Have you ever felt a tingling in your throat after tasting an extra virgin olive oil? It’s quite common, in fact—as is the spicy bitter flavor that usually accompanies a high-quality extra virgin olive oil. This sensation stems from a type of antioxidant called polyphenols.
Polyphenols are one type of health-protective antioxidants that are found in extra virgin olive oil. Like other antioxidants, polyphenols fight oxidative stress and may fight against aging-related diseases like heart disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and certain types of cancer.
In addition to the anti-aging properties of polyphenols, they also contain strong anti-inflammatory properties. A recent study showed that extra virgin olive oil contains a certain phenol compound called oleocanthal, which acts similar to ibuprofen in the body. This shows the potential for olive oil’s ability to help reduce the risk of strokes, as explored in an article on WebMD. It’s thought that two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil a day is enough to provide these anti-inflammatory benefits.
There are several factors that contribute to how many polyphenols are present in any given olive oil. Earlier harvest olives (unripe) typically contain more polyphenols than late harvest (ripe) olives. The older an oil becomes, and the longer it sits in storage, the less polyphenols will be present, due to oxidation. And above all else, the quality of the oil itself matters: The more an oil is refined, the fewer phenols it will contain.
Of course, the important thing to remember is to buy certified extra virgin olive oil, that which has been produced from high-quality olives and has not been refined. We recommend you consume olive oil within one year after it’s been opened for optimal health benefits, or up to two years for overall freshness.
For an extra virgin olive oil with a powerful punch of polyphenols, we invite you to explore our Robust Extra Virgin Olive Oils, which are made from early harvest olives and are rich in peppery, spicy flavors—try Picual or Koroneiki. Their flavor profile complements traditional rustic dishes like hearty winter soups, stews, pasta, and greens. Many of our Medium Extra Virgin Olive Oils also have a peppery finish, and they’re great for those who like a milder flavor in their olive oil.