Saturday, May 28, 2011

How to Pick Olive Oils with the Most Phenols

Extra Virgin Olive Oil has the highest levels of phenols.

There's no denying the health benefits of including olive oil in your diet. The Mediterranean diet with its generous use of olive oil is  often touted as one of the healthiest of diets. Health reports gushed with its many health benefits--lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, fights cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer's disease and weight gain and reduces various forms of cancer.. According to Northwestern’s Medill report, these health benefits are due to the presence of phenols in olive oil. The phenols found in olive oil are phytochemicals that have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anticoagulant properties. Not all olive oil has the same levels of phenols and here are some criteria to help choose olive oil phenols.

Highest Levels of Phenols

There are many grades of olive oil—extra virgin, virgin or refined. Extra virgin olive oil is made by pressing (technical term, milling) the olives to extract oil without heat or chemicals. As such, the highest levels of phenols are found in extra virgin oil, since no heat or chemicals are used to destroy nutrients found in the olives. On the other hand, virgin, pure or refined olive oil may use chemicals or heat to process olive oil, thereby lowering its phenols content.

Factors Affecting Phenols Content

Even among extra virgin olive oil, the levels of phenols can vary according to the climate conditions, the type of olive tree and when the fruits are harvested. For instance, fruits picked while they are green and at their peak of growth will yield higher levels of phenols.  You may want to check for place of manufacture, type of olives used in the label. Lab tests can reveal its level of phenols but you can also use your taste buds to help you. Olive oil with a pungent and robust taste usually has higher phenols than those with medium, mild or fruity taste.


Some foods like wine and cheese get better with age. Not olive oil—its phenols levels are highest when it is fresh. Why? Age can destroy nutrient value and cause it to go rancid. When buying a bottle of olive oil, choose a dark bottle as light destroys nutrients. Look for one that is not sitting in front or on top of shelf, expose to store lighting.  It is important to check for expiration date. Look for “best before” label and use it within the date specified. Olive oil has a lifespan of about a year to 18 months of harvesting. 

Quality Olive Oils

Premium olive oils may have even higher concentration of phenols. These olive oils usually have some form of certification or seal from a government agency or an independent certifying body. Examples include the North American Olive Oil Association or the California Olive Oil Council. They tend to be more expensive as the cultivation and production process require more care to ensure better flavor and higher source of phenols. 

Check out more benefits of Olive oil:

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