In the previous blog, we talked about labels and markings on bottles of extra virgin olive oil. We mentioned that unsaturated fatty acids are crucial components of olive oils because they preserve the oil’s stability and contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are important for our bodies.
However, extra virgin olive oil also contains important polyphenolic compounds. These are a group of natural organic compounds with a broad spectrum of effects on our bodies: antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and various other positive effects. It is precisely these compounds that give the oil its bitter taste.
As there is a lot of low-quality extra virgin olive oil on the market, we have become accustomed to oils being mild with very little pungency and almost no bitterness. Therefore, our guests are often surprised by the intense taste of oil with pronounced bitterness and often think it is not good. The truth is quite the opposite.
The higher the concentration of phenols in the oil, the more pungent and bitter it will be, and therefore, it will be of higher quality for our health. The concentration of these compounds depends on the olive variety, agronomic measures, climatic factors, optimal fruit harvest timing, proper storage, and oil transportation. The processing method immediately following the olive harvest also influences the phenol content.
Some varieties have lower phenol content, resulting in mild and aromatic oils. Other varieties have much higher polyphenol levels, making the oils extremely bitter or pungent.
According to EU legislation EU 432/2012 EFSA, every extra virgin olive oil with more than 250g of phenols per 1kg of oil can proudly carry the Health Claim label. The goal of this label is for oils with increased phenol levels (˃250 mg/kg) to be declared as a product with a health effect on the human cardiovascular system. This way, olive oil is not only offered as a food product but also as functional food that can be consumed daily in smaller packages.
In addition to preventing cardiovascular issues and reducing the risk factors for a heart attack, many studies show other health benefits when such oil is used regularly:
All of these are important reasons to learn to recognize high-quality extra virgin olive oil and start using it in regular diet. You can consume such quality oil on its own by taking three tablespoons of olive oil every morning. You will quickly get used to the bitterness of olive oil.
Extra virgin olive oil is an essential part of the Mediterranean diet, considered a healthy and quality way of eating. We will talk more about this in one of the upcoming blogs.