Extra Virgin Olive Oil Myths – Busted!

This week, I had the absolute privilege to be asked to fly out to Cobram Estate (if you’re not familiar, Australia’s award-winning Extra Virgin Olive Oil, EVOO) at Boundary Bend, Victoria – yes, there’s red dirt there!

Although, I was already a fan of their high-quality EVOO products (which Mediterranean gal, isn’t?) – with a pantry that proves it – seeing the process and the research and passion behind Cobram Estate’s ah-mazing products.

We know that EVOO is a key component of the “Mediterranean Diet”, one of the most studied dietary patterns in the world, known for its cardiovascular benefits, ability to reduce the risk of stroke and type 2 diabetes and has even shown success in the mental health and fertility arenas.

Greeks consume about 5-6 tablespoons of EVOO a day, whilst our Australian healthy eating recommendations fall within the realm of 1-2 tablespoons a day, a significant gap that should be customisable to each individual’s needs.

Plus, I’ll take you through how EVOO is made at Cobram Estate using some of my snaps from the trip!

But, first…

What’s so great about EVOO?

  • Excellent fatty acid profile: > 70% monounsaturated fats (great for heart health and managing cholesterol), about 10% polyunsaturated fats and some saturated fats
  • Lower risk of oxidation: Oils higher in polyunsaturated fats (although excellent for heart health), are more likely to be oxidised and increases the risk of free radicals forming in the body, which can lead to cell damage.
  • No trans fat – Olive Oil (Labelled “pure” or “extra light”, however, do contain small amounts of trans fats, these fats should ideally be completely avoided

Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil has the highest antioxidant content of any oil on the market.

  • Biophenols: more than 30 antioxidants – antioxidants fight free radicals which form due to oxidative stress in the body (happens all the time). These antioxidants also protect the oil from oxidation.
  • Oleocanthal: is a particular biophenol that is found exclusive in EVOO (not even found in olives) and has anti-inflammatory action, similar to ibuprofen! Say whaaaaat? EVOO is legit medicine! (Not legit, but you get my point)
  • Phytosterols: or plant sterols, are the plant forms of cholesterol which have very positive effects on our own blood cholesterol
  • Squalene: not found in many foods except for shark,is known for its skin cancer protective properties.
  • Enhances absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E & K from food
  • Enhances absorption of vegetables own bioactive compounds such as carotenoids
  • It makes vegetables taste BETTER, that’s why the Mediterraneans can eat so many!

Now, let’s bust THE biggest EVOO myth…

EVOO is ACTUALLY safe to cook with

The myth that EVOO is not safe to cook with is 100% still going around (even among health professionals). I think, it’s purely because of misinformation about “smoke point”. being the be all and end all when it comes to oil quality and performance when cooking at higher heats.

Smoke point is a poorly measured parameter and a poor indicator of oil performance. To measure smoke point, someone just looks out for a smoking pan, so obviously that’s going to vary from who’s watching the pan. Smoke point is a poor indicator of oil performance

What IS a better measure of quality is the presence of polar compounds, a by-product of oxidation, oxidative stability and the levels of polyunsaturated fats (i.e. if decreased from initial levels, some oxidation has occurred).

Polar compounds are formed when an oil is heated and determines the level of degradation of the oil. Once polar compounds reach 25%, it is considered unsafe for use and restaurants and cafes are instructed to replace the oil at this point.

So, how does EVOO stack up in terms of formation of polar compounds? Well, it comes out on top for both slow cooking (180oC for 6 hours) and stove-top higher heat cooking (240oC for 20 min), with canola oil performs the worst.

Why?

The antioxidants & vitamin E found in EVOO protects the oil from oxidation during heating and lower polyunsaturated fat content compared to seed oils reduces the chance of oxidation.

How is EVOO made?

Well, it’s a beautiful process to transform the olive into its olive juice product, EVOO, but it has got to be done FAST.

First, the olives are harvested using a specialist piece of equipment that very efficiently picks the olives without causing major damage to the tree. Harvesting & crushing occurs 24/7 for the harvesting season which occurs from late April to mid-late June.

Within 4 hours, these olives are transported from the groves to the plant for washing.

After washing, all the olives are photographed to be screened for colour, temperature and texture to ensure they are the best quality before being crushed into a tapenade.

Olives then move by gravity toward the big screw-like machine that grinds the olives whole into tapenade. The seed and all! The crushed pit helps to squeeze the oil out of the olive.

The oil is then removed from the chunky mix and is spun to separate out the water, leaving THIS golden goodness!

The oil is then placed in stainless steel settling tanks where oxygen in the air is removed to prevent oxidation (the enemy in the oil production world), and finally bottled in a dark coloured glass bottle! Temperature and other factors are tightly regulated during this time.

As you can see, there are no added bits or pieces, heating or refining to create high-quality EVOO at Cobram Estate. It’s essentially just olive juice, and in fact a good quality EVOO does not leave an oily taste in your mouth.EVOO = Olive Juice

EVOO hacks:

  • Keep EVOO in a dark & cool place (i.e. in a closed cupboard or pantry)
  • Keep EVOO stoppered and use within 4-6 weeks of opening, so buy how much you need for that time period
  • Buying Australian EVOO is better than an imported version because there is less time since harvest meaning less nutrient & antioxidant loss!

References & Resources:

Full Disclosure: This blog is not directly sponsored or paid for by Cobram Estate. My trip out was complementary with a few lovely gifts from the Cobram Estate team, however, I only ever discuss products or ingredients I truly believe in and would recommend to my own family (literally, we’re dunking bread in this stuff at home!)