Specifically, in extra virgin olive oil we can find polyphenols that are exclusive to this food and which give it unique qualities. Do you want to know why polyphenols are so good for your health? You'll be surprised!
What are polyphenols
Polyphenols are chemical compounds found in the vast majority of plant-based foods. They have strong antioxidant properties and are therefore responsible for slowing down the wear and tear of the body's cells. This means that they help our bodies stay stronger for longer.
There are different types of polyphenols. Within olive oil, we highlight the following:
- Oleuropein. Exclusive to olive oil.
- Oleocanthal. Anti-inflammatory effects. Several studies have named it as the 'natural version of ibuprofen'.
- Tyrosols. Major antioxidant component.
Why they are important for health. Properties and characteristics.
The main function of the polyphenols in olive oil is to protect the body's fatty acids from oxidation.
In our metabolism, the body's cells are oxygenated and produce free radicals, which are necessary for maintaining our health. However, too many free radicals cause damage to the cells, which is why our body naturally produces antioxidant substances. However, these are often not sufficient and need to be supplemented through diet. This is where extra virgin olive oil comes into play, as it is rich in polyphenols. These can provide our bodies with the following properties:
- They reduce premature ageing of our cells.
- They prevent oxidation of the bloodstream and clogging of blood vessels, thus reducing inflammation and improving endothelial function.
- They contribute to the stabilisation of blood sugar.
- They lower LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and increase HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol), which may help regulate blood pressure.
- They are important as prebiotics, as they increase the rate of beneficial bacteria in our gut. This also means that they help to control weight.
- They protect the walls of blood vessels, thus promoting blood circulation and heart health. Recently, polyphenols have been the subject of research into cardiovascular disease.
Olive oils with higher polyphenol content
The number of polyphenols in olive oils depends on several factors. One of them is the treatment process of the olive. This fruit has its maximum amount of polyphenols just before colouring, when it is reaching its optimum ripening point. Therefore, we find the highest amount of polyphenols in early harvest extra virgin olive oil.
The amount of polyphenols in EVOO also depends on the variety of olive tree the olives come from. For example, an olive tree of the picual variety has more polyphenols than an olive tree of another variety. Aceites Vallejo obtains its oils from picual olive trees.
Finally, the olive oil refining process eliminates most of the polyphenols. This means that the fewer industrial processes involved in the production of any olive oil, the more polyphenols it will have. This means that virgin and extra virgin olive oil, made through mechanical processes, contain more polyphenols than refined olive oil.
Once again, the benefits of consuming extra virgin olive oil have been demonstrated. Thanks to polyphenols, the natural antioxidants par excellence, extra virgin olive oil is an indispensable part of the Mediterranean diet and the core of any good diet.