Updated: Aug 27
Did you ever wonder where food manufacturers, nutritionists and restauranteurs go to get nutrition details about the ingredients they use? Or where you can find out more too?
It is so important these days to state accurate information on food labels, menus and recipes. A data industry has sprung up where professionals, such as food scientists, carefully analyze ingredients and publish the nutrition profile of each one. This analysis goes into amazing detail, right down to molecular level.
This level of detail is way too much for you and me to easily comprehend but it is essential to confirm our belief that extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is the healthiest cooking oil in the world. This excellent analysis explains the deep science and profile of EVOO in an understandable way.
The main compounds and elements in EVOO are very good for us
We don’t intend to go into scientific detail in these short articles. Rather, we would encourage you to investigate further yourself. Knowing what we eat is half the battle when it comes to fighting diseases such as coronary heart disease, cancers, dementia, and obesity. Knowledge leads to better health for you and your family.
These are the main compounds in EVOO that directly affect our health. They need to be part of our everyday diet to help maintain a strong and effective immune system as well as protecting our bodies from diseases caused by poor diet.
Fats, phenols and polyphenols are they key elements in EVOO
First, let’s talk about fats (lipids)
Up until very recently, fat in diet had a very bad reputation. This was so wrong. It meant that such ugly foods as margarine were made popular by food manufacturers who are more interested in profits than health.
Our bodies need fat to survive. In fact, our bodies manufacture fat from the food we eat, both to store up energy reserves and also to provide vital elements for survival.
It is important to differentiate between good and bad fats. “Bad fats”, especially so-called trans fats, are commonly found in manufactured food such as confectionery. They don’t have health benefits. In fact, quite the opposite – they contribute to obesity and diseases like cardiovascular disorders and diabetes.
EVOO is packed with “good fats” – monounsaturated and polyunsaturated mainly. About 70% of EVOO is fat, including essential fatty acids. These substances cannot be produced by our bodies and must be included in the food we consume. You may have heard of examples, such as Omega-3 and Omega-6. EVOO is an excellent source of these compounds.
Phenols and polyphenols
The recognized health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet, rich in olive oil, are attributed to more than just its healthy fats. Plants, including olives, synthesize a large number of organic compounds and scientists are still exploring what exactly they do within our bodies to help maintain good health. It can be quite complex.
While water, fats, proteins and carbs are considered important macronutrients (we need large quantities of them), there are very many other food elements that play minor but critical roles within our bodies. These are micronutrients.
Phenols and polyphenols are some of these plant phytochemicals. They are why foods such as dark chocolate and red wine are actually good for us in small doses.
The phenolic compounds in EVOO, primarily oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol, are powerful antioxidants that protect us from free radicals in our bodies. They also give EVOO its pungent aroma and slightly bitter taste. Now you know what you are consuming the next time you taste good EVOO!
Coming next . . .
This is the first in a series where we explore the substances that nature has generously granted to the fruit of the olive tree. We hope to explain exactly why EVOO is so very good for our health.