I was born in Canada but my body was crafted in the Balkans, just like my family’s extra virgin olive oil. In fact, several millennia of inter-glacial Big Game hunters precede me. When I discovered that my ancestors drank olive oil daily, then sparred with Mammoths and saber-toothed tigers, I simply stopped questioning why people complement me for my radiant confidence and smooth beige skin. Real oils.
Every morning, I consume a mouthful of Croatian extra virgin olive oil, about a large tablespoon’s worth twice daily. Sometimes, I drink straight from the bottle. And when I spend time in my ancestral village I make sure to devour as many raw olives as I can. I crush them in my fists and siphon their Heaven Glory right from the tree. First fist pressed.
This experience I hope to share with all my friends one day. Until then, all I can do is share what I know about “olive” oils in the West. Hopefully, I can persuade you not to drink them. Unfortunately, chemically-treated seed oil mixtures run rampant in America, earning their producers massive profit margins. These profits sometimes far exceed what even the most prolific cocaine dealers bring in each year. Hexane. Google it.
Vegetable and seed oils cause inflammation. Period. They can even increase the risk of heart disease. The reason for this is their typically absurd ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. While omega-6 is certainly necessary for health, especially for cellular regeneration, too much of this polyunsaturated fat can causes serious health problems such as blood clots and strokes. The monounsaturated fats found in olive oil, however, can help reduce triglycerides, blood pressure and the formation of arterial plaques.
This is the just the tip of the iceberg. Below are nine reasons people everywhere should consider natural extra virgin olive oil as a daily dietary staple.
1. Olive Oil Burns Fat
There are only two ways that you can be greeted in the selo (the Croatian word for village). Either with “Wow, you sure have gained weight!” followed by a hard slap to the belly and patronizing laughter, or “Wow, you look like a sick, skinny fuck!” in which case you will be fed until your intestines feel like they are about to explode.
Either way, you won’t get an actual compliment. But if you want to feel good about yourself, you know what to do. Drink olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil speeds up general fat oxidation in the body, meaning it is directly responsible for burning fat. This is perhaps the most simple and consistent result that appears in studies on the subject. Whether it’s cutting season at the gym, or you just want to shed some extra pounds, the answer is extra virgin olive oil.
2. Olive Oil Increases Testosterone and Sperm Count In Men
If you didn’t already know, your testicles produce testosterone by extracting cholesterol from special cells within them called leydig cells. In 2009, a couple of Argentinian researchers discovered that olive oil increases the activity of enzymes responsible for energizing these leydig cells, as well as providing antioxidants to keep them alive for longer. As a result, a positive feedback loop between enzymes and antioxidants in your balls can be strengthened, increasing the rate of testosterone production. This does not apply if you are a woman.
Aside from this, they demonstrated that olive oil acts as an indirect anti-estrogenic. It contains a compound called oleuropein that inhibits enzymes which would otherwise facilitate the transformation of free testosterone molecules into estrogen. This is clearly not an acceptable outcome for any man. One look around my ancestral village is evidence the copious amount of olive oil consumed plays a strong role in my cousins’ unparalleled masculinity.
3. Olive Oil Improves Memory and Focus
A 2012 study by Ligia Dominguez et al. showed that antioxidants in extra virgin olive oil can reverse age and disease-related learning and memory deficits in mice. This research has not been tested in human gastrogenomic trials. However, my baba never forgets to scold me when I leave the house without my sweater. Her memory is pristine at age 80.
She also never seems to forget that a mild draft will not cause my head to violently explode. Olive oil is no modafinil, but I still swear by it. It does too many wonders to not give it the benefit of the doubt here as well.
4. Olive Oil Protects The Heart
Given the abnormally high percentage of fats found in olive oil produced in the Mediterranean, most assume that this would exacerbate rather than prevent heart disease by hardening your arteries. Strangely, the lowest incidence of heart disease-related deaths in the industrialized world occurs in Southern Europe, where people typically have high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, and smoke a lot of cigarettes.
Although there are many possible explanations for why this is the case, the proof is in the eating. One study, which examined 7,447 patients at high cardiovascular risk, showed that after 4.8 years, the risk of major cardiovascular events (heart attack, stroke) was reduced by 30% in the group assigned to the high extra virgin olive oil diet.
5. Antioxidants In Olive Oil Help Prevent Skin Cancer
Slavs are typically fair-skinned wherever you find them, and while Balkan Slavs closer to the Adriatic have adapted to become darker as they age, they definitely come out kicking and screaming white as the dickens. A diet high in extra virgin olive oil has therefore been very beneficial to Mediterranean Slavs who settled in the region in the early 900s AD.
Olive oil been shown to reduce skin cancer risk because of the prevalence of oleic acids which inhibit certain cancer-causing genes from functioning in cells. Apparently, only three in every 100,000 residents of countries in the Mediterranean develop any form of skin cancer, despite summer temperatures in most places ranging from 95-115 degrees Fahrenheit. Another Mediterranean paradox resolved by extra virgin olive oil? I think so.
Actually, I do faintly recall my grandmother massaging olive oil onto my back as a child, before I was allowed to play with the other children in my village by the sea. There must be something to that.
6. Olive Oil Is Nature’s Anti-Inflammatory Agent
Olive oil contains a natural anti-inflammatory agent called oleocanthal. Compared to your run of the mill yellow water from Costco, extra virgin olive oils sourced directly from the Mediterranean are up to 500% more potent. Forget ibuprofen and aspirin, which can cause internal bleeding in the stomach, small intestine and in extreme cases, the brain. If you have a chronic inflammatory condition, it may be worth experimenting with olive oil.
I’m not a doctor, but the Monell Chemical Senses Center insists on a spoonful of olive oil per day to reduce pain associated with allergies, asthma, tendonitis, and more. Personally, I take two tablespoons, and always down it with a clove of garlic. No harm done.
7. Olive Oil Improves Mood and Fights Depression
Depression is like having a tail, right? Nothing you can do about it, right? Wrong. Drink olive oil, and a lot of it. A recent study of 12,000 Spanish students linked extra virgin olive oil consumption with a nearly 50% reduction in depression. Another Spanish study from 2009 showed a 30% reduction in depression for the experimental group who ate a Mediterranean diet high in olive oil.
In the discussion section of the second paper, the authors asked whether cardiovascular disease and depression might be interrelated. Whatever the reason, you can’t beat results like this. Ableism be damned!
8. Olive Oil Is High In Good Monounsaturated Fats
Most extra virgin olive oil is fake, so make sure to source your oils from the highest quality family farms. Italy and Greece tend to produce a lot of fakes, whereas Croatia, Portugal and Lebanon produce authentic liquid gold.
Extra virgin olive olives typically have between 5 and 10 times as much polyphenol content compared to regular oils, and a healthy dose of monounsaturated fats. This is because they are not watered down with sunflower seed oil, and other pollutants.
9. Olive Oil Is Extremely Healthy
Along with copious amounts of red wine, vine-ripe grapes, bursting pomegranates, organic prosciutto, and plenty of raw garlic and onions, it is no wonder that my living relatives and Slavic ancestors from the Mediterranean are known for their health and virility.
Whenever I return to Croatia after an unfortunate extended absence, it becomes painfully obvious to me how much catching up I have to do.
As Baba always says “Ih, ranko, ih!” which simply means “Eat, dear, eat!” and lather everything in olive oil.