More Good News for Extra Virgin Olive Oil Users

April 26, 2010 in Antioxidants, Diabetes Management, Diabetic Menu Item, Health Claims, Mediterranean, Nutrition, Whole Grains by Joyce Bunderson

New research done in Cordoba, Spain may give moms and other “nutritional gatekeepers” a powerful reason to use virgin olive oil as the primary choice for cooking oils. We already know that olive oil is related to improved heart health, and decreased metabolic syndrome and diabetes; but this study examined the effects on genes connected to inflammation. Essentially what they did was give the virgin olive oil to patients with metabolic syndrome and then studied the effects on the genes responsible for inflammation, oxidization and thrombosis (markers for heart disease and diabetes). The results showed that the phenol compounds in virgin olive oil repressed the inflammation-causing genes. This damaging inflammation leads to diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

It appears that the extra virgin olive oil is a very important part of the benefits of the Mediterranean-style of eating. Apparently the Mediterranean peoples are still benefiting from the intake of olive oil, even though they have moved toward some of the debilitating habits of the western style of eating (white flour pastas and breads, more meats and cheeses, more saturated and trans-fats in store-bought goods). When the original studies were done, this was not the case. But across the years, the benefits of virgin olive oil still prove dependable and impressive.

So what does it mean for you? If you notice, the Dr. Grandma’s recipes and advice has been from the beginning (past 6+ years) to use extra virgin olive oil (EVOO); the reason is that it is high in the polyphenols that have been shown (yet again) to reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome, diabetes and heart disease – this time on a sub-cellular level.

I did not use olive oil for years after I knew the benefits of EVOO because my ‘American taste buds’ were not used to its characteristic strong flavor. This strong flavor is sought after for some uses of olive oil in cooking, for example, marinara sauce. But then I discovered that first cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil could be purchased with a mild taste. Dr. Grandma’s has been one of the importers of mild extra virgin olive oil from Italy since the company began. I’ve used it for almost a decade (even before Dr. Grandma’s company began). I made cakes for grandchildren’s birthdays and other confections, and the grandchildren loved every last crumb. P.S. I didn’t broadcast that there was anything different in the cake. Banish the thought!

I feel so validated by the new research because I started using olive oil in baking so many years ago – at first just experimenting with it. As I have discovered (and learned from others) many methods of baking and cooking with it over the years, the evidence of its benefits keeps coming. Recently another study was conducted in Greece and published in the journal Food Science and Technology. This study found that the use of EVOO could replace all or some of the margarine in bakery products. This study was done primarily for professional bakeries because the bakeries usually use shortenings and margarines. As you know, there has been quite a powerful move to stop using the hydrogenated fats, such as those found in margarine, and their resulting trans fats. One of the outcomes of the recent research in Greece was that trans fats in margarine and other shortenings used in cakes could be substituted with olive oil without affecting the textural, flavor and aroma properties. Interestingly, the professional tasting panel of the Greek study found the taste of the EVOO cakes to be excellent; both the taste and the moist texture – moister than with the margarine. This is a big surprise to them because extra virgin olive oil has a characteristically strong flavor.

It’s really a financial benefit to the bakers to use the hydrogenated oils or the partially hydrogenated oils because of the long life shelf stability. But ……….. Here’s the really big ‘But’ …… you already know this – the resulting trans fats are deadly. Trans fats raise levels of LDL-cholesterol (bad stuff), reduce levels of HDL-cholesterol (good stuff), promote inflammation (metabolic syndrome) and can cause endothelial dysfunction and have negative influence on other risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. Some cities have banned trans fats. But the snag is that they sneak into commercially baked foods like crackers, cakes, donuts and cookies. Can we have cake made to taste great yet not contain these harmful saturated fats? Very simply, Yes, Use mild EVOO for baking!

A Few Suggestions:

  • Substitute EVOO for butter, margarine and shortening whenever possible
  • Use it as your standard salad oil.
  • Use it to replace vegetable oils in baking whenever possible
  • Buy only cold-pressed EVOO – it retains more of the phenols
  • Use olive oil as a dip instead of spreading butter on your bread
  • Note: All of Dr. Grandma’s oil-containing products use exclusively first cold pressed mild EVOO imported from Italy.

The take home lesson is simply: Good Health Can Be Yummy. Most people know that the recipes of the Mediterranean are delicious. When we learn of new studies in Spain and Greece that tell us that we’re on to something, we’re in high spirits. The hundreds of readers of this blog already know that EVOO is a superior choice, but it’s always nice to know the new research is proving in ever-greater detail that we can enjoy wonderful food while we move toward a healthier lifestyle.

Our house guest wants Berry Delicious Apricots and Pistachios - it has a very nice texture and the flavors are a hint of India.