I recently met Richard who represents a business that specializes in fine foods, made from smaller businesses that use natural ingredients and natural methods of production. As I tasted his small batch Greek cold pressed olive oils, he mentioned the instances of oil fraud. "What fraud?", I asked. He said the fraud that claims your olive oil is actually made of 100% olives, cold pressed and no chemicals used in its production.
Coming from a family who uses Olive Oil in almost every dish, this seemed strange, unnatural and unbelievable, so I started doing some research.
It turns out that businesses large and small have taken advantage of the fact that olive oil has been one of the most powerful superfood known to man for thousands of years. It's so bad and hidden that we don't even know it's going on. Forbes did a great piece on the subject The Scam of Olive Oil.
Bad olive oil is not only wrong, it can be deadly for you! In an article from Progressive Health.com, they reported the dangers of toxic olive oil:
"Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat. This means it has a single double bond in the structure. OIive oil contains a high amount of oleic acid, which can create an imbalance in the oil’s structure when heated beyond its smoke point or after it oxidizes due to aging.
A 2006 study published in the Journal of Foodservice found that the consumption of high quantities of oxidized oils (usually made by frying the oil), and even being near the oils, causes a variety of health problems. The researchers found that the consumption of oxidized oils leads to an increased risk for the development of heart disease, birth defects, inflammatory joint disease, arthritis, digestive disorders, and an increased risk for developing cancer.
Olive oil can oxidize in two separate ways. The first way is through heat refining. The second way is simply through age. According to an article published in The Guardian in 2012, the average shelf life of olive oil is about one year. Sadly, much of the olive oil sold today is bottled several months (and possibly even years) after it is expressed from the oil. This means that your olive oil is probably already oxidized before it even arrives in your pantry.
In fact, research on Italian olive oil sold in the United States found that nearly 70 percent of the oil on grocery store shelves did not meet the requirements for healthy tasting and smelling olive oil."
What's extremely sad is that the generation that came to Canada (our parents) and brought traditions and practices that were practiced for thousands of years, have succumbed to agri-business. My father shops around for the cheapest price on olive oil he can find and buys cases at a time. It makes me question the authenticity of the oil available on grocery store shelves for two reasons:
1) How can good oil be produced so cheap?
2) Olive oil has many superfood qualities such as helping to lower cholesterol, blood pressure, controls asthma and inflammation - If my parents have been consuming ample amounts of olive oil for many years, why are they experiencing most of the ailments that olive oil helps?
Of course overall diet and exercise play a role in my parents' ailments, but studies have shown that when olive oil is mixed with other oils such as sunflower oil, the degradation of the benefits of olive oil was visible. Check out the following excerpt from How Stuff Works.com
The study, which was published in the December 2003 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, examined samples of cooking oil from the kitchens of 538 study participants. Researchers measured the blood pressure and conducted blood tests on those participants and nearly 500 more "control" subjects. Here's what they found:
- Olive oil was resistant to heat degradation.
- Mixed oil and sunflower oil degraded more than olive oil alone when heated and reused.
- Those who used sunflower oil, whether or not it had deteriorated, had higher blood pressure levels than those who used olive oil.
My mind has been expanded with what it really means to consume olive oil as a superfood. I hope you too start to question the sources and production methods of your food, and make purchasing decisions that reflect your inner values.