You have no items in your shopping cart.
Join us as we discuss the health benefits of a good quality Olive Oil with Tony Kasandrinos. The keywords here are "good quality." Tony walks us through how to find a good quality olive oil and what makes it good quality to begin with. Olives are an amazing source of polyphenols. Polyphenols are reducing agents, and together with other dietary antioxidants, protect the body's tissues against oxidative stress and associated pathologies such as cancers, heart disease and inflammation.
For centuries, in places like Greece, Italy, Tunisia, and Spain, good quality olive oil has been regarded as a necessary staple in the diet if you want to live long, have good overall health and vitality and a healthy gut microbiome.
So where do you find "good quality" olive oil? Tony explains that if you want to derive the health benefits from olive oil, it must be grown in places where the olive trees have produced for many decades without requiring any pesticides to hurry their growth. He tells us what to look for on the labels and explains what certain buzz words mean in the olive oil industry like "product of Italy."
So get yourself a good quality olive oil and pour it on everything you eat!
Tony's family has been growing olives and making olive oil for generations. He is a native of Rochester, New York, but spent a good portion of his childhood in his father's village in Greece. After graduating from the Aquinas Institute, Tony joined the Marine Corps in 1997 and retired from active duty in the fall of 2019. Tony founded Kasandrinos International in 2012 after sharing the family olive oil with the members of the CrossFit gym he was training at. After a few months, he asked Effi, his sister, to create a partnership to help bring their olive oil to the world. Tony currently resides in Santa Rosa Beach with his wife, Angela, and he loves traveling, being outdoors and sharing the amazing benefits of olive oil.
Olive Trees planted in mass production are sprayed with pesticides, allowing them to grow and produce more olives.
Hi everybody, welcome to the show. Glad to have you with us today. In this episode we're going to be talking about olive oil and how olive oil can not only support your overall health, but specifically support gut health and the gut microbiome. We've got Tony Kasandrinos with us today, who knows a ton about this topic because his family has been growing olives and making olive oil for generations. He is a native of Rochester, New York, but spent a good portion of his childhood in his father's village in Greece. After graduating from the Aquinas Institute, Tony joined the Marine Corps in 1997 and retired from active duty in the fall of 2019. Tony founded Kasandrinos International in 2012 after sharing the family olive oil with the members of the CrossFit gym he was training at. After a few months, he asked Effi, his sister, to create a partnership to help bring their olive oil to the world. Tony currently resides in Santa Rosa Beach with his wife, Angela, and he loves traveling, being outdoors and sharing the amazing benefits of olive oil. This interview is going to blow you away. You're going to learn more about olive oil than you ever thought possible. I learned a ton, and so let's get started and listen in.
Tony, it's so great to have you with us. Thanks for being here today.
That's my pleasure. Happy to be here.
So olive oil is a hot topic right now, right? Whether it's in the health and wellness world, or the culinary world, everybody's talking about olive oil, and we have you as the guru of olive oil here today, to talk with us about health benefits. And we're going to get into the microbiome and all of that, but what I'd love to start with is for you to share your story, and really your family's story, of how you came to be focused on olive oil.
Yep, it definitely started with my family, generations ago. We're Greek, so we come from a little village in southern Greece, it's about an hour south of Sparta. My father immigrated here in the 60s, and we grew up in America, but had really close ties. We used to go back to Greece all the time. Olive oil, for anyone who's ever been to Greece, is part of pretty much everybody's family. Everybody's got some olive trees. My grandfather had quite a bit. He passed away when we were younger, and he kind of left us all land, and we had been growing olive oil the whole time, but I never really was that involved with it as a child or even a young adult. We always consumed it, everything is cooked in it. And then I went off to the military at 18 years old, and my sister, who is my business partner, Effi, she went off to college and went into the corporate finance world. And about 10 years into my military career, I happened to have a case of olive oil in the trunk of my car, because I had just gone back home to my hometown of Rochester, New York, and my dad, he has a Greek restaurant there, he'd bring over about a pallet a year just to sell in the restaurant. So I had a case and I started sharing it with some friends at the CrossFit gym I was training at, and within a few weeks, I had other friends asking if they could have some, and I was like, okay, I'll go back to Rochester. I was a few hours drive away where I was stationed at the time. I bring back two cases. So after about six months, I'm basically an olive oil dealer, selling my dad's olive oil. He never brought it over in mass volume. He would just bring a few pallets and sell them at the restaurant to his customers.
