It’s been almost a year since I wrote the original article, which blew up on social media.
In that article I unveiled the lies that many North American olive oil importing companies tell their customers in order to make more money delivering inferior product.
Many of the myths and lies surrounding olive oil, particularly as they relate to storage and extraction, have been carefully designed to maximize profits from unsuspecting consumers unfamiliar with the inner workings of extra virgin olive oil production.
But this is not limited to merely the olive oil industry. Industrial seed and vegetable oil producers, such as soybean, corn and rapeseed producers also have an incentive to push a marketing narrative that benefits themselves at the expense of your health.
In this article, I will revisit the lies pedaled by North American cooking oil companies. It turns out that even mainstream scientists are beginning to agree with me; that is, real extra virgin olive oil is:
1) Robust to oxidation
2) Healthy (this was not always believed), and
3) Perfectly safe to cook with at high temperatures
These are views which have long been held unchallenged within indigenous European cultural groups along the Mediterranean for the past four thousand years and more.
So, what has changed? Why did we lose this intimate generational knowledge? Why have we forgotten that olive oil is in fact:
1) Teeming with healthy monounsaturated fats, including omega-9s and 3s, and oleic acid, antioxidant polyphenols such as oleocanthal, and vitamins E and K.
2) Not as sensitive to light and oxidation as many would have you believe, and
3) Safe to cook, bake and deep fry your sea bass and more
First of all, North America has never been an olive culture. Despite dramatic increases in olive oil production in California over the past twenty years, Californian production has yet to eclipse Croatia’s, which is still one of the world’s smallest producers.
Simply put, extraordinary profits are on the table and bad actors have taken advantage of information asymmetries between European and North American olive oil markets at mass scale.
Second, and more importantly perhaps, is that for the past 70 years, seed and vegetable oil production has been heavily subsidized at the federal level in the United States.
In 1961, the American Hearth Health Association went so far as to suggest that we should replace both our saturated fats (butter, ghee, etc.) and monounsaturated fats (olive oil, avocado, coconut, etc.) with “healthier” polyunsaturated fats such as corn, rapeseed, and soybean oil.
We now know this to be poor advice, given that higher ratios of omega 6 fatty acids found in polyunsaturated fats contribute to inflammation and a host of other chronic health conditions in people.
Lie #1: Olive Oil Is Full Of Artery-Clogging Unhealthy Fats
After the introduction of unparalleled federal Agribusiness subsidies, what followed has been a roughly 70 year increase in an unending list of physical ailments among Americans starting, ironically enough, with heart disease, as well as epidemic levels of obesity, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, dementia, male infertility and more.
Since the 1960s, the United States has spent at least one trillion dollars on soybean and other seed and vegetable oil crops. It is extremely cheap to produce seed and vegetable oils relative to their revenue, and with major purchasers, such as those from China and other rapidly growing economies demanding increasingly larger quantities of cheap foodstuffs, there seems to be no end in sight to such subsidies.
These production incentives are clearly economic and Globalist in nature, and coincide perfectly with the rapid expansion of returns to capital relative to labor over the same time period. This is a matter of idealistic trickle-down economics causing trickle-down disease.
The elite are getting healthier, eating more heart-healthy fats and drinking more wine, while the poor, and the increasingly immiserated middle classes, are living off cheap polyunsaturated cooking oils and carbohydrates. This is something we see often in the cycles of history, typically preceding major socioeconomic class conflicts.
Olive oil, a robust, healthy source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, has simply been caught in the crossfires of Big Agribusiness, perhaps intentionally so, and particularly in what I and others have come to call the Seed Oils Mafia.
Lacking the local traditional knowledge extolling the benefits of extra virgin olive oil consumption that is rooted in Mediterranean cultures, olive oil has since been relegated to the trash bin of domestic cooking and finishing oils in North America.
Unfortunately, and unlike myself, very few Americans have a Babushka to tell them otherwise. I believe it is my duty now to relay her multi-generational inherited wisdom to you.
Extra virgin olive oil is a Gift from the Gods, and there is nothing some bureaucrat nor government scientist could ever tell me to convince me otherwise.
Lie #2: You Should Only Buy Olive Oil In Dark Bottles
Are all olive oils bought in dark or opaque bottles going to be rancid?
The short answer is no, but likely yes. I’m not going to outright claim that ALL extra virgin olive oil sold in dark or opaque bottles are fraudulent, but you’re better off avoiding them since you can’t know for sure if they have something to hide.
In many cases, modern olive oil companies have simply picked up on a bad trend. We shouldn’t punish them forever, but they really ought to wise up soon.
