Read your labels carefully!!

Don’t make the same mistake I did! I ordered my normal EVOO from Instacart and the shopper made a substitution. I didn’t think much about it (when people shop for me, I try to be grateful and not crabby about it) but after a few uses, I looked at the label and realized that this stuff only contains 20% extra virgin olive oil (EVO) and the rest is Sunflower Oil.

There is a difference. When you are cooking with it, you may not notice the difference in taste, but there’s a huge difference in quality.

When I talk to my patients about oils and fats, we try to make it as simple as possible. Even after learning about it numerous times, I still get messed up with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated and all of that biochemistry stuff. So we talk about it in terms of Mother Nature.

See, Mother Nature gave us olives, which are these little balls of goodness filled with fat that are just asking us to eat them – right off the branches. When you squish and grind and press olives, you can make some of the fat come out and magic presto, you can eat it just the way it is – no processing or packaging necessary! That means that Mother Nature gave us these things to eat freely. She designed them for us to eat them often.

In fact, good quality EVO has been shown to lower blood pressure and risk of heart disease, stroke, breast cancer and cognitive decline. Even if you only as little as two tablespoons per day.

Sunflowers are really different than olives. Granted, they are much prettier, but they don’t invite us to eat them right off the stalk. You can grind and press the seeds out of the flower and make oil, but it’s a much more labor intensive process than squishing olives. This means you should probably eat it less often than you eat olive oil.

Now Sunflower oil is loads better than canola oil or corn oil – both of which require lots of chemicals to go from plant to oil. And don’t even get me started about manufactured trans fats – partially hydrogenated poison that should not be consumed by humans – ever.

And, if you care to dive a little deeper, there is a huge variety of quality when it comes to different olive oils. Polyphenols are the antioxidants behind EVO’s health benefits and the amount varies from one brand to another. Good quality EVO can have a peppery effect on the back of the throat, sometimes stimulating a cough reflex. Polyphenols can also make the oil taste slightly bitter.

You don’t have to spend a fortune to get good quality EVO either. In fact, analyzed popular EVO brands and rated them – and Kirkland’s Signature Organic EVO (from Costco) and Trader Joe’s Premium EVO were both in the top 3 choices.

Key takeaways:

  1. read your labels
  2. if Mother Nature gave a food to you – with easy access and minimal energy expenditure required, it’s probably good for you
  3. Be a food snob

Have a wonderful week. It’s almost spring. Let me know if you need me…

Courtney Younglove, M.D.