The rest of our oil, we would just sell in bulk to big corporations that were buying olive oil. So I was never really that involved in selling it growing up, but then after about six months, I was like, okay, I'm kind of onto something here. But I didn't have a lot of time because I was in the military. I was on recruiting duty at the time and getting ready to go back to my normal job and possibly deploy. So I talked to my sister and I was like, "Hey, do you want to start a little business on the side with me? Because I don't have time to do it all by myself, and I don't really know what I'm doing." But long story short, we made a little website, created our own label and brand, and started selling it on the internet to our friends. It was pretty much us just sharing our oil and had a bunch of our friends who are influencers and bloggers and chefs kind of started sharing it, and it kind of took off a lot faster than we were ready for and we kind of jumped into the fire of starting our own business, and that was about 10 years ago now. It was part time for about the first seven or eight years.
Yeah. And the source of that oil was from the town in Greece.
Yeah. So it all comes from one specific Valley, where our village is located. There are actually three villages in that area, and everybody who lives in that area owns little plots of land. It could be one acre, it could be five, and it's part of a co-op. So all of our olives come from that one little region, and then we have the mill, which actually presses the olives, turns it into oil, and then the bottling facility as well. The cool, unique thing is that whole area where all those olives come from is completely organic. So no pesticides, which are a big problem in the industry with conventional oil, the way it's grown, farmed and harvested, but we don't have run off from areas that are downstream. I mean, we literally have a mountain on one side, a mountain on the other, a valley, and then the ocean. So it's a really unique scenario we have going on over there.
So let's get into that, what you were just touching on about the organic piece and the land that it's grown on, because as you said, there are a lot of issues in the olive oil industry. I think as it's gotten more popular, as there's been a lot more press around the Mediterranean diet and the health benefits of olive oil, which we'll get into, everybody's making olive oil now, right? You can go to any store and see all kinds of things. But not all olive oil is created equal, and so I'd love for you to talk about what are the things that people should be aware of around what's happening in the industry and what we as consumers should be looking at when we're purchasing an olive oil.
Yeah, it all starts from the actual tree itself and the soil and the land that it comes from. Like we were talking before, olive trees have been around for centuries, literally thousands of years. Every little region of the Mediterranean claims to have the oldest tree whether it's Morocco, or Greece, Tunisia, everyone's like, "Oh, we have the original trees." Olive oil has been used for literally thousands of years, even before ancient Greece, a few thousand years ago before that. So for centuries, or literally thousands of years, it was only that area where all trees grew. In the last 100 years, they've been imported all over the world. Now we grow them in Australia, Texas, California, South America is really coming up, even China. The main difference is that right there the trees where our olive oil comes from are all very old. I think our youngest trees are maybe 50, 60. Some are hundreds of years old. And we don't really do much to them. They grow on their own, they've been growing for decades or centuries. When you plant brand new trees, you want to keep them alive, and they're growing them in mass production. If you go out to California, you'll just see rows and rows of thousands of little — they look more like bushes, honestly, if you compare a California olive tree next to an olive tree in Greece, it looks like a shrub. Now to get these to grow faster so they fruit faster, they water them a lot more. The problem with that is now that tree is going to require that water forever. They also spray pesticides on it to keep it alive in the beginning stages, that's where if there's going to be any issues, that usually comes in the beginning years of the olive tree's life. And then throughout time they will continue to use pesticides, because there's going to be less insects and there'll be more production of the olives, but you're getting a lower quality olive that does have pesticides inside of the oil. Unfortunately, when you spray fruit, and olive is a fruit, when you spray it, it's porous. That soaks into the meat of the olive, and then when you press it, that's what ends up in your oil. So the first and foremost thing is to always find an organic oil. The vast majority of the olive oil on the market is conventional. They use pesticides, and that's not good to be consuming, talking about the gut biome and everything. You don't want to be ingesting Roundup. And that's what's getting sprayed on the majority of this stuff. So that's the first thing. The other thing is the soil and the water, what is in that and how is that being treated? From there, once we have an olive oil pressed — and the process is pretty simple, kind of the same process that's been used for thousands of years, except now we use machines instead of stones and donkeys for labor.
