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Dr. Sears' Blog

Breaking down the latest research on Anti-Inflammatory Nutrition
Written By: Dr. Barry Sears, Ph. D | Creator of the Zone Diet

Written by Dr. Barry Sears
on April 13, 2020

Today Dr. Sears is answering your questions about oils and which ones to use.


Q: With so many oils in the consumer marketplace, why do you consider olive oil the best of the best? 

A: Olive oil has been used for almost 4000 years and has the most clinical studies to validate its benefits. Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), not refined olive oil, is the richest of all oils in terms of polyphenols. Most oils come from seeds, but olive oil comes from fruit. This gives olive oil a higher polyphenol content than most other oils. Also, the polyphenols in extra virgin olive are unique as they are very powerful anti-inflammatory agents that can’t be found fruits and vegetables. 

Q: What are your thoughts on some of the newer oils that have hit the market over the past few years like coconut oil, avocado oil, and nut oils? 

A: Only avocado oil has any polyphenols since it comes from a fruit. That said, the amount of polyphenols are significantly less than EVOO and lack the unique structure which gives olive oil its anti-inflammatory properties.

Q: How does someone know what to look for in an olive oil product?

A: It should taste like melted butter on the tip of your tongue but generate a very bitter taste when you flip the oil to the back of your tongue. Clarity and color are important too. If there is very little color it means the oil is refined and many of the polyphenols have been removed.

Q: Are all olive oils the same?

A: No. Authentic olive oil is very expensive to produce. What you’ll find is that some manufacturers will take olive oil and blend them with cheaper vegetable oils to dilute the olive oil and then label it as olive oil. This is why it is estimated that 70% of all olive oil in the U.S. is considered adulterated.

Q: How do you know if olive oil is adulterated?

A: It’s not always easy to tell. You have color and clarity, but this is where choosing a high-quality brand is your best guarantee of quality. When I set out to create Zone Extra Virgin Olive Oil, I sought out a few organic cooperatives in Italy known for their high quality extra-virgin olive oil.  The olives were harvested in late fall, followed by processing over the winter. Then the various processed lots were tested for polyphenol content. Those lots that met our polyphenol requirements were bottled and brought to the U.S. under the Zone brand.

Q: Is there a benefit to using organic olive oil?

A: It takes a lot of energy for plants to produce polyphenols. Once you start using pesticides to increase the production of olives, the plants generally decrease the amount of polyphenols they produce as they don't have to work as hard. This effect is more profound in fruits than vegetables. This is one benefit of using an organic oil because the polyphenol content and benefits are generally higher.

Q: What makes Zone Extra Virgin Olive Oil unique? 

A: We use an organic olive oil cooperative in Umbria, Italy where the oil is bottled on site and sent directly to us. It’s my guarantee that you are getting the best quality oil that Italy can produce that year.

Q: You mention cooking with olive oil destroys the polyphenols. Are there other oils you recommend cooking with instead since olive oil has a low smoke point?

A: Since heat destroys polyphenols the best oil to use for cooking is high-oleic safflower oil which is rich in monounsaturated fat and has a high smoke point. You could also use refined olive oil which has minimal polyphenols but good temperature characteristics. If you want to use EVOO and maximize the polyphenols it contains I recommend drizzling on top of food after its been cooked.

Q: If EVOO has polyphenols do I still need to take my polys? 

A: Yes. I recommend consuming 1000-1500mg of polyphenols per day. The polyphenols in EVOO are unique anti-inflammatory agents which can be one source, but it’s almost impossible to get that many polyphenols in olive oil alone. This is why I recommend consuming about 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day in addition to getting polyphenols from sources like cocoa, which is good for gut health, and berries such as maqui, which activate key enzymes (AMPK) important for health.



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