You may already know that consuming foods that containing hydrogenated oils is unhealthy. But did you know that heating olive oil and other cold pressed, heat fragile oils creates oxidative stress and free radicals? And that with high heat these oils become rancid, and transform into hydrogenated oils? The end result; very unhealthy oils.
Rancid oils have been shown to have a negative effect on our bodies. These are a few of the dangers:
- They form harmful free radicals in the body;
- cause cellular damage;
- have been associated with diabetes,
- heart disease,
- Alzheimer's disease and other conditions.
- They can also cause digestive distress;
- deplete the body of vitamin B;
- deplete the body of vitamin E.
According to Dr. Andrew Weil rancid oil can also cause damage to DNA;
- accelerate aging,
- promote tissue degeneration and
- foster cancer development.
I am not saying don’t eat olive oil. There are lots of benefits and it should be an essential part of our diet. Olive oil contains monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA). These are the healthy fats that are essential to your body. Pure, raw, cold pressed olive oil is loaded with MUFA’s and can have many health benefits:
- It may help lower your risk of heart disease,
- may lower your total cholesterol,
- lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels,
- and help normalize blood clotting.
- It may also benefit insulin levels,
- and does benefit blood sugar control, which can be especially helpful if you have type 2 diabetes.
Because the wall or outside protection of every cell uses essential fatty acids, the quality of the fatty acid is key. A cell wall using good fatty acid is flexible and allows nutrients into the cell and enables the cell to detox. By contrast, a cell using trans fatty acids is stiff and inflexible and severally limits the cell’s ability to take in nutrients and release toxins. Fats are essential for our bodies - from cell integrity, hormone production to brain function. The key is in choosing the right fats.
How to pick the right olive oil
Sounds easy enough. But you might be surprised. There are many olive oils on the shelve that say they are olive oil and that they are cold pressed but have vegetable oil fillers. The fillers used are oils such as canola oil, soybean oil and other low grade oils. As noted in Tom Mueller’s wonderful book ‘The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil’, as much as 50 percent of olive oil sold in the U.S. is not actually pure olive oil' even if it claims to be 100 percent Italian.
Olive Oil should be green, not yellow. The taste should be peppery and the oil feel clean. What I mean by clean is that the oil should not feel greasy. A good trick I learned is this: when you pour a little bit of oil in the palm of your hand and you lick it off, no residue should stay behind. With a pure raw olive oil, your palm should not feel oily.
The best Olive Oil is a raw, cold stone ground oil that is harvested just as it turns green (which is when it is highest in its phytonutrients and anti-oxidants) and pressed within 24 to 48 hours so it maintains in nutrients.
I have a few favorites for quality and consistency, and they guarantee freshness. One is Bojito extra virgin raw organic Olive Oil. It is only sold in 500ml size and is a small olive grove with limited supply. My other favorite is Bariani, raw, sustainable stone ground Olive Oil. It comes in 500ml and 1liter bottles. And best of all you are getting the highest quality of pure olive oil and the price is great. If I am really splurging and want to go for a high end olive oil, Solay Gourmet Organic Olive Oil is an unrefined extra virgin Olive Oil grown at the tip of Peloponnese Peninsula. Nice freshness and great flavor. They claim, that with the level of antioxidants, their olive oil has a shelf life of 2 years. This could be true, but I would still stick with the 3 to 6 months rule of thumb.
Olive oil should be stored in glass, never plastic, and kept in a dark cool place like the cupboard. Once open, I think it stays it freshest for the first 3 months so 500ml is about the right size. If you do decide to store in the refrigerator, split the bottle in half. It will solidify in the refrigerator, and need to be warmed before using.
So as for cooking, what can I recommend?
For many years I have been a huge fan of virgin coconut oil. Coconut oil has been given a bad rap because of its saturated fat. However, it is high in medium fatty acid chain (MFA). MFA is an essential fat that our body requires for health. The MFA chain also makes for a stable oil that is resistant to heat even at high temperatures. This makes it an excellent choice for cooking. (I find that if you use a coconut oil that is not refined, and can be used at a higher heat, it does not have that strong coconut taste.)
Another good choice for cooking is Grape Seed Oil, which can also stand higher heats. It has a delightful, light nutty taste. Of course, if you’re hankering for that old Olive Oil taste – just add it at the end. Grape Seed Oil is also great for the skin!
And remember, never bring oil to a smoking heat. This is an indication that it is breaking down and no longer healthy.
Cathy Goldstein is the founder of IHAC, the Integrative Health and Allergy Center and has 25 years of experience in the field of alternative medicine. Cathy served as chair for the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and oriental medicine national exam development committee and is considered an expert in the field of Bio Medicine, Traditional Eastern Medicine and NET (Neuro-emotional Technique). She is also a developer of a line of natural skin care as well as a natural facelift system. Her commitment to service and community is unwavering.