First, you literally used donkeys to move these huge rock wheels, but basically, we hand pick all the olives, as opposed to conventional farming, where they'll drive machines or tractors over trees and shake them, which bruises the fruit, and then the fruit sits around for a while till it gets pressed, and that causes a bunch of other issues. So we handpick all the olives, press it, and that process is pretty much cleaning the olives of any dust that might be on, we just wash them. And then they go into a big cylinder where they get turned, they get mashed, and then you separate that mash from the liquid, then you get your oil at the end. Now the biggest problem, once you have a good solid olive oil, is getting into the consumer. And that's really where we saw the biggest problem in America is we'd be in grocery stores, some very high end grocery stores selling bottles of olive oil for $30 or $40. And it'd be a great olive oil, you got this great organic bottle of olive oil. But you turn it around and you look on the back, and the harvest date was two to three years ago. So olive oil is a fruit. It's a fruit juice. Granted, it will stay good for a few years, but all the polyphenols, all the positive properties, the antioxidants, they start degrading with time. So if we press this bottle today, a year from now, it's still edible, and it's still healthy. It's just not nearly as healthy as it was in the first few months of its life. So we really wanted to say, "Hey, let's get our olive oil to the consumer as fast as possible." So what we do is we bring it over quarterly. The harvest season usually lasts almost half the year. We start in October and go through February, the end of February. So we bring it over every two to three months, and we only bring over what we're pretty sure we're going to sell to our customers. There's times when we've run out of certain sizes, we just have to say "We ran out", but I'd rather run out since we're talking about pronouncing my last name before, but my last name is on the bottle. A lot of pride in it. There's not a lot of us. So when somebody tries our oil, we don't want them to get an oil from a grocery store that's two to three years old. So the biggest issues right now that we've really tried to fix are the quality, that we already had, but really it's the distribution process and getting it onto our customers kitchen table or on their countertop as fast as possible. And that really doesn't happen. I mean, I was in a really nice grocery store the other night, and I found a three year old bottle of olive oil that was produced in America, how does this happen?
Now, you mentioned organic being important. Is there a certification to look for on the bottle? Because I've heard they're mislabeled and not truly organic. So is there a Association certification that people should be looking for?
There's a few. The USDA organic. If you are using pesticides and they do check, you're going to get in trouble and lose your certification. So we actually have a few certifications for organic. We use Bio-Hellas, which is the European version of USDA Organic. We're also USDA Organic certified. So if you've got a USDA Organic certified oil, you're going to be good. And then you have non-GMO, which we're non-GMO, verified and certified, but our olives have been around longer than the non GMO has. That's a good point. The only true way to know if you have an extra virgin or a legit, you don't have pesticides in your oil, is to do a chemical analysis on it. Yeah. And we actually do two chemical analyses on every batch. We do one in Greece. And then we do one in the US when it gets here on every single batch of oil that we press. And then we post that on our website because we try to be as transparent as possible and people know exactly what they're getting. And then we always encourage people to try ours next to whatever is in their kitchen because there's a big difference in taste when you're getting the fresh stuff.
I was going to ask about that if there's a way — I've heard about this, I don't know if it's true, but ways to tell if it's a more quality olive oil, in terms of how it feels or tastes in your mouth, or is that kind of not really a way to know?
Not necessarily, because everybody's palate is different. I've had people tell us our olive oil is spicy, some are like it's more buttery. And the thing is, olive oil is different from wine, because wine gets better with age and olive oil does not. But there's hundreds of different varieties of olives, and some of them taste very different from each other. And even the same breed of Olive, we use the Koroneiki olive, it could be grown 50 miles away, and the soil is different, it's grown at a different elevation, it got more rain this year, and the oil will taste a little bit different from the same type of olive. So there's a lot of things that go into play with the taste of olive oil, and they're all very different. So taste isn't really a good identifier of a quality oil, and neither is color. A lot of people think the color makes a difference. You obviously don't want really light stuff that looks like canola oil, but our olive oil, when it's actually pressed, is like a dark green, and that changes with time. Even after about a week, it gets a little bit more yellowish. So yeah, the only way is with the chemical analysis to tell that.
What does it mean to be extra virgin? That's something — everyone uses that term, but I don't know if people know what that means.
