What’s in Your Honey and Olive Oil?
We all rely on the quality of our food to keep us healthy. As a consumer, it’s important for us to be able to trust that the foods we buy are what they say they are. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for some things on the shelf. Honey and olive oil are two foods that are notorious for being diluted or cut with other inferior products that aren’t on the label.
A couple of days ago I watched the first episode of the docuseries “Rotten” on Netflix which examines the quality of honey on the shelves in North America. It turns out that a large portion of imported honey is cut with syrups such as rice syrup in order to sell it at a lower cost. This shady business practice has become a game of trying to outsmart the testing methods for pure honey in order to flood the market with cheap adulterated honey. The very next day I found an article in the Vancouver Sun on this very same topic stating that honey is the third most faked food in the world and describing the high tech steps that are being taken to safeguard the purity of BC honey.
As a practitioner, I recommend honey for certain therapeutic benefits. Not only is it a great sweetener in baking, but can also ease soothe sore throats and dry coughs, act as a mild laxative where stools are dry, and help some cases of insomnia by replenishing glycogen (sugar) stores in the liver. (While it’s not something I suggest as a long term solution, some people find benefit from a taking at tablespoon of pure honey just before bed). Manuka honey is even used medically for wounds and burns due to it’s antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and tissue repairing properties.
When buying your honey make sure you get a locally produced product—not just packaged locally.
When it comes to olive oil, studies have shown that at least 50% (and some say as high as 90%) of extra virgin olive oil on the market fails to meet true extra virgin standards which includes a combination of chemistry and taste tests. Many of these products have been diluted with other inexpensive oils such as corn, sunflower, peanut and soybean as well as other lower grades of olive oil that failed to pass the benchmarks to be labeled as “extra virgin”. This problem was discussed on “60 Minutes” in January 2016.
Olive oil is high in antioxidants and phenolic compounds that have similar anti-inflammatory properties as ibuprofen. Studies have showed positive benefits on cholesterol levels, blood sugar control (type 2 diabetes), cancer cells, and cognitive function including potential protective effects against Alzheimer’s disease.
Most of the olive oils from California have an excellent reputation and hold the seal from The California Olive Oil Council (COOC).
Their recommendation is to rely on smell and taste to discern purity and freshness, looking for a fresh fruity smell that could be described as “apple, green banana, herbaciousness and nuttiness”. Bitterness and pungency are positive traits as well with pungency (or spiciness) being indicative of beneficial antioxidants.
Olive oil should be bought in small quantities in dark containers and stored in a cool dark place and capped right after using to limit oxidation. Look for a “harvest date” on the bottle and try to buy from the current year’s harvest. The COCC states it should be used within 12 – 18 months from harvest while other experts state 6 months from harvest and within 6 weeks after opening.