So, is the fountain of youth in your pantry?

Did you know that on average, Italians outlive Americans by approximately four years? In one mountain area of Sicily, that just happened to be covered in olive trees, the local people live to be past 100 years of age at a rate four times higher than the rest of Italy. Health experts have known for years that a Mediterranean diet using olive oils is highly beneficial for health. We also know that the people living in these areas have a lower incidence of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and even cognitive decline. So, is the fountain of youth in your pantry? Buyer Beware Although the health benefits of olive oil are well studied, not all extra virgin olive oil, or EVOO, sold at the grocery store is created equal. Some tests have shown that over half of EVOO purchased in retail stores failed to meet standards of flavor and quality. What does this mean for you? You need to know a few shopping tricks before you head to the store so that you can get the same benefits of the people living in the mountains of Sicily.

Look for “Extra Virgin” – This means that the oil is free from defects in flavor. It also has the highest concentration of polyphenols, the compounds that fight disease.

Choose a Dark Bottle – Exposure to light can destroy the polyphenols in EVOO. So, choose a tin or dark glass container to protect your olive oil. For even more protection, store it in a cool, dark place once you get it home. Check the Date – Some olive oils will only last on the shelf for six months and others for several years. To find the best oil, check the best-before date, which will often be 18-24 months from the date the oil was bottled. If the best-before date is just a few weeks or months away, look for a fresher oil. Once the bottle is opened, it begins to degrade. Buy Oil from California – California began standardized testing of olive oil in 2014. Why? Because in 2017, retail samples of EVOO’s that were unregulated were below their standard 82% of the time. However, regulated EVOO’s failed just 10% of the time. Unregulated EVOO likely won’t give you the health benefits you are looking for. Take a Swig – The more potent the flavor of an EVOO, the more polyphenols and health benefits it will contain. If you feel a bit of a burn in the back of your throat when you sip it, this means the oil has high levels of oleocanthal. This is the polyphenol that has been shown to break up Alzheimer’s plaques. Takeaway So, could the fountain of youth be right inside your pantry? Possibly. But you will want to be sure that your EVOO is high quality enough for you to reap the benefits, so give the above tips a try.

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