So there's different grades of virginity with olive oil. So if you're extra virgin, that's pretty much what you want to be consuming. And that's the acidity level. So when you do a chemical analysis on it, what the acidity level is, there's a threshold and it's 0.08 or below is extra virgin. And then 0.08 and above is a virgin olive oil, which isn't really bad. It's just much more mild, and it doesn't have all the positive properties that an extra virgin does, but it is good for some things like mayo, for example. A virgin olive oil, in my opinion, is better because it's milder. If you use our olive oil in it, it's going to kind of overpower it. Beyond virgin is nothing you really want to consume. It's what they used back in the day for using lamp lighting, candles and lamps and stuff. So that threshold is really done during the chemical analysis process, and that's what determines it. Now with that, you could have an extra virgin that tests out at, say, 0.02. Two years from now, you can test that same oil. And now it's not an extra virgin anymore. It's evolved outside its threshold. And that's really where we try to educate our customers. And I always tell all of our customers or when I'm on a podcast, I tell people, with my knowledge, if I was going to shop for olive oil, and knowing what I know, what I would look for. Even if I didn't have an olive oil company. And again, I wouldn't try anything that wasn't organic, unless I knew it was from a very small batch farm that just didn't have their certification, because it's not cheap. And then just getting the freshest stuff you can get. So finding some farmer or some source that produces olive oil, where you can get it within the first year. And unfortunately, that's a problem. And like you said, would I know if I tasted it? A lot of times, the mentality in the Mediterranean region, Spain, Greece and Italy are the biggest producers of olive oil by far in the world. Greece is the biggest producer of extra virgin, and then Spain is actually the largest producer, and Italy is the biggest importer and exporter. So they actually buy it from all over and bottle it in Italy and will send it to the States as a product of Italy.
There's one more point that's really important for people to understand about these big conglomerate olive oil companies. What they do — Say we have a huge company in Italy. They can't produce their output. So they'll buy it from Greece, they'll buy it from Spain. So when they contact a producer in Spain, they all say "We need two tons of olive oil." So the producer in Spain is like, "I only have one ton, but I've got three tons of last year's harvest. We'll sell it to you for 80 cents on the dollar." So now they're going to buy that olive oil because it's still technically good. And they'll blend it with some of this year's harvest from Italy, they will blend it with some from Tunisia. And because it's bottled in Italy now it's a product of Italy.
And what will they have as the date on the bottle?
They won't have it. That's the thing because you're not required to have it. You just need an expiration date. And it's not even an expiration date, it's a best-before date when it comes to olive oil. We put 24 months on our bottle from when it's harvested. And even with that, it's still good. It'll be good for three years. But we always encourage our customers to have it within the first year. And anything they're getting on our website is this quarter, essentially.
But in general, if you have a bottle of olive oil at home and you've had it for three years, it definitely means you're not eating enough olive oil. Right?
Yeah. In America, we definitely don't consume enough. In Greece, we consume about 18 liters a year per person. It's a good amount. But over in Greece, we use it for everything. We cook everything with it, we drown salads in it. People dip bread in it. I mean, you're literally using it for everything, even baking. That's all people use. It's the most accessible fat that there is.
Let's talk about the health benefits of it, because you've kind of touched on that, talking about the manufacturing process and how it's grown, really fascinating. I'm learning so much about olive oil. But let's talk about the health benefits of that. Why should people be consuming more olive oil? What are the benefits of that? To your point, if we've got three year old olive oil sitting around, we're probably not eating enough of it. Why do we want to have that as an important part of our overall diet?
Well, the first thing, which doesn't really have to do with olive oil, and this is a thing that's more in Western culture now, in America, and it's creeping up throughout the world, is the use of unhealthy oils and fats. You can go to a five star restaurant right now and get a nice grass-fed steak, and say you get some truffle fries, or some other sort of fries or anything that is cooked in canola oil, because it's cheaper. Most restaurants these days, that's what they're using. My family is in the restaurant industry, and so I know what they're buying. It's soybean oil, canola bean oil or canola oil. And it's not good for you — or margarine.
Vegetable oil, the random vegetable.
Yeah. And if you see how these are produced — Like what I just explained about olive oil, if you see how grapeseed/canola oil is produced, it is not something we should be putting in our bodies at all. But yeah, so one is to replace those things with something that's been used forever, Either olive oil or ghee, or good grass-fed butter. Now, as far as the positive health benefits of olive oil itself, it's packed full of polyphenols and antioxidants. We could probably talk for about five hours on this. Because olive oil has been around for so long, there's been so many studies on it, so many benefits: From brain health, to your hair, to your skin, heart health, bone health — We're actually sharing something with one of our friends that has a course on osteoporosis.
