You might remember a few days before we went to Thailand I went down to the Cobram Estate olive farm on a private jet with some well known health professionals like Michelle Bridges, Commando Steve, Dr Ginni from Sunrise, Dr Joanna McMillan, Jes Cox Nutritionst and other amazing health professionals. We saw the harvest up close on the header, and saw the pressing of the olives immediately after. We did olive oil tasting and ate an amazing lunch whilst listening to Dr Joanna McMillan present the science behind olive oil. WHAT AN EXPERIENCE! It was out of this world.
This post has been on my task list for a while because I wanted to do it well! There are so many health myths out there regarding oils and their use and I have been trying to sift through and simplify this information for you. I also had an independent dietitian, Melanie Sharpe, review this post to make sure the information I was presenting to you came across correctly. So, I hope you enjoy this read about the health benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) and how Cobram Estate produces EVOO to optimise it’s health benefits!
FRESH EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL STRAIGHT FROM TREE TO TABLE
As I briefly mentioned in my instagram post – this day was all glam! Somehow, I was included in the invite for a small group to be flown on a private jet from Sydney to the Boundary Bend Estate in Victoria – what a treat!
If you haven’t heard of them before, Cobram Estate is an Australian company who work from tree to table. They grow their own plants, pick from their own vineyards, press their own olives (within4- 6 hours of harvesting) and bottle in their own factories. I was given a first-hand experience of the process, picking the olives aboard the harvester and pressing them in the processing plant. This was followed by a flight of olive oil tasting with local wine and produce.
One of my favourite parts of the day was meeting and chatting with the wonderful Dr Joanna McMillan. Joanna is a consultant Dietitian and Nutritionist, author and TODAY Show resident nutritionist. She explained to us the ins and outs of the science behind EVOO and why it is so good for you! Read on as I do my best to share these insights with you!
WHAT EXACTLY IS EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL (EVOO)?
Simply put, EVOO is ‘fruit juice’ – the juice squeezed from an olive. It is naturally extracted from the olive without the use of any heat treatments or chemicals which means it is ‘unrefined’. This means that all the beneficial compounds found in the olive are infused into the oil.
WHAT ARE THE MEDICAL HEALTH BENEFITS OF EVOO?
There are so many health benefits of EVOO! Most of these revolve around heart health but it is also anti-inflammatory and anti-aging. Also studies have shown benefits for its’ use in the prevention and treatment of chronic disease.
EVOO is high in monounsaturated fats (beneficial for the prevention of heart disease), low in polyunsaturated fats (beneficial for health but unstable at high temperatures) and saturated fats. Even better- it has absolutely NO TRANS FATS – which are directly linked to the development of heart disease.
BUT IT’S NOT ALL JUST ABOUT HEART HEALTH – THERE ARE BENEFITS TO HELP REDUCE CHRONIC DISEASE
The fat profile of EVOO is not the only reason for its’ health benefits. There are all kinds of other health goodies within which are called ‘bioactive compounds’. In fact, you can literally taste the goodness. As Joanna McMillan describes, “the peppery kick in the back of the throat” experienced when tasting EVOO – that’s the flavour from Oeocanthal. It is one of the plant compounds from the fruit of the olive (biophenols, phytosterols, Squalene and Vitamin E) which acts as an antioxidant. It helps to protect our bodies from inflammation! This means it helps to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as osteoarthritis, Parkinson’s and Alzheimers. In fact, EVOO contains the highest levels of natural antioxidants of any mainstream cooking oil!
There are also components called ‘phenols’ which help to reduce blood pressure and levels of oxidation, in turn reducing risk of heart disease. Phenols also help to moderate the levels of insulin and glucose in your blood. These are factors which, if poorly controlled, can lead to the development of Type 2 Diabetes.
HEALTH MYTH NO. 1 – COOKING WITH EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL IS HARMFUL
A common belief about EVOO, and one I used to hold myself, was that is was not safe to use in cooking due to it’s low smoke point. The ‘smoke point’ is the temperature at which the oil starts to ‘smoke’. When this happens it means that the chemical structure of the oil is changing and the oil starts to produce polar compounds. These compounds can be harmful our bodies.
In actual fact, the bioactive compounds present in EVOO work to protect the oil as it is heated. This means it produces the least polar compounds when heated of most commercially available oils. This makes it the best choice for cooking.
There are other benefits to cooking with EVOO too. The exchange between the oil and the food mean that food cooked in EVOO will contain a higher content of healthy fats than the original food. Also, the fat-soluble vitamins and components of food such as glucosinolates (which are found in broccoli and kale) are better absorbed by the body when the food is cooked in EVOO. This article from the Olive Wellness Institute has more information on cooking with olive oil. So ditch the other oils and get cooking with EVOO!
HEALTH MYTH NO. 2 – ALL OLIVE OIL IS CREATED EQUAL
Unlike EVOO, regular olive oils (pure olive oil or extra light olive oil) are refined. This means that in the process of making these oils the manufacturer has used high levels of heat, pressure or chemicals to extract, bleach, deoderise or neutralise the oils before they are bottled. As you can imagine these processes remove most of the health benefits from the oil. It also means that there are different grades of olive oil, so make sure you buy quality.
Even with EVOO, the levels of bioactive compounds vary depending on environmental and technological factors. Usually, the fresher the oil, the more bioactive compounds it contains – so stay fresh!
So, what did I take from all this? The knowledge that not all oils are created equal! Because the manufacturing process affects the oils nutritional properties I am going to make sure that my EVOO is produced from a reliable source. Also, I now cook with EVOO much more often! I try to integrate it into my daily recipes, if you want some ideas for how to integrate EVOO look here. But do remember, because EVOO is primarily a fat it does provide your body with a lot of energy – which is something we always need to keep in balance and enjoy in moderation.