Thursday, September 17, 2009


For decades, the Mediterranean diet has been touted as a diet which improves cardio-vascular health and extends life. Olive oil has been determined to be the primary ingredient in the Mediterranean diet that results in the health benefits accorded to our Greek and Italian friends. We have been buying olive oil for years, careful to get the cold-press extra virgin variety.

Recently, I was reviewing the wonders of olive oil in my book about Healthy Fats and I noticed a previously overlooked researcher’s note at the bottom of the page: “All studies on the health improvements due to olive oil were based on “cold-pressed, virgin, unfiltered olive oil”. Apparently, the researcher was concerned that many of the health benefits may be from the suspended particles in the olive oil that are removed by most olive oil producers to extend the shelf life.

Olive oil used by locals in the Mediterranean areas is essentially the same as eating the raw fruit. Cold pressed olive oil is the only plant oil eaten raw and made by simply crushing and pressing the olive without heat or chemicals. Every other oil (canola, corn, safflower, peanut, and even regular olive oil) goes through a refining process using high heat and chemicals to extract the oil. If cold pressed olive oil is not filtered, it produces a cloudy and more pungent oil with a shorter shelf life. This fresh oil, called Olio Nuovo, is raw and complete with the solids from the crushing. It has to be refrigerated and has a limited shelf life, just like other fruits. The Olio Nuovo is available only once a year when the olives are harvested (just like our favorite French Beaujolais Nouveau) and it changes to regular olive oil over time as the solids settle.

It turns out that the label “Cold-Pressed Extra Virgin” is no guarantee that olive oil has been processed without chemicals, heat, or dilution with other oils. The United States has no labeling laws governing the production and labeling of olive oil.

So began our search for unfiltered, cold-pressed, virgin olive oil in Hilo, Hawaii. A visit to the newly opened Island Naturals health food store in Hilo Shopping Center led us to our first bottle of unfiltered olive oil: Olio Nuovo from Napa Valley, California. The taste is very different from the extra virgin olive oil that we have been buying. The cloud of green glop suspended in the oil makes it seem more like eating an olive than oil. Now we wonder if by using this unfiltered olive oil we will finally see the great health benefits promised by the Mediterranean diet.


Cal Orey, Author-Intuitive said...

Nice blog. Yes, EVOO is the fat of choice.
author of The Healing Powers of Olive Oil

Anonymous said...

You can also make your own raw coconut oil:

HiloLiving said...

Excellent news - the USDA finally decided to enforce scientifically verifiable standards for olive oil nomenclature such as "virgin" or "extra virgin." They will start enforcing them in October just in time for the harvest.

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