There's been a lot of studies saying that increasing your olive oil intake will help that. There was just a big study done on consuming, I forgot how much, I think it was about 10 liters of olive oil, actually increases your life expectancy. There's been a lot of cancer research done. So there's really been countless studies done on the health benefits, and it kind of really almost hits every part of your health and your longevity, and for anyone that's ever traveled to Greece or Europe, it's a very different place when it comes to the elderly. And I'm 100% firm believer it has to do with diet and your just day to day lifestyle/stress. But you'll go into a Greek village, and you'll see 80, 90 year olds who are more mobile and healthier than a lot of 40 year olds in America. And going back and forth so much — I traveled a lot around the world while I was in the military for two decades, and so I got to see different cultures and how they eat, what they eat, and how the people live. Spending time in Japan and throughout Europe, it's very different than it is here in the States. And I think a lot of that comes from the diet they're eating, and especially when it comes to the foundation of that diet, which for people over there is generally olive oil, I mean, every meal, that's how it starts. But then we look here in the States, you figure all the people that are consuming fast food. What's that cooked in? What's it soaked in? And even from your normal burgers, when they're cooking them on the grill? What are they putting on that grill before they put that meat on there? Even if it's a grass-fed burger? What's it being cooked in? Unfortunately, the vast majority of the fats we consume in this country are not too good.
Yeah, I think it was a World Health Organization analysis, looking at the impact of lipid peroxides. So those are oxidized components of oils, and I think the conclusion was that it accounts for 30% to 40% of cancers from consuming high amounts of these peroxides. I'm assuming then olive oil doesn't oxidize the same way that vegetable oils do, right?
No, not at all. So olive oil will oxidize slightly over time when it's not exposed to that heat that a lot of other oils are used to. I was watching a video about canola oil, and they're talking about the processing of it. And they cool it down to 140 degrees. I was like, oh my goodness, for an extra virgin, you don't go over 80 degrees, ever, during the production process. But then there are certain things that will oxidize pretty much any oil or fat. The light is one thing. So that's another reason at grocery stores, they're sitting underneath the light 24/7, they don't turn those lights off at night. So you have glass bottles that are sitting under the light. Time will help oxidize olive oil. Air, so once you crack that bottle, it's best to seal it really well when you do seal it. And, again, consuming it quickly. So a lot of times people think, "Oh, I've got to bulk up and get…" A lot of customers, they'll just order a ton of oil, like, "Oh, we're bulking up for the year." You're better off just getting it quarterly or every six months instead of getting a bunch, because we sell multiple different sizes, all the way up to 10 liter units. Oxidization is definitely a thing, and those are the big things that cause it in olive oil. But even then, it's not nearly as bad as some of the highly processed vegetable oils we have out there.
I think one of the things that's so confusing for people, particularly in the United States, is this discussion of fat, right? Healthy fat, good fat versus bad fat. For so long, the messaging driven by corporate interests primarily has been "fat is bad", right? "Fat is bad, don't eat fat, eat vegetable oil", and those kinds of things. So when we start having these conversations around, "No, actually your brain, especially, and your body need healthy fats, they need the right kinds of fats." I think people get really confused, right? It's like, "Well, what am I supposed to be eating? What constitutes a healthy fat or a good fat?", and I think that's really a challenge for people to think about or to even know what they're supposed to do, because there's so much contradictory information out there.
There definitely is. I mean, it seems like these days everything is contradictory, is meat good? No. Is fish good? Is fat good? No carbs? It's all very contradictory. When I talk to family or friends or customers, at the end of the day, I think we'd all be much better off just knowing our sourcing and getting the best quality, but even without that, getting rid of the stuff that's definitely damaging. Say we over consume fat on average. Well, what kind of fat are we consuming? That's what, a lot of these studies that come out, they're very biased, "Oh, red meat is bad for you." Okay, well, what kind of red meat is it? Is it coming from a CAFO or is it pasture-raised? Same thing with fats. Are you using grass-fed ghee or conventionally raised ghee? And same thing with olives. So I think at the end of the day, the one thing we should definitely focus on and we have the ability to, now probably more than ever, it's kind of weird, as bad as food is right now, we probably also have more availability to have really good food too.
So I think really focusing in and dialing into, one, getting rid of the bad stuff, and when you're at a restaurant, ask them, "What are you cooking this in? Is it margarine or soybean oil or canola? Or is it olive oil or butter?" Especially good restaurants. It's crazy, you go spend a lot of money on really good quality foods and you're there cooking it in bad stuff. So I think really, whether there's misinformation or contradictory information, I think we'd all be better served if we just got rid of what we know is definitely bad.
