What is a High Phenolic Olive Oil and why is good for you?

Updated: Jan 13

High Phenolic Olive Oils are those Olive Oils that contain a high percentage of phenolic compounds, called polyphenols which are directly related to the health benefits of olive oil. According to the EU Health Claim Labeling Regulation (432/2012), the claim may be used only for olive oil which contains at least 5mg of hydroxytyrosol and its derivatives (e.g. oleuropein complex and tyrosol) per 20g of olive oil. The beneficial effect for the consumers is obtained with a daily intake of 20g of olive oil (2tbs). This daily intake of high phenolic olive oil contributes to the protection of blood lipids from oxidative stress. UC Davis, Harvard University and many other research centers in the world embrace this idea and have backed it up with many researches over the last ten years.

Polyphenol – rich Olive Oils have been found to help:

· lower blood pressure

· protect the arteries from damage

· lower bad cholesterol

· reduce the risk for type II diabetes

· prevent many types of cancer

· prevent strokes

· fight premature aging

· decrease the risk for depression and dementia

· slow the progression of Alzheimer’s up to 40%

· reduce inflammations in the body

What are the phenolic compounds?

These are the organic compounds that are the by-products of plant synthesis and are known as phytochemicals. Polyphenols are regarded for their health promoting properties and are found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes, beverages (coffee, tea and wine), fats (olive oil) as well as in spices. However, there are phenolic compounds unique to olive oil that only occur during the malaxation process. There are 36 known phenolic compounds in olive oil. The two most widely researched for their health protective benefits are Oleocanthal and Oleacein which are known for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

The presence of Oleocanthal is indicated by the peppery effect on the back of the throat sometimes causing a cough reflex. Oleacein is known by the bitterness on the tongue. For people accustomed to purchasing olive oils from the super market, these characteristics of pepperiness and bitterness are often mistaken as a defect in the olive oil.

Phenolic content vary according to soil condition and weather patterns, olive variety, time of harvest (fruit maduration stage - the greener the olives the higher the phenolic content), milling procedures, etc. For example, bio-diversity within the grove adds to the richness of the soil and the nutrition available to the olive fruit. Rains, drought or winds have greater or lesser impact on phenolic content and amount of olive oil produced depending on when they occur during olive fruit maturation.

For you the purchaser:

If you are purchasing a high phenolic olive oil for its health benefits, you should treate it as a food supplement , you have to consume it daily and preferably raw on your foods and salads. If you want to cook or fry with olive oil you can use a more affordable Extra Virgin Olive Oil and keep you high phenolic EVOO for your daily self-care ritual.

It is recommended to use it quickly, before the Best Before date. Once it is opened it is critical to take care of it in order to minimize the loss of the phenolic content and preserve the integrity of its health benefits.

Light, heat, air and time are the enemies of any olive oil. Storing olive oil in a cool (15-18oC) dark place will prolong its qualities of extra virginity and high phenolic content.

That means store it in small tinted bottles 250–1000ml out of the light in a cool place and don’t leave it by the stove while cooking.

Close the bottle well after every use. Phenolic compounds will simply evaporate from an open bottle within a short period of time. Keep in mind that high phenolic EVOO’s cost more than the majority of olive oils found in the market due to special cultivation, harvest and milling processes that raise the labor cost.

Let’s clear this out: “High Phenolic Olive Oil” is not an official EU Olive Oil Category since it is included in the category “Extra Virgin Olive Oil”. The term "High Phenolic Olive Oil" is used only to indicate that these extra virgin olive oils contain more than 250mg/kg of total phenolic compounds.

We have started to discover and study high phenolic olive oils the last decade thanks to some visionary olive oil producers (and university professors), who have taken risks to do things differently, to go against centuries of old traditions and create olive oil of superior quality; an olive oil measurably different and more beneficial to humanity. They all have a story and they are proud to share it.

Mykonos Olive Oil Tasting admires and supports the work of all those visionary producers and will present them to you in the weeks to come.

Stay tuned for some amazing Olive Oil stories!

Anita Zachou

Agricultural Engineer - Expert Olive Oil Taster

Holistic Wellness Coach

Source: Aristoleo, Olive Wellness Institute