years is the result of several crackdowns on major olive oil brands, carried out by regulatory authorities from a number of countries, most notably in Italy and the US. The reports were often scandalous and it has been repeatedly found that what manufacturers label as real olive oils (no matter of what variety) are fake.
They may be fake in the sense that a bottle sold with an 'extra virgin' or 'cold pressed' label is really refined olive oil (which significantly reduces the health benefits of the unrefined version which, in turn, means that you are not getting what you are paying for!). but the scandal really lies in the fact that most producers and manufacturers actually go far beyond than this.
For example, a so-called 'extra virgin' oil may be actually mixed with cheaper quality olive oils. Worse, it is frequently found that the cheaper, lower grade oil may come from a different source altogether. During the many raids, it was often found that the oils were adulterated with soy, corn, canola, colza or cottonseed oil. For instance, an inspection carried out as recent as in 2015 by Italian authorities found that 9 out of every 20 bottles (and these were all from top exporters of olive oil in the country) sampled were adulterated with other types of oil.
The story does not end here either. For, in order to make them look and smell like real olive oil, often these blended oils were colored and chemically deodorized, and sometimes even flavored with beta-carotene or few drops of chlorophyll. In short, this means that it is not only that you are not getting what you are paying for, but that the oils you are getting for your family are laced with potential health hazards.
Therefore, it is highly important that you make sure that you are getting the real thing and not the fake. How you may do that (and it is not easy!) is subject for a different article altogether, but you must do it all the same. And a little knowledge on the subject of health benefits of olive oil will hopefully serve as enough motivation for your finding the right olive oil for your family.
Health Benefits of Olive Oil
Summing up from many studies and researches conducted over the years, we can safely conclude that olive oil reduces the risk of cancer; serves as a potent weapon against conditions such as osteoporosis as well as mental conditions such as clinical depression; regular use of olive oil by elderly people significantly decrease the chance of an onset of the Alzheimer's Disease as well as reducing the risk of strokes (by keeping the arteries healthy and clean); olive oil, when coupled with a Mediterranean diet, offers adequate protection against skin cancer and metabolic syndrome.
All of the above, we hope, should act as enough motivation that you choose only the right olive oil for you family and not the fake or fraudulent ones.
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