Yeah, and I think, like you said before, even if one decides grass-fed beef is perfectly healthy or it's great. But then if you cook it in bad oil, we're taking away the benefit there. Or if you're like, "I'm going to really increase my vegetable intake", and you're making vegetables all the time, but you're frying it or stir frying it in bad oil, you're undoing some of the benefits of it. So really, what are you cooking it in is a big question. The other question that pops up when it comes to cooking for me is, I often hear that olive oil is not good for cooking because it doesn't handle heat well, right? Or you shouldn't cook it in high heat. So is that true? How do you use olive oil for cooking?
So we always use it for cooking. And different olive oils have different smoke points. So it's not like one is all the way across the board, same with avocado oil. Different avocado oils have different smoke points. If you're cooking it to the point where it's smoking, you're probably cooking too hot.
But yeah, we've been cooking with it for generations, and most of my relatives all hit the century mark and are relatively healthy. So we always tell our customers, it's up to you to do your research. We definitely do cook in it. But we use other fats. My wife is Indian and we use a lot of ghee, too.
And they combine well, I've cooked stuff with olive oil and ghee, both. The flavor profiles combine quite well.
I love them. I do my rib eyes, I do on a cast iron. I'll put olive oil on one side for about two minutes, then flip it and use ghee. It's a good mix.
It is good. It's kind of making me hungry, actually. So as a Greek olive oil king, who is probably going to live to like 100, can you give us a breakdown of your day? When and how are you consuming olive oil throughout the day?
So I always have a teaspoon in the morning. I got into it a long time ago.
So a straight up teaspoon of it.
Yep. Yeah. It's funny, on this topic, we just started doing reviews on our website recently. We have a ton on Amazon, but we were like, let's do reviews on our website. And a lot of our customers are telling us new ways they are using it. I'm like, really? You do that? A few customers tell me they use it in their oatmeal, which was interesting. On yogurt, ice cream, everything. But as far as for me, I use olive oil differently, seasonally. I eat a lot more salads in the summertime, especially Greek salads, which are tomato and cucumber. So when that time of year is around, I'm eating a lot more for lunch. Right now I don't really use much. I eat a pretty basic meat diet. I'm either eating meat and vegetables or seafood. There are a lot of oysters down here in Florida now.
With the salad, do you just pour it on? I think people get confused about that too, like, do I need to put something with it? Can I just put the olive oil on it?
Yes, that's an awesome question. You could just use olive oil as your dressing, which is what I do with Greek salads with some feta and some salt and oregano. If I'm using a salad that has spinach or any other leafy greens in it, I actually like to mix it with vinegar. We have a few vinegars that we also sell that are really good. It's a very small batch and thick, unlike a lot of the watery stuff you find, but yeah, I like to mix olive oil with vinegar as a dressing.
It depends on what vinegar I'm using, honestly. Some of them are a lot stronger than others, and sometimes I'll mix them with a little honey as well. Honey and fig balsamic and olive oil if you want a sweet dressing. We actually have an ebook with all dressings and infusions, and that actually brings up one other little point I want to touch on: Flavored olive oil.
I was going to ask about this.
Don't buy it. It is flavored. Literally, it's the biggest scam. Companies will put olive oil in a smaller bottle, put a little bit of flavoring in it, and now, hey, we have garlic flavored olive oil, and sell it for double the price. But you can make it at home so easily. You can make garlic infused olive oil, you can make a month's worth in a little time.
Can you just throw some garlic cloves into your olive oil and just leave it?
You could do that. Or you can just put it in a pan and let it simmer very low. That'll really give it a really garlicky taste. We make a bunch. I like really hot stuff, so I use chili peppers and jalapenos and all sorts of stuff. But I do small batches. We would never sell that, because one, it won't last that long if you're using ingredients. So you have flavored olive oil. Vinegar is different because if you actually use the pulp of a fruit and mix it with balsamic, that works, but with olive oil, they're using flavorings. So if you see a flavored olive oil.
Well, I wondered, because I was at the store just the other day and was in the olive oil section thinking about this interview coming up, and saw so, so many, and I wondered about that, like "Oh, is that…?"
Yeah, they're a novelty item type thing. You know, "Oh, I get flavored oil." But unfortunately, it's flavoring.
