What Are Polyphenols in Olive Oil?

You have been learning more about olive oil, and you have come across a new term that you want to know more about: “polyphenols.” While it sounds like a mouthful, polyphenols are not all that hard to understand and, in fact, they are responsible for most of the flavor and health benefits of olive oil. Read on to learn everything you need to know about polyphenols in olive oil.

What Are Polyphenols in Olive Oil?

Polyphenols are naturally occurring compounds in plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables and beverages. Perhaps the most well-known polyphenol is the tannin in red wine, but there are many different kinds of polyphenols, including flavonoids in tea and tirosoles in olive oil. Polyphenols have antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, so they offer health benefits in addition to flavor.

In olive oil, specifically, polyphenols are responsible for many of the benefits that we associate with the oil. Polyphenols protect the beneficial fatty acids from oxidation, and help neutralize free radicals that could potentially cause damage to your body’s cells. They help fight inflammation and may also help protect against several different diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s. Learn more about “Is olive oil healthy?

Polyphenols are also responsible for that classic olive oil taste and giving the flavor a bit of “bite.” When you eat or drink olive oil, polyphenols are responsible for that sharp, peppery taste in the back of your throat. Generally speaking, the stronger the taste, the greater the levels of polyphenols.

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Choosing Olive Oil Polyphenols

Different types of olive oils contain different types and levels of polyphenols, and not all olive oils are created equal. Refining processes — particularly those involving heat — cause polyphenols to break down, which affects both the tastes and health benefits of the olive oils. Polyphenol levels are highest at the point of harvest, so the more the olive oil is processed after harvesting, the lower the polyphenol levels will be. If you want to enjoy the health benefits olive oil is known for, avoid highly processed olive oils which are often labelled “refined,” “light” or “pure”.

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Extra virgin olive oil will contain the highest levels of polyphenols because it is the least processed type of olive oil. If you have ever sampled both extra virgin and refined olive oil at once, you will have noticed that the extra virgin oil had a sharper taste due to the polyphenols.

The fresher the olive oil, the more polyphenols it will contain, so look for bottles with a recent harvest date on them. If the olive oil does not have a harvest or expiration date on it, then search for another bottle or brand that does. Usually high-quality olive brands, including Brightland, will be very transparent about harvest dates because the companies know how important it is for flavor and health benefits.

Maintaining Polyphenols

Polyphenol levels can also degrade over time or with improper storage, so even if you get a high-quality olive oil that is high in polyphenols, it will not stay that way forever. One thing that you can do to keep the polyphenols from degrading is to store the olive oil in a cool, dry place. Both heat and light cause polyphenols to break down, so you will want to keep your olive oil bottles away from sunlit windows and hot stoves. That is one of the reasons why we package our Brightland olive oils in opaque bottles: It helps protect the polyphenols from light damage.

No matter how perfectly you store your olive oil, it will degrade over time: Polyphenol levels are highest at the time of harvest and break down from there, so that is why it is important to use up your olive oil and replace it regularly. If you have trouble using up a large bottle of oil before the taste begins to fade, consider an olive oil set that you will be able to use up quicker.

Pictured: the Duo

At Brightland, we harvest and bottle our olive oil at the peak of freshness to ensure that it has the highest level of polyphenols possible. Because we grow, harvest and press our olives domestically, right here in California, the oils also have less transit time, so they are super fresh when they hit your doorstep. Shop our olive oils online today!