Monday, November 21, 2016

Food Fraud and the Mediterranean Diet: What You Can Do About It!

Have you been asked to eat a Mediterranean diet? Well, you can't eat a real Mediterranean diet unless you eat authentic olive oil as part of that diet. Olive oil has many health properties. It is high for example in phenolic substances which are highly anti-inflammatory in nature and likely the reason why studies of the Mediterranean Diet, high in olive oil, have indicated a decrease in heart disease, among other conditions. 

And to source and buy the real olive oil, for that you need to know about food fraud. And the best article I have seen about fake food is at Dr. Mercola's where he interviews Larry Olmsted, the author of the book "Real Food/Fake Food: Why You Don't Know What You're Eating and What You Can Do About It". 

The whole interview is gripping. It covers fake seafood and this subject will sadden most people. It did me and motivated me to do more research on the seafood I buy and eat. And it covers Parmesan and the legal cover up of inferior foods with "brand" names to entice you into thinking you are getting the real thing.

I've written about the olive oil fraud and how to find authentic olive oil. We all think of Italy and those pastoral hills dotted with olive trees when we cook with olive oil, but the truth is an Italian olive oil has a good chance of being an inferior seed oil. You get what you pay for. Real olive oil can be pricey with a few exceptions, like Costco's extra virgin olive oil which has been consistently found in testing to be authentic.

To maintain the health benefits of olive oil, one should not cook with it, but put it on cold or room temperature dishes. For high heat cooking such as stir fry or sauteing use a temperature resistant fat such as avocado oil, animal fats like chicken fat and lard from pastured animals, organic red palm oil or coconut oil.

Here is an excerpt from Dr. Mercola's interview with Larry Olmsted:

Olive Oil Fraud

Olive oil is a $16 billion-a-year industry fraught with fraud. Tests reveal anywhere from 60 to 90 percent of the olive oils you find in grocery stores and restaurants are adulterated with cheap, oxidized, omega-6 vegetable oils, such as sunflower oil or peanut oil, that are pernicious to health in a number of ways.

   "Italy makes some delicious extra-virgin olive oil and they make some very good real extra-virgin       olive oil. The problem is a lot of what is exported from Italy is not their best product," Olmsted           says. "People associate olive oil with Italy … The thing that they look for most is that the oil               comes from Italy. But coming from Italy is not the same as being made in Italy.

    Italy is the world's largest exporter of olive oil, but they're also the world's largest importer of olive     oil. They buy up oil from all over the Mediterranean basin — from Tunisia, Syria, Morocco, Spain     — blend it, bottle it. Often it's labeled "bottled in Italy," which is technically true. It was shipped to     Italy and put into bottles, but it's not Italian olive oil. When people buy that, they're relying on            some sort of myth of Italian quality.

    Italy doesn't even produce enough extra-virgin olive oil to meet its own domestic demand. While         you can get very good olive oil from Italy, it's trickier than from some other countries … What           people need to understand about olive oil is that it's essentially closer to fresh-squeezed fruit juice       than it is to most of the other oils we're familiar with … As a result, olive oil has a fairly short shelf     life compared to other oils."

How to Identify High Quality Olive Oil

Part of the problem is that olive oil is shipped by boat, which takes a long time. Then it's stored and distributed to grocery stores, where the oil may sit on the shelf for another several months. Moreover, the "use by" or "sell by" date on the bottle really does not mean a whole lot, as there's no regulation assuring that the oil will remain of high quality until that date.

The date you really want to know is the "pressed on" date or "harvest" date, which are essentially the same thing because olives go bad almost immediately after being picked. They're pressed into olive oil basically the same day they're harvested. High quality olive oil is pressed within a couple of hours of picking. Poorer quality olive oils may be pressed 10 hours after the olives are picked.

Ideally the oil, based on the "pressed" or "harvest" date, should be less than 6 months old when you use it. Unfortunately, few olive oils actually provide a harvest date.

As for olive oil in restaurants, more often than not, the olive oil served for bread dipping is typically of very poor quality and is best avoided. For more information about olive oil — how it's made and what constitutes extra-virgin olive oil, please listen to the full interview, or read through the transcript, where Olmsted goes into more details about pressing, grading and testing............

Where to Find the Best Olive Oil

Surprisingly, the big box stores actually do a better job with their supply chain of most foods, including olive oil and seafood.

"Let food be thy medicine", so Hippocrates famously said. With the ever more increasing pressures of finding the real food, it may be best to cook at home more. Be more careful when choosing a restaurant and what you choose to eat in the restaurant. I suggest asking more questions but be sure to do this only when the restaurant is not busy.

When it comes to sourcing out your food, it is a good idea to get to know your local fish monger, and your local farmers. And starting a small balcony or patio garden is not a bad idea too.

To Your Health
Dr. Barbara (TM)
CeliacBrain (TM) is the trademark and copyright of Dr. Barbara Powell. The right of Dr. Barbara Powell to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Patent and Designs Act 1988.