Sophaki Wisdom: Olive Oil

LET’S TALK ABOUT: OLIVE OIL

BUT WHY?!

It’s the single most used ingredient in your kitchen. That’s why.

OK, I’M LISTENING . . . 

Your Yiayia says you should always use olive oil when you cook, but she also suggests that you spit on your friend to protect them from the evil eye so you need to make a judgment call. You’ve probably already heard that olive oil is a healthy option to use in food, but what exactly makes it healthy and why should you choose it over every other oil option out there?

I had these same questions so I did my homework and narrowed down the list of benefits to these two facts:

  1. Olive oil is an unsaturated fat. Remember talking about  saturated and unsaturated fats in your high school anatomy class? Neither do I. Basically, unsaturated fats (i.e. most plant-based oils) don’t negatively impact your cholesterol and cardiovascular health like saturated fats (i.e. butter, animal fats) do.
  2. Olive oil is has antioxidants. Specifically: Extra Virgin Olive Oil is high in antioxidants called polyphenols which basically prevent cell damage. Less cell damage means less chances of developing osteoporosis, Alzheimers disease, dementia, cancer and reducing inflammation in the same way that ibuprofen would. Talk about comfort food!

You should also know that there is a significant difference between Extra Virgin Olive Oil and other olive oil. Extra Virgin Olive Oil earns its name because of the way it is produced. It is an unrefined product created through a mechanical cold-press process allowing the oil to maintain the natural properties, vitamins and antioxidants found in olives. Olive oils that are not considered extra virgin were likely produced using heat and/or chemicals resulting in higher acidity, less flavor and far fewer health benefits.

There’s one more thing you should know about olive oil: 80% of the Extra Virgin Olive Oil in the U.S. is FAKE.

TELL ME MORE.

Unfortunately, regulations around olive oil are not so tight. You can read more about these issues here, here and here. In the meantime, this is what you can do to make sure your olive oil is up to snuff:

  1. Do your homework. There are tons of articles out there that highlight which brands of olive oil have been tested and meet the standards of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The company’s website is a great resource that will give you the sense of the company’s commitment to quality. Look for certifications as well as the companies production/testing process. If you’ve been buying Bertolli or another brand that failed testing, be prepared to pay a little more.
  2. Look for a harvest date on the bottle. While the world of olive oil is often compared to that of wine, olive oil does not get better with age. You should target to consume it within two years of the harvest date.
  3. Taste it! High quality oil has a rich scent and flavor. If your olive oil tastes like vegetable oil and smells like vegetable oil, then it probably is (at least in part) vegetable oil.

SOPHAKI RECOMMENDS: OLEA ESTATES

Now, that you’ve been educated on the complex world of olive oil, I want to share my new favorite olive oil source. I’ve tried and tested Extra Virgin, Organic Olive Oil from Olea Estates and found it to be the closest oil to what my Yiayia used to make in Greece.

Olea was started by the Chronis brothers – George and Demosthenis – at a time when their family was at risk of losing their land used to produce olive oil in the Spartan valley of Greece. They had recently moved to the U.S. and realized that the olive oil they had here didn’t taste like the one they knew. They had an opportunity to save their family’s land, provide high quality olive oil to the U.S. markets around them and honor their great grandfather who originally purchased the family’s property.

You can find all of their products (think: olive oil, olives, oregano, olive oil soap) for sale at several markets and shops across the country or purchase them online at oleaestates.com.

For 5% off your order, use this promo code at checkout: OLEA5SC

 

 

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