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Cold off the Press

by Alexandra Dusenberry, MS, RDN
Lead Registered Dietitian

At Cal-a-Vie Health Spa, we love olive oil! If you’ve ever been on our property, you know that there are tons of olive trees. While we are not harvesting those olives, we can’t help but appreciate them. You will find that it is a key ingredient in many of our cooking demonstrations and recipes that the chef prepares for our guests.

Is olive oil beneficial to my body? You bet! We discuss its benefits in some of our nutrition classes, and for good reason- olive oil is an excellent source of vitamin E and other potent antioxidants that help to protect against cellular and oxidative damage. It also acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory and helps to improve the HDL to LDL cholesterol ratio, which keeps our heart healthy and helps to stave off cardiovascular disease. There has even been promising research that olive oil can support cognition and brain health and may prevent the accumulation of tau protein in the brain. While tau protein is useful as it is closely associated with the proper functioning of the brain, it can actually be a problem if there’s too much of it— possibly triggering various forms of dementia. Olive oil can also improve autophagy, the brain’s system of cleaning out and removing toxic waste.  This healthy fat is a brain nourisher!

The delicious oil of the olives continues to impress. Did you know that olive oil can also support good gut health? It's polyphenols and fatty acids help to encourage the growth of good bacteria. These beneficial microbes play a role in digestion, vitamin synthesis, immune function, and mental health and behavior. A little olive oil supports these microbes so that they can do their essential jobs for us!

What should you keep in mind when shopping for olive oil? First, not all olive oils are created equal. The highest quality olive oil is extra virgin, which is unrefined and cold pressed to preserve the maximum amount of antioxidants. It is also important that olive oil is stored away from heat sources (don’t keep it next to the stove) in a dark or opaque bottle that does not allow UV light to degrade the olive oil quality. It is also important to note that olive oil is best used for no heat or low heat cooking applications. It has a smoke point of 325-375°F, so temperatures beyond this will degrade and oxidize the beneficial compounds of olive oil’ therefore, defeating the purpose. Try using olive oil for dressings, dips, and low temperature recipes rather than for something like grilling or roasting at 400°F or higher.

Does Cal-a-Vie Have a Recommended Brand? Our favorite extra virgin olive oil is Pitchouline, local to North San Diego. The flavor is fresh, verdant and has the perfect peppery hit on the back of the palate- a sign that it is rich in polyphenols. Pitchouline is routinely awarded as one of the world’s best olive oils, and rightfully so. Beyond the unbeatable flavor, Pitchouline is cold pressed within a few hours of harvesting to maintain the highest antioxidant content. It is USDA organic and is sustainably and biodynamically grown, working in harmony with nature. Truly, it is an olive oil you can feel good about consuming. 

How about a recipe? Try our delicious kale salad recipe from our Cal-a-Vie Health Spa cookbook, Beautiful Living, which features a tangy mustard vinaigrette to give you inspiration for incorporating olive oil into your meals. Some of our other favorite ways to use olive oil include drizzling as a finishing oil over roasted veggies, a beautifully poached fish dish, or to make a fresh pesto. Bon appetit! 



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