Is Extra Virgin Olive Oil Good For You? An Expert Explains.


Quick! Listen to episode #31 of The Genius Life podcast to learn everything you ever wanted to know about extra virgin olive oil—especially its health benefits!—from certified oleologist Nicholas Coleman.

If you know me or regularly read my posts, you know I’m obsessed with health/wellness podcasts. I can’t get enough of ’em!

Recently, I listened to one of the best, most captivating, most informative episodes ever (and that’s saying a lot!).

In his podcast The Genius Life, Max Lugavere interviews olive oil expert Nicholas Coleman. Here’s a bit more about Coleman:

Nicholas Coleman is one of the world’s few oleologists, meaning he’s dedicated his life to the study of the olive and its oil. He’s a globally-renowned lecturer, an advisor to Yale’s Olive Institute, and the founder of Grove and Vine, a subscription-based service which sends out hand-picked varietals quarterly.

To listen to the full episode, click here.

In just 45 minutes, Coleman breaks down everything you could ever need to know about the best “fruit juice.”

That’s right! Olives are a fruit, so we can think of olive oil as a fruit juice! Coleman points out that it should really be in the produce section, not in the same aisle as those disgusting grain and seed oils. Blech!

In the most concise and understandable manner, Coleman also breaks down the answer to this age-old question:

Is Extra Virgin Olive Oil Good For You?

Interestingly, Americans are some of the only people who worry that extra virgin olive oil may be unhealthy due to its high saturated fat content.

For decades (’80s and ’90s, I’m lookin’ at you!), we were taught that the consumption of saturated fat clogs our arteries and puts us at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease.

New research supports the opposite; saturated fat consumption is likely “not bad,” and healthy sources of saturated fat—like olive oil!—may actually improve overall health markers.

(To learn more about the benefits of healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil, read my prior post “Eating Enough Of This? Your Brain Health Depends On It…” To learn more about the inception of the high cholesterol myth, read my previous post “The Health Benefits Of Eggs: 7 Reasons Eggs Rock.”)

In his New York Times bestselling book Genius Foods, aforementioned podcast host Max Lugavere writes:

Extra-virgin olive oil is a staple food in the Mediterranean diet, and people who consume these kinds of diets display lower incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. Oleocanthal [an anti-inflammatory phenol] may play a role here as well, having demonstrated the potential to help the brain clear itself of the amyloid plaque, the sticky protein that aggregates to toxic levels in Alzheimer’s disease . . . It has been shown in large, long-term trials to protect the brain against decline (and even to improve cognitive function) when consumed at volumes of up to a liter per week. And if protecting your brain wasn’t enough, EVOO has been shown to block an enzyme in fatty tissue called fatty acid synthase, which creates fat out of excess dietary carbohydrates.

As if all of the above weren’t enough evidence that extra virgin olive oil is, Coleman explains additional health benefits:

At this point, it’s important to note that not all olive oils are created equal. Fortunately, Coleman also breaks down a step-by-step process for choosing the best extra virgin olive oil.

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To buy the healthiest extra virgin olive oil, you MUST dissect the label!

Since the majority of us are not oleologists like Coleman, he recommends the following tips for becoming a label sleuth:

  • Find the harvest date. This is different than the “best before” date. The harvest date should be recent. Olive oil is not like wine; it doesn’t get better with age! When we view olive oil as a fresh fruit juice (because that’s what it is!), we understand the necessity of buying it…fresh!
  • Find the region from which the olives were harvested. They should be from ONE place, not many different regions.
  • Make sure you buy olive oils that are in dark glass (not plastic!) bottles. The dark glass protects the oil.
  • Buy a size you’ll consume within 2-3 months. You wouldn’t consider orange juice to be fresh after a couple of weeks, so you shouldn’t consider this fruit juice to be fresh after many months.
  • Don’t fall for the words “pure” or “light” on the labels. In olive oil speak, “pure” is actually synonymous for “not high quality.” Confusing, right?! “Light” means the olive oil has been cut with some type of grain or seed oil. Yuck!
  • The terms “cold-pressed,” “cold-extracted,” and “filtered” are A-OK!

Final notes on extra virgin olive oil storage, price, etc…

  • You should store olive oil in a cool, dark place. Do you have a wine fridge? You can throw it in there! Ideally, you should store olive oil in an environment that’s 56 degrees.
  • The best olive oils are on the pricier side because they’re usually shipped thousands of miles; we don’t manufacture much high-quality olive oil in the United States. Thus, olive oil of merit is usually around $20-40 per half liter.
  • If you buy a nice oil, you can actually save money! Since you can use olive oil to season and enhance the flavor of any protein or vegetable, you don’t need to buy a bunch of processed salad dressings, marinades, seasonings, etc. Olive oil can be your one-stop dressing/marinade shop!
  • Olive oil has been around for 8,000 years; grain and seed oils have only been around for about 100. Our bodies know how to use the fat and nutrients from olive oil; they’re less familiar with the fat and nutrients in oils like canola, sunflower, safflower, etc.

In an article for GQ, Coleman recommends five of his favorite low-cost, high-quality oils. All of them are available on Amazon:

Again, I highly recommend that you listen to the entire episode yourself; Lugavere asks the best questions, and Coleman’s excitement about extra virgin olive oil is invigorating!

Happy olive oil drizzling/shopping!

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