Why does the extra virgin olive oil pinch in the throat?
First of all it must immediately be clarified that a good extra virgin olive oil must pinch in the throat. More or less, but it is good that a certain scraper is felt in the throat when it is tasted as it is.
This is synonymous with freshness and the presence of active ingredients. Unfortunately, one of the most widespread beliefs among the laymen of extra virgin matter is that the acidity of extra virgin olive oil can be perceived by tasting, by the sense of taste. According to these people, those who know nothing about extra virgin olive oil, the degree of acidity is directly proportional to the sensation of pinching that is felt when tasting an extra virgin olive oil. Nothing could be more wrong.
What is the acidity of the oil?
The acidity of extra virgin olive oil is a parameter that can only be detected in the laboratory and that cannot be perceived, nor can it be measured, by our senses. To clear the field even more from misunderstandings it must also be clarified that what by definition is classified as acidity of the oil, is not the measurement of PH, as is usually the case when we speak of the acidity of any other element or product. The acidity of extra virgin olive oil is a definition of convenience to indicate a very important parameter to understand, in the laboratory, the quality of extra virgin olive oil.
This parameter refers to the percentage (or degree) of free oleic acid. Oleic acid is one of the most characteristic and beneficial components of extra virgin olive oil, but it must not be "free", in the sense that its molecules are normally chemically linked to other molecules. When instead the oleic acid molecules are free, that is not tied to other molecules, there is something wrong with the quality of the oil.
There is an admissible limit, regulated by law, of this percentage of free molecules of oleic acid. This percentage is defined the "oil acidity" and it never must exceed, so that an oil can be defined as extra virgin, the 0.8%.
Yes, ok, but why pinches?Having said that, let's go back to our main question: why does the extra virgin oil pinch in the throat? Banally and simplifying we can answer: "Because it is good" or "Because is it beneficial."
But if we want to understand better we must go to see what, among the compounds of extra virgin olive oil, causes that pinching sensation.
Among the various components of extra virgin olive oil, there are the polyphenols, molecules of different kind of active ingredients, which have several interesting and important properties: they are antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, soothing. In a word they are therapeutic.
Among these there is one in particular, discovered a decade ago, which is precisely responsible for that pinch that the profane mistake for acidity: the oleocanthal
The oleocanthal is a polyphenol that has the surprising peculiarity of having a molecular composition almost identical to that of ibuprofen, a principle of synthesis which is the active component of most anti-inflammatory and painkillers.
Therefore the more the oil pinches, the more it is present in high concentrations the oleocanthal and the more its beneficial effect will be accentuated.
In a good extra virgin olive oil, in a spoonful of good extra virgin olive oil, we can find a quantity of this polyphenol corresponding to 10% of the quantity of ibuprofen present in an anti-inflammatory tablet. In other words, taking a tablespoon of oil is like taking 10% of a dose of anti-inflammatory every time.
This is why the WHO (World Health Organization) recommends taking at least 20ml of good extra virgin olive oil every day as a condiment for our dishes. Assumption that obviously goes to create a preventive effect, but also a curative one, of small situations of malaise, those situations so small that it is not worth taking a medicine, situations that we do not even realize but are there.
Such as micro-lesions, and therefore micro-inflammations, present daily in the mucous membranes of our oral cavity. This explains the pinching: the oleocanthal is "disinfecting" and acting on our micro infections, those that we don't even realize we have.
This explains one of the reasons why oil is considered a functional nutraceutical food. For its preventive and contrasting action on the small dysfunctions and problems that afflict our organism daily, so small that we often don't even notice their presence, but that they are always there in ambush, ready to grow bigger and get worse with the first cold, advancing age, minimal weakness due to fatigue, stress or bad eating habits.
The extra virgin olive oil, its regular assumption, watches over and intervenes without our realizing it, it is precisely a preventive action. So the next time you feel the extra virgin olive oil pinch your throat, thank him and thank for have finding a good extra virgin olive oil 🙂
When do you have these properties?
Obviously not all the extra virgin has this characteristic always marked, it depends a lot on different factors, first of all the cultivar employed for the production, the territory of origin and above all the competence and the skill of the producer.
To get an oil with these characteristics it is necessary to sacrifice the quantity produced, because these active ingredients are present mostly in olives that are not yet ripe.
This means that a producer who aims to get a good oil will have to harvest before the olives are ripe. But this on the other hand will result in a significantly lower oil yield.
This explains why a good extra virgin oil, as well as pinching in the throat, costs even more. Because producing it has much higher costs and because we sacrifice quantity in the name of quality.
Extra virgin olive oil as a functional food.
The recognition of so many benefits, have even pushed the FDA (Food & Drug Administration, the strict US federal agency that scrupulously and scrupulously controls any food that ends up on sale to the final consumer) to promote extra virgin olive oil from simple food to medicine in their food classification.
New "functional drinks" are also being born, that is to say drinks that allow even those who do not usually consume extra virgin olive oil during their meals (perhaps because they live in areas where it is difficult to find or because they do not know directly producers able to guarantee the quality that allows the 'extra virgin to be considered functional food), to take these doses of high quality oil simply by consuming a pleasant coconut-flavored, almond-flavored, peach drink or whatever. One of these is, for example, the brand new Olivious, a functional drink in which the technical data sheet shows, as if by chance, the extra virgin olive oil of the Nera di Gonnos, the famous and typical biodiversity of our country 🙂 ...