Almost 2,000 years ago, a Greek physician, pharmacologist, and botanist named Dioscorides recommended olive oil extracted from green, unripe olives as the most healthful oil. He would suggest the use of this olive oil for toothaches and headaches, something like modern non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
He was a wise man that could observe the impact of this type of olive oil but could not prove it in any way that we would call scientific today.
Thankfully, we are luckier. Nowadays, we can put everything under a microscope, analyze it and even run clinical trials to test the reproducibility of our results. Today, we know that Dioscorides was referring tohigh polyphenol olive oil, a type of olive oil with an exceptionally high content of polyphenols. But first things first.
What is High Polyphenol Olive Oil?
High polyphenol is a type of olive oil that has a concentration of polyphenols that is equal to or greater than 250 milligrams per kilogram of olive oil.
Says who? SaysEU Regulation 432/2012, according to which, “Olive oil polyphenols contribute to the protection of blood lipids from oxidative stress.” For olive oil to be considered high phenolic, it needs to contain at least 5 mg of hydroxytyrosol and its derivatives (e.g., oleuropein complex and tyrosol) per 20 grams of olive oil. The EU health claim also states that at least 20 grams of this type of olive oil are necessary for us to receive the mentioned health benefit.
What are Polyphenols?
Phenols are natural chemical compounds. A hydroxyl group (-OH) is bonded directly to an aromatic hydrocarbon group. When a phenolic compound forms a larger, repetitive chain, it then becomes a polyphenol.
Polyphenols can be found in a vast variety of fruits and vegetables. However, some polyphenols are unique to olive oil and have been found to protect our health against a plethora of conditions. Some of the most prominent polyphenols found in olive oil are oleocanthal, oleacein, and oleuropein.
Do Olive Oil Polyphenols Affect Olive Oil Flavor?
Yes. In general, the more polyphenols in an olive oil, the more intense its sensory profile. Some polyphenols have been linked to specific sensory features. For example, oleuropein makes the olive oilbitter, while oleocanthal seems to cause a burning sensation at the back of your throat.
However, the presence of polyphenols in olive oil cannot be quantified through sensory evaluation, since there are far too many factors that affect a sensory experience.
What Does Polyphenol Concentration Depend On?
There are many factors that affect polyphenol concentration in olive oil.
Genetic and environmental factors: Some olive tree cultivars have been observed to yield olive fruit with higher polyphenol concentrations. The same can be said for different elevations, types of terrain, and levels of precipitation.
Producer practices: According to the family that produces Myrolion Cold Pressed Olive Oil, polyphenol content is directly affected by the way the trees are cultivated, by the way olives are harvested and the conditions through which the olive oil is extracted and stored. Specifically, extraction temperature and duration have been seen to heavily impact olive oil polyphenols. Therefore, it is important to research your producer and learn about the practices of extraction.
How Should I Use High Polyphenol Olive Oil?
This type of olive oil is typically more expensive. At the same time, polyphenols are exceptionally vulnerable to heat. As a result, this type of olive oil is at its maximum value-for-money when used raw (i.e., directly, in dressings, salads, dips, over already cooked meals, etc.) or for light cooking.
High polyphenol olive oil can be your best ally towards a healthful lifestyle and diet. Enjoy life like an ancient Greek!