Olive oil polyphenols may be a term that you are not familiar with yet, but we intend to give you a crash course in this short guide. It’s worth understanding their excellent health benefits because they are the cornerstone of much that is good about natural unrefined extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). 

A beginner’s guide to polyphenols

A really good EVOO has a very distinctive flavour. It may be peppery at the back of your throat and is almost always slightly bitter. It’s mainly polyphenols that provide this unique taste.

Polyphenols have powerful antioxidant properties, which a widely recognised as being important for good health. They are also found in dark chocolate and red wine too, which many consider as being good for you.

They are a type of phytochemical

The Greek word phyton means plant, and phytochemicals are substances that plants produce naturally. They have long been associated with many health benefits including reducing cell damage which, for example, could lead to cancer. That is one of the reasons why plant-based diets are so good for us.

Dietary polyphenols

Dietary polyphenols encompass a wide range of compounds that are found in vegetables, cocoa, tea, wine, and fruits as well as in extra virgin olive oil. They are categorised into several types including flavonoids and others.

Read a more detailed but very readable description: A Complete Guide To Polyphenols.

What factors affect polyphenol levels in EVOO?

It’s important to remember that refining strips out the vast majority of benefits from any olive oil. That’s why only Extra Virgin is recommended as a healthy choice. It’s produced solely by mechanical means, keeping the olives at a low temperature of under 30°C (86°F).

Other types, such as “light” and “pure” are derived from low grade olive oil that has been put through a highly industrialised process to make it marketable. That involves high temperatures and chemical solvents. Refining destroys the natural goodness that comes from olives.

For genuine EVOO, there are two main factors that contribute to high polyphenol levels:

  • Age of the olives – Harvesting time is the most important factor because unripe olives contain more polyphenols than ripe olives. Young green olives form the early season harvests and then they ripen on the trees before late season harvesting.

  • Variety of olive – Just like different grapes produce different wines, so do different olive varieties produce a whole range of wonderful extra virgin olive oil. The Gentile Nera olives that make our superior olive oil are very high in polyphenols.

What is the polyphenol content of extra virgin olive oil?

Polyphenol content is expressed as milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg). EVOO at the premium end of the market typically has polyphenol levels of between 100 to 150 mg/kg.

Obviously, the higher the level, the better it is for your health and the more pronounced and distinctive is the marvellous flavour.

Our Timperio EVOO has been assessed at a polyphenol level of approximately 300 mg/kg. That’s why it has such a wonderful pepperiness at the back of your throat and such a wonderful bouquet of aromas.

It has been scientifically analysed in a top laboratory to prove its excellent qualities.

What are the recognised health benefits of olive oil’s polyphenols?

Extra virgin olive oil is one of the most scientifically studied of all foods. Much of the reason is because it has long been associated with the extremely healthy peoples around the Mediterranean basin. Of course, it’s a mainstay of the famous Mediterranean Diet.

Polyphenol benefits are in addition to having a very high level (73% of its volume) of oleic acid, which is a “good” monounsaturated fat. Cooking oils depend on fat to cook your food.

Its polyphenols are now recognised as helping protect our bodies from:

To sum up . .

Polyphenols are one of nature’s own powerful health-giving substances. Extra virgin olive oil is a rich source of these vital antioxidants, which do so much to protect our bodies.

Using EVOO as a dressing or in your family cooking is a sure way of incorporating them into your diet. Start today – but be sure to buy the best extra virgin olive oil you can find.