Now when you say you make it, you simmer the olive oil in the saucepan, I'm taking, with garlic, and then you re-bottle it after. That's how you infuse the flavor, so you do it with really low heat…
Just get a little funnel and pour it back in, or just put it in a little different container, because I usually don't make a ton of it. I'll usually make a week or two's worth, depending on what we're making. It's awesome on seafood. We use it on oysters a lot. I always ate oysters raw until I moved down to this area of Florida, and we started baking them, so we actually make different toppings for the oysters, and pour spicy oil on top. There's a lot of different things you could do with it, but it's best just to do it yourself instead of buying it because it doesn't take much time, and you can kind of play around and make really cool dressings or little infusions and all sorts of stuff.
I love that you said you have an ebook, you have some stuff on your website, too. Because I think that's one of the things, people go "Okay, this is healthy, this is good, but how do I incorporate it? Is it going to be complicated? Okay, I know how to pour it out of the bottle and just cook something in it, but what are the other ways to use it?" Because it's so versatile. I mean, you can use it in so many different ways. I think that's really helpful.
Yeah, in so many ways. We actually have a monthly recipe club as well, where we send out a recipe a day, and there's quite a variety of different things. Drinks, you get some really good drinks with that.
Oh cool, what's an example of a drink that you could add olive oil into?
Olive oil Martini.
Well, which makes sense, because you put an olive in it.
Like a dirty martini.
You can actually infuse vodka with olive oil, let it sit in the fridge for a while, and then the olive oil will coagulate because it hardens in the cold, it should, and then just take that out and you've got olive flavored vodka.
I see some experiments brewing in our kitchens. Don't mind us, we're just experimenting with what we can make with olive oil.
Traditionally in Greece, is there non-consumption use of olive oil? Do they use it on skin?
Skin for sure, yes. Skin, big time. Everybody uses it as pretty much a lotion. Started back during the Olympics, they used to gift the winners with olive oil, but yeah, it's used in soap. We actually just launched our first two soaps today. We actually have homemade Greek soaps that we just brought over on this last shipment. We have an olive oil body butter as well. So it's used definitely in almost all skincare products over there, because, I mean, speaking of the whole biome and the gut biome, and obviously, your skin is an important part of that, and how much of not just stuff we're eating, but how much of the stuff we're putting on our bodies is harmful as well. So, yeah, it's definitely been used on hair. Women put it on their hair. My hair is kind of short, so I don't really use it too much.
Well, being here in the desert right now, having olive oil soap and lotion is sounding really good. That, and we're going to need to have a good lunch, because now I'm hungry from this. You just brought up something important that I wanted to make sure we touched on as far as the microbiome, you said about the skin microbiome and what we use on that, but really, olive oil has some really important benefits for our gut microbiome, too, right?
Yeah, I think even before that, it kind of goes back to: Obviously, if you're putting any sort of negative, harmful things into your body, it's really going to cause a negative effect on everything else. And when it comes to ingesting this stuff, you're literally wreaking havoc on your entire body. It's not just olive oil, but anything, any food product, but when it's something we're using in on a daily basis, and you're consuming this stuff everyday, everyday, everyday, what's it doing to your gut and your organs and pretty much every cell in your body when you're just doing this? And it's just like we can really get back to just thinking about kind of the do no harm first and foremost, and then the stuff I am ingesting or the stuff I am putting on my body, let's make it the best quality stuff we can get our hands on.
One of the things I talk a lot about in terms of a really important food group that's that's critical for the microbiome is polyphenols, because polyphenols increase the growth of a number of keystone species, including akkermansia, which is really important for metabolic health. It protects you against all kinds of things under the cardiometabolic syndrome spectrum. And then polyphenols are also converted into compounds like urolithins, which help regenerate your mitochondria and all of that stuff. So I'm guessing populations that consume higher levels of olive oil tend to be leaner and have better metabolic health, overall, versus populations that don't.
From what I've seen, for sure. And I've been on almost every continent on this planet and seen a lot of different cultures and different foods. The best thing about traveling is trying different local foods. It's no secret, the Mediterranean diet, how people live there, and what the foundation is. And yeah, with polyphenols, that's a really good point. We actually share that data too. We actually test every batch for the polyphenol count, which does fluctuate a little bit here, year to year, harvest to harvest. But on the scale of things, we're on the very high end. Actually, the olive we use, the Koroneiki, is known as probably the highest polyphenol producing olive out of all of them.
Do you, off the top of your head, how many milligrams of polyphenols are in, let's say an ounce or two?
