Almost immediately after my cancer diagnosis, numerous friends introduced me to the medical benefits of a specific kind of extra virgin olive oil as part of my daily regimen of treatment.
We all know the headlines — Olive oil is healthy! The Mediterranean diet will make you live to be 100! Eat Greek and you’ll forget to die!
Impossible as it may seem to incorporate a full, Mediterranean diet in contemporary America, there are easy and simple ways to capture some of the direct benefits of this lifestyle, including those from an ancient Greek super food that people in the Mediterranean region have been consuming daily for thousands of years.
It’s olive oil. But read on. It gets a bit more complicated.
It’s not just any kind of olive oil and its certainly not what was easily available at my local grocery stores. In fact, it’s one of the hardest olive oils to come by because of the small number of companies producing it.
In Greek it’s called agoureleo, or oil from agouro from unripened fruit and most companies don’t invest in this type of oil because it’s expensive to produce.
It’s not the kind of EVOO you cook with. On the contrary, heat will reduce the health benefits that so many studies have claimed this kind of olive oil has. But it’s perfect for “finishing” a meal, drizzling on soup or salad or grilled meat dish– or simply drinking a few tablespoons as a daily regimen.
The ancient Greek doctor Dioscourides first realized the medicinal importance of this specific kind of early harvest olive oil.
When I first tasted a tablespoon, I almost spit it out. It was peppery and burned the back of my throat when I swallowed it. I thought it was bad oil, but in fact— it was the real deal. The more peppery and more pungent the oil, the higher the phenolic compounds, which are the chemical compounds that have been proven to kill (yes kill) cancer cells in test tube studies, and are responsible for so many other benefits associated with the oil.
I immersed myself in learning about these “high phenolic” olive oils and eventually met Marilyn and Athan, who shared with me their wealth of knowledge and expertise that they have amassed on their website. They are actually leading the way on testing olive oils for their phenolic compounds in order to have some consistency in the industry.
I also read dozens of articles on Greek Liquid Gold, an informative website about olive oil that shares news that might not always make the mainstream media. It’s run by Dr. Lisa Radinovsky, who is passionate about all things olive oil and shares what she learns from some of the world’s foremost experts in the field.
In addition to the dozens of articles, stories and medical reports about the numerous benefits– everything from stopping breast cancer cells from growing, to slowing down the onset of Alzheimers and so many more, I was stunned by one specific study that resonated with me, personally.
A Rutgers University nutritional scientist and two cancer biologists at New York City’s Hunter College found that two ingredients in this particular kind of extra-virgin olive oil kills a variety of human cancer cells without harming healthy cells.
The study and official university announcement is here.
In a nutshell, this specific kind of early harvest, extra virgin olive oil that is made from the unripened olive has a higher concentration of “polyphenols,” including oleacein and oleocanthal, which have remarkable health benefits like killing cancer cells, decreasing inflammation, and inhibiting tumor growth.
The price can be sticker shock. I paid almost $50 for a 500ml bottle and need a full liter for my monthly regimen, which includes a tablespoon in the morning and another at night.
Part of my journey as someone fighting (and eventually beating!) cancer is to share the knowledge I am obtaining and using the means and resources I have at my disposal to inform more people and make my experiences and examples accessible.
This includes continuing to share content on The Pappas Post, but also trying to source and share with you some of the products that I am using and make them accessible.
This includes this specific kind of EVOO, which isn’t readily available in North America.
I’m excited to share that we now carry two of Greece’s best high-phenolic EVOOs in The Pappas Post Market.
Papadopoulos and Lia are two of Greece’s most awarded EVOO brands and rank consistently on global lists for quality, as well as their health benefits, according to European Union regulations.
The Papadopoulos family makes two versions of one of the most awarded Greek olive oils available on the market today. Harvested near Olympia, this EVOO is produced in the western Peloponnese, home to the same groves of olive trees that fed, nourished and crowned the ancient Olympian athletes.
The bottles are stainless steel and designed beautifully to contain some of the world’s finest early harvest extra virgin olive oil.
Click to purchase: Papadopoulos Omphacium Olympia Extra Virgin Organic Olive Oil
Click to purchase: Omphacium Olympia Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Another favorite of mine is Lia, produced in southern Peloponnese in Messinia by a family that is just as passionate about their product as they are about the heritage behind it.
In addition to Lia’s superior quality, I was impressed with the design of the bottle, which is both aesthetically beautiful and made from a white ceramic that keeps the light out.
Click to purchase: LIÁ Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Note: both companies use light-proof bottles, since oxygen and light are the biggest enemies to these important compounds. Once exposed to both light and oxygen, the compounds begin to dissipate, which is why it’s important to keep the bottle away from direct light, and always keep the lid closed when not in use.
Using Olive Oil as Medicine
I’ve now made this specific kind of EVOO a daily part of my regimen and it’s not just for people with cancer.
Dozens of studies have shown the health benefits of these compounds that exist in EVOO– from nutrition, to prevention of numerous diseases, to actually killing cancer, as the studies I mention above indicate.
My daily regimen is simple: I take a tablespoon in the morning and a tablespoon at night, every day, like clockwork. This means I need two 500ml bottles every month of this specific kind of EVOO.
Is it worth it? I certainly think it is. Will I live to be a hundred years old? It’s too soon to know– but I do know that I am taking the wisdom that Ancient Greek doctors like Hippocrates and Dioscourides have taught us, and the expertise of the modern Greeks like those in my native Crete and on the island of Ikaria, who consume this kind of olive oil regularly– and are living long, healthy lives.
Στην υγειά μας! To our health!
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