Unlike olive oil, seed and vegetable oils contain large amounts of polyunsaturated fats which are known to be extremely sensitive to photo-oxidation; this is simply not true for extra virgin olive oil, which is robust to the oxidative changes induced by exposure to light and air, and for very long periods of time (typically 2-3 years).
Ideally, you want to aim to consume olive oil that is farm fresh, that which is pressed 3-6 months after the harvest date. A premium extra virgin olive oil, such as that from my family farm in Croatia, can last up to 3 years when stored properly.
That being said, there is no good reason for the olive oil on a typical grocery store shelf to be rancid if it is in fact the real deal.
With inventory held mainly in cool, dark storage facilities, you should have very little to worry about if the bottle itself is clear when displayed on the shelf.
Olive oil doesn’t sit on a store shelf for more than 3 months. Buying cycles at the typical grocery retailer take place on a 15 to 30 day recurring schedule anyway.
One the other hand, dark and opaque bottles indicate that the olive oil may have been adulterated with cheaper, potentially rancid seed and vegetable oils, such as peanut oils, which are also potentially a dangerous allergen! Why conceal your olive oil if you have nothing to hide? Premium olive oil is not like a delicate flower. This is an outright marketing lie.
On the other hand, some very low quality olive oil is often also stored in clear plastic bottles (which are marginally cheaper than the tinted ones), precisely because producers are already aware that their olive oil is either rancid or of a lower quality. Why invest in preserving garbage?
In this case, however, they will not be able to label their olive oil as “extra virgin.” You’ll notice that some lower-tier “pure” and “virgin” (note: not “extra virgin”) olive oils such as those from No Name or Filippo Berrio, come in clear plastic bottles.
Do yourself a favor and avoid these altogether. They have no purpose, either for drinking or for cooking, other than to line the pockets of cronies.
Lie #3: You Can’t Cook, Bake or Fry with Extra Virgin Olive Oil
This lie is my favorite.
This is the clearest example of a lie you could ever possibly come up with when it comes to olive oil, and with new scientific research strongly concluding that extra virgin olive is safe to cook with at high temperatures, this lie couldn’t be any more blatant.
This lie comes from an unfortunate coincidence. Olive oil, you see, has a relatively low smoke point compared to other cooking oils. If you leave olive oil on a frying pan on its own it will smoke rather quickly. The assumption here is that smoke causes the formation of cooking aldehydes, which are toxins you definitely don’t want to eat.
What doesn’t make sense at all is why you would ever put olive oil directly onto a frying pan by itself, and then subsequently drink that olive oil on its own. When cooking, heat transfer will prevent smoke and oxidation, so long as there there is additional matter present i.e. food, to transfer the accumulated heat into. Since nobody actually fries and eats air, smoke points are a meaningless metric when it comes to cooking.
I recently took to Twitter to speak my mind about this, as I know in my bones that “cooking with olive [does not] cause cancer”. My grandmother cooks, bakes, sears and deep fries with olive oil often. A family-famous recipe of hers involves baking a cake with at least 3 full cups of olive oil (pro tip: you can get some of her recipes by subscribing to the Selo Olive Mailing List).
Unfortunately, the masses often require an appeal to authority to consider anything that might even slightly change their minds, and peer-reviewed journal articles appear at the very top of such a list of validators for any sort of potentially cognitive dissonant claim.
So, here it is. The research now speaks for itself. Extra virgin olive oil is by far the most stable cooking oil in existence. Smoke points have little or nothing to do with oxidation potential when cooking. In fact, extra virgin olive oil is the most robust cooking oil when it comes oxidation resistance, despite a relatively low smoke point.
This means it is perfectly safe to cook, bake, pan sear, fry and even deep fry with extra virgin olive oil. You may baste your roast pig for Christmas, or deep fry your chicken wings in olive oil. No problem. Whether you want to do so is up to you, but there you have it.
Personally, I’m more inclined to take my olive oil in a shot glass when I wake up or before exercising, and to douse it on my steak along with minced garlic as a cold topper, primarily for the rich flavor.
In conclusion, don’t be afraid to purchase olive oil in clear glass bottles, and certainly don’t be afraid to cook with it at high temperatures if that is something you like to do.
Most of all, remember that olive oil is packed with essential vitamins, powerful antioxidants and “good” monounsaturated fats, which boost heart, skin and brain health, prevent cancer, dementia, improve fertility in men, and much, much more.
You simply can’t go wrong with olive oil, no matter how you take it.
If you LOVE real extra virgin olive oil as much as I do, consider purchasing some of my own hand-picked, first cold pressed, extra virgin liquid gold, direct from my family farm in Croatia.
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