Let's see, right around 1000 milligrams per kilogram.
Wow, per kilogram. That's amazing.
The average, I think, is probably around in the 200s in the US.
Yeah. Because a lot of the microbiome benefits come from as little as 200-300 milligrams a day of polyphenols, in terms of…
And that's another thing that degrades with time. We actually tested our oil when we pressed it, and I tested the bottle after two years, and it had been reduced by almost half. So it's almost like you're getting this stuff, and there's a health benefit in the oil, literally, when it's first pressed in Greece, our area of Greece, it's called medicine, translated. That's what the old people call it, this is medicine. A lot of customers, they'll just go to the local grocery store and get a $30-$40 bottle of oil thinking it's awesome and it's got all these healthy properties, but it's older and they're not getting all the benefits they should be getting as the new stuff. So that's where the age, really, like we talked about earlier — all those positive properties, the antioxidants and the polyphenols, they do degrade with time. So the sooner you get it, the better.
In Greece, what age do they start feeding kids olive oil? When do they start eating? Babies?
Babies? Yeah. Probably using it on their skin?
Well, we're baptized in it. And anyone who's seen a Greek baptism, you're literally doused in olive oil then dunked in water. But yeah, literally babies. I mean, I know my mom, she tells me stories. I don't remember because I was less than one, but they used to make all my baby food, it was all done in olive oil.
And you think about how amazing that is for setting a child up for a healthy gut microbiome, just healthy. I mean, kids, especially during those early years of growth and development, the healthy fats are so critical for supporting brain function and connectivity, especially. So what an amazing thing it is to start giving such powerful oils to kids at a young age.
Well, you figure — Going back to where we're from, I mean, Greece is a very small country. It's about the size of New Jersey. And then you have Athens, which is a big city, and then you have a bunch of little villages. So going back to our village is like going back in time. There's donkeys everywhere, there's traffic down there, there's goats crossing the street. But it's very, very farm-to-table. Everyone's got chickens, everyone gets their own eggs in the morning. Everybody's got goats. You get your milk from the goats. Everybody gets cheese that's made locally. So that whole processed food thing really isn't a thing as much there. And that's kind of how humans lived for thousands of years up until the last 150-200 years where it's really changed. So you figure, kids for millennia have been raised on real natural foods and healthy fats, even from babies. And now it's like, what are we feeding them? I don't have any kids. But my sister's got three little girls, and I see the choices out there for mothers to feed their infants, and even toddlers, what are they really eating? What are we feeding them? And what are the long term effects of this? Because I'm not a scientist or anything, but I think anybody can recognize: Things are not getting better. In fact, they're getting worse, and I think that definitely is what we're ingesting on a daily basis.
Well, the data bears that out. What you're noticing anecdotally is what we see in the research as far as the connections to not only kids having more and more issues at younger and younger ages, but also the connection between those kinds of issues and the food that they're eating.
I've been hearing a lot about olive leaf extract. Are you guys doing anything with the leaves?
We don't right now, but we're going to. We're actually looking at making an olive leaf tea, because right now, the olive leaves get turned into goat food.
Oh, lucky goats. That's why their milk is so good.
So that's the kind of cool thing about the whole process. It's very environmentally friendly. This is our land that we've had for generations. And so everything's very sustainable. The olive itself is turned into oil. But when we do that mash and we separate the liquid from the pulp, that pulp gets turned into little bricks, and then that's what they use for fire to heat their homes, in the fireplace. And then the leaves get blown out and bagged up, and then they get fed to goats. There are a lot of antioxidants and positive properties in the leaves, and olive leaf tea is definitely a thing, and has shown a lot of really good benefits. So we're probably going to definitely be doing that in the next year, I think, for sure.
Well, this has been fascinating. I have learned so much, and feel I will be a much better consumer of olive oil, and new ways to use it in my life and for my family too. Your village sounds amazing. Kiran and I would love — we'll plan a visit. We're going to come and visit, we're going to do part two of this on location. I want to make sure that people know where they can find you online. You've got great resources on your website as well as, obviously, the olive oil that you produce. So Where should people go to find out more?
It's on our website, Kasandrinos, which is kind of long, but if you just google it, I'm sure you'll end up finding it.
And we'll put the links in the show notes too so people can get to those. Thank you so much for just sharing all of the history of this, your wisdom, the amazing things that you are doing to bring quality health supportive olive oil to all of us. We really appreciate it. Thank you.
Thank you for having me.