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March 12, 2010


Chris G.

The million dollar question: Would canola oil be better / have the same additive effects that green olive oil did with red wine? One the one hand, since canola oil is healthier than olive oil, one may intuitively think so. On the other hand, since refined olive oil did not have the benefits that green olive oil did, one may intuitively think not.

Would we better off making salad dressings from canola oil or green olive oil?

I think I need a drink (of red wine :)


@Chris G: Canola oil is absolutely not healthier than olive oil! At best, it contains small amounts of essential fatty acids better obtained through other foods. Otherwise, its nutrient value is limited and the usual extraction process alone makes it a poorer choice than cold-pressed olive oil.


@HL: Bariani Olive Oil ( makes a delightful cold-pressed (stone-pressed, actually) unfiltered Early Green Harvest version. It is available seasonally. I buy it at Bay Area farmer's markets or online via their web site. Their oil is essentially organically produced (though not certified as such) and well established among Bay Area food lovers.

Trader Joe's carries a Extra-Virgin California Estate Olive Oil that is incredibly green and flavorful.

However, I'm not quite ready to draw a conclusion here. What about this classic study? Abstract here: Descriptive article suitable for laypeople here: . It still appears that moderate amounts of cold-pressed, unrefined, *uncooked* olive oil substituted for other dietary fats is a healthy choice.

I also would hesitate to conclude that premature olives are the safest. In general, fruits offer the greatest nutrition to humans when they are at their peak. I think it is premature to conclude from this study that ripe olive oil is unhealthy, or even just less healthy overall than oil from underripe olives.

On a related note, I recently heard from a cardiology talk that research suggests red wine improves cardiovascular health in countries where people have the "worst" diets, while it appears to have a negative effect in those who consume a healthy diet. I plan to explore related research soon, but for now it is an intriguing possibility!


Oops, the abstract above should not contain a period. Here is a link that works:

The Healthy Librarian


Thanks for the tip on Bariani olive oil. Good point about the ripe fruit benefit--the authors of the study I cited said they chose the green premature fruit oil because it has the "higher concentration of antioxidant substances than any other olive oil."

Just quoting them--I personally have no idea.

Please let me know if you make any headway with your research into red wine having a negative effect on people who are already eating a healthy diet. I'm going have to look into that one. The research is all over the place in regard to pros/cons of wine--especially for women.

Thanks for the link to that classic olive oil study--Dr. Robert Wilson's point (in the lay article) is often overlooked by many of us. Not all olive oils are created equal! Probably most of those on the grocery shelf aren't brimming with the phenolic compounds found in the studies that show positive cardiac benefits from olive oil.

I'm ordering that Bariani!!


I hope you enjoy the Bariani oil! I completely agree that not all olive oils are created equal! Extra-virgin oil in a dark container is the way to go. The light-colored olive oils we see on the shelf are not as antioxidant-rich. Heating the oil and exposing it to light also destroy beneficial nutrients in olive oil.

It is pretty clear that olive oil should replace less healthy fats in the diet, rather than be added on top of them. I am with George Mateljan over at the World's Healthiest Foods ( that it is best too cook without any oil then add a bit of brightly colored raw olive oil to food after it cools a bit. It's reasonable to aim to spread total consumption over multiple meals and aim for up to 2 tablespoons per person per day (a lot less than many people would think to use). For very low-fat eaters, I would encourage at least a teaspoon (or some other fat like nuts or avocado) with meals for nutrient absorption. As you have noted, antioxidant & anti-inflammatory compounds like flavonoids from vegetables & spices need a bit of fat for optimum absorption. Vitamins A, D, E, & K also require some fat for absorption. The fat also increases satiety by slowing gastric emptying. I wish every fat-free dieter (i.e., me 10 years ago!) could know these two details!

I will let you know what I learn about red wine. It makes sense that it is likely neither all good nor all bad, especially since alcohol is directly toxic to tissues and seems to promote some types of cancer. I would also like to know if other antioxidant rich foods can similarly upregulate endothelial nitric oxide synthase activity. Do you know if grape or other fruit juice offers similar benefits?

