Time to set the record straight on olive oil, or it won’t be long before we see the title of this thread as the next Daily Mail article!
Here is the Daily Mail article from 19 April 2010. Olive oil can now apparently switch off genes and previous articles have told us that olive oil cures depression, saves lives and makes people live to over 100 and dance around tables in adverts for margarine.
Now for some common sense – olive oil is oil squeezed out of mashed olives (we do the same with avocados and make avocado oil – avocados must have a different PR Agency). Olive oil with acid levels below 1% can be called “extra virgin” and 1-3% acid levels can be called “virgin” (I have no idea what virginity has to do with any of this!) Non virgin olive oil is more acidic than this. And that is it!
In terms of composition, olive oil is pure fat (water and fat can’t mix so oil is always 100% fat). In 100g of olive oil there are 75g of mono unsaturated fat, 14g of saturated fat and 11g of polyunsaturated fat. In 100g of pork chop (the USDA example called “Pork chop boneless, raw, lean AND FAT” – I deliberately chose a piece of meat with no bone and still with fat on), there are 75g of water, 21g of protein and 4g of fat (slightly under 4g actually). Of this fat – 1.5g is saturated, 1.8g is mono unsaturated and 0.5g is poly unsaturated. So 60% of our ‘lethal/red meat pork chop” is the unsaturated fat, which apparently is going to save the world! (And remember how low the fat is in the first place).
This is how I can say olive oil has 6 times the saturated fat of pork – in this example it actually has 9 times (14g per 100g vs 1.5g per 100g). In another super extra fatty pork example, olive oil still has 6 times the saturated fat – I try to be fair!
So let’s look at the nutritional content of olive oil. There are 2 very useful measures of nutrition and the US Department of Agriculture has some really useful analysis of food products against these:
1) is the amino acid score. Anything over 100 indicates a “complete” food from an amino acid perspective i.e. it delivers all the 22 standard amino acids used by a human;
2) is an overall nutrition score weighing up vitamins, minerals etc delivered in the product. This one is measured out of 100 – where 100 is the ‘perfect’ nutritious food – can’t find any with 100!
Sugar scores zero on both measures – no protein, so no amino acids and no nutrients, so no score.
Our Pork chop with 4g of fat above scores 151 on the amino acid score. I keep a database of real food and I have nothing higher than this on my list of 50 standard products. The same pork chop scores 39 on the nutrition scale. The maximum is 100 and the highest I have on my list is broccoli at 92 (there will be a nutrient density thing in the calculation, so broccoli has huge nutritional value to energy/calorie level).
Olive oil (get ready) scores 0 on the amino acid score – it has no protein so it cannot score anything other than zero. It then scores 5 on the nutrient scale (5 out of 100). Olives themselves score 25 on the nutrient scale – so we’re better off eating olives (of course we are – we are always better off eating food in nature’s most natural form).
A whole egg, by the way, scores 136 on amino acids and 50 on nutrition. Egg yolk on its own scores 146 on amino acids and 50 on nutrition – so that’s where the nutrition is in the egg – the bit that Californians throw away!
Please use any of this as ammunition the next time you see a claim made about olive oil. It’s a useful food – good for salad dressing; butter and lard are better for cooking (saturated fats are chemically more stable) – but that’s it. Unless we can run power stations on olive oil, it’s not going to save the planet!