I apologize for these very long comments!

The Healthy Librarian


Thanks so much for your input--esp. the fat/gastric-emptying note.

So excited to find that the Bariani oil is at a nearby indoor farmer's market, so I plan to stop over after yoga tomorrow. Hope they have that first-press green variety there.

Coincidentally, I just discovered George Mateljan's excellent website 2 weeks ago, and I definitely had 2nd thoughts about cooking with olive oil after seeing his short video. Makes perfect sense to me.

Thanks for the advice about cooking wo any oil, and using small amounts of green oil after the food has cooled--I missed that point.

As for foods that upregulate nitric oxide--I'm not sure if you've read my "Lunch at the Esselstyn's" post --but the greens, like kale, collards, Swiss chard, etc. definitely upregulate NO, and according to Dr. Sharon Alger-Mayer -- you can add cocoa, and grapes, their skins, and seeds to the group of NO upregulators.

I'm going to look into what else has the effect--perhaps it's as simple as high-antioxidant level=NO upregulation. But, you're the science-maven, not me.

I'll check it out with Dr. E., as well.

Chris G.

MG: "Canola oil is absolutely not healthier than olive oil!"

Dr Ornish: "The best oils are canola, fish oil (omega-3s), & flaxseed oil, always in small amounts. Second best, and in very small amounts, is olive oil."

Dr Vogel: "The olive oil constricted blood flow by a whopping 31% after the meal; the canola oil constricted it by 10%."

Dr. Esselstyn: "Olive oil has been shown to injure the blood vessel's endothelium (lining)."

While green olive oil with red wine seems to defy some this, I do still wonder what it does to / with canola oil. Seems like a fruit area for future studies.


There seems to be alot of controversy about healthy oils lately, and while I've always felt comfortable using my Extra Virgin cold-press olive oil to make vinaigrette, I have recently been hearing NOT to use it for cooking. At the least, you're wasting good quality oil by heating it, but one source advised that olive oil turns into a trans fat at over 350 degrees, and even then, if it exeeds its "smoke point" the smoke can be toxic. Oh darn, I've always enjoyed my vegetables tossed in olive oil and roasted at 400-450, or barbequed at high temps. What to do now!

Also, I've read the worst stuff about canola oil, and the rapeseed crop it comes from, that it is now almost all genetically modified or "Roundup-ready" for heavy herbicide spraying just like the soy and corn crops are.

Is anyone else hearing any of this? Could swear the canola info came from "Omnivores Dilemma"

Cynthia Bailey MD

Thank you for this overview of the very interesting and specific scientific studies surrounding the health impact of olive oil. It's hard to know what personal decisions to make while were waiting for the scientific 'dust' to settle on an issue like this. Sometimes I find it helpful to focus on the big picture, sometimes the small and sometimes the combination. Other times I just have to use my common sense and my intuition while I wait for science to give me more clarity. With oils I'm doing all of this.

My choices: I sparingly use canola and coconut oil for cooking due to their superior heat stability. (I'm not sure where I read that, but at the time I found the source credible, plus I really don't like the smell of heated olive oil) I drizzle olive oil sparingly on food after it's cooked, or on raw salads. We grow and harvest our own olives and pick them at about 60% black, 40% green. We take them to a community press which makes cold pressed extra virgin oil for us. We do this every year. I could substitute flax oil as my salad/drizzle oil but it's not as convenient. (You've inspired me to try harder to use a little flax oil now and then)

Common sense and intuition come in to play for me in 3 ways regarding oils and health: 1. I think the key point is always moderation. 2. I'm always struck when I see really devoted health food nuts who do some magic dietary supplement or diet trend to an extreme and who actually look like it's sapping their vitality. I think this can apply with oils. 3. People living in the Mediterranean eating an authentic Mediterranean diet that includes olive oil have wonderful health and longevity.

I love your idea to add a little red wine and I'm going to have a small 2 oz serving with my dinners. I had stopped doing this, but you've re-inspired me. It's authentically Mediterranean and I like the vasodilatory, happy endothelial cell rationalization.

Cheers! Cynthia Bailey MD

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