How can you Choose the Perfect Olive Oil?

Choosing olive oil is deceptively difficult but here are some tips to keep in mind the next time you go grocery shopping.

Choosing olive oil is deceptively difficult but here are some tips to keep in mind.

Go for Extra Virgin: these olive oils are the least processed, they weren’t treated with any chemicals or heat. If this is the only thing you look for in olive oil, you’re guaranteed to have at least a baseline level of decent quality olive oil regardless of brand or any other factor. Extra virgin olive oil is always cold-pressed, so no need to look for that on the label.

No “light” olive oil: if a bottle of olive oil is ever described as light, run the other direction. Olive oil is and should always be high in fat!

No clear containers: olive oil can easily be damaged from exposure to light so avoid any olive oil that does not come in a dark glass, tin container, or other opaque.

Look for a specific region: A product labeled merely “Mediterranean” may be of lower quality than you’re anticipating. Mediterranean olive oil is typically made using all the defective leftover olives or olive oil from across the Mediterranean. In addition to defective olives, if defective olive oils from around the world are bottled in Italy they can be sold as Italian olive oil. To avoid these oils check the back of the bottle, it will tell you the country of origin for the oil itself. But a good way to ensure you’re purchasing high-quality oil is to purchase olive oil that is listed by region. For example Sicilian or Kalamata olive oil as opposed to Italian or Greek olive oil. The more specific the better.

In order to not completely break the bank on olive oil alone, I buy two. I buy one more expensive olive oil from a specific region and use that for dressings, marinades, anything else that will really benefit from a distinct olive oil flavor. But, when I am using olive oil to grease a pan, I use a generic extra virgin olive oil.

Does Coffee Cause Dehydration?

Coffee has long been considered a culprit in dehydration but this may be less straight forward than we thought.

Coffee has long been considered a culprit in dehydration because caffeine has a mild diuretic effect. But recent studies have shown that while the caffeine in coffee does increase urination, that increased urination does not counteract the main ingredient in brewed coffee —— WATER.

One study found that consumption of 300 mg of caffeine which is the equivalent of 3 cups of coffee (710 ml) resulted in increased urine production of only 109 ml (1).

In order to see a significant diuretic effect from coffee, it would require the consumption of 5 or more cups of brewed coffee at once (2).


  1. Coffee with High but Not Low Caffeine Content Augments Fluid and Electrolyte Excretion at Rest
  2. No evidence of dehydration with moderate daily coffee intake: a counterbalanced cross-over study in a free-living population

Can Chamomile Reduce Anxiety?

Chamomile has been shown to significantly reduce anxiety in those with moderate to severe anxiety.

Feeling anxious?

Chamomile has been shown to significantly reduce anxiety in those with moderate to severe anxiety. (1, 2)

In 2020, we have had a lot to keep us anxious. Whether it be economic insecurity, health, wildfires, police shootings, protests, massive change and disruption in schedules, and now an election that could take days (or longer) to call. While you try to keep your sanity consider turning off the news and curling up with a cup of tea.

Other uses for Chamomile

In addition to anxiety, chamomile had been shown to:

  • help relieve colds
  • reduce the severity of menstrual cramps
  • boost the immune system
  • act as a mild sedative

Long term use of chamomile has been found to have no side effects.


  1. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of oral Matricaria recutita (chamomile) extract therapy for generalized anxiety disorder
  2. Long-term Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L.) treatment for generalized anxiety disorder: A randomized clinical trial

Caesar Dressing

A few years ago I started to make my own salad dressing. This is something I decided to do because store-bought salad dressing almost always contains oils that I specifically try to avoid.

Salad dressing can be as simple as tossing your greens in oil and vinegar. My favorite dressing is Caesar and unfortunately it is a little more complicated than that. It requires a whole lot of whisking but I use a food processor to make the process a little easier.

I use a recipe I found a few years ago from Bon Appetit.

Some notes about this recipe:
– for vegetable oil, I use unrefined peanut or avocado oil, examples of oil to avoid are listed below. In addition to vegetable oil this recipe includes olive oil, you could use olive oil for all of the oil in the recipe but I wouldn’t recommend it. Olive oil has a stronger flavor than vegetable oil and will be noticeable in the finished product
– You can skip anchovies and still have a lovely dressing, when I make this I don’t always remember to buy anchovies so I have made it without them many times

Oils to avoid: soybean, sunflower, safflower, canola, corn, grapeseed, refined coconut, refined peanut, refined avocado

If you don’t want to make salad dressing or don’t have time Primal Kitchen makes great dressing with high-quality oil!

Eating on the Wild Side

What’s on my bookshelf vol. 1: Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson

Eating on the Wild Side explores the nutrient levels in different fruits and vegetables and how they have changed over time. Corn, as it turns out, was once a bush which produced only a few kernels. Plant breeding eventually resulted in the large cob of corn kernels you see today. Along with the increase in kernels corn also saw an increase in sugar and a decrease in vitamins.

Most produce found in the grocery store has a fraction of the nutrients they once had. But there are ways to ensure you’re getting the most out of your food.

When I buy and prepare produce I remember little tidbits from this book like:
– buy the reddest strawberries
– carrots cooked whole have more antioxidants than carrots cooked sliced
– tart apples have more health benefits than sweet varieties
– the most highly pigmented produce has the most antioxidants, unless you’re buying cabbage in which case stick with white

I could go on….

The book also recommends specific varieties of fruits and vegetables you can find at farmers’ markets. If you have any interest in optimizing your health through nutrition you’ve got to read this book. I find it endlessly fascinating and have read it multiple times.

Cold Weather Stew

Is it just me or did fall weather appear very suddenly? This cooler weather had me craving some hearty stew.

This can be made on the stove, in a slow cooker, or in an Instant Pot.


1-2 lb stew beef
Salt and pepper
1 cup peas
1 cup chopped carrots (3-4 carrots)
1 large potato diced
1/2 tsp onion powder
2 cloves of garlic minced
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp cumin
1 bay leaf
1 tsp curry powder (optional)
2.5 cups stock (I use bone broth)


Place stew beef into a bowl, season with salt and pepper.

Instant Pot: click the sauté button, add olive oil to prevent sticking then add meat

Stove or slow cooker: place a large pot on the stove and turn the heat on medium. Place meat in the pot with olive oil to prevent sticking.

Turn meat occasionally until browned on all sides. Meat does not need to be cooked fully through since it will continue to cook after adding vegetables.

While meat is browning chop all vegetables.

Once the meat is browned add potatoes, carrots, peas, garlic, seasonings, stock, and salt and pepper to taste.

Instant Pot: place lid on with valve closed. Select stew and let Instant Pot do its thing! After the stew is cooked allow pressure to release on its own for 10 minutes. In my experience the longer I let it sit the better

Stove: simmer for 50 minutes or until beef is cooked through and vegetables are tender

Slow cooker: cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours

I also pulled some leftover rice out of the fridge and put that right into the stew, it added some nice texture!

Does saturated fat increase the risk of diabetes?

The Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC) released a review in their August 2020 publication stating that recent meta-analyses of clinical trials and observational studies have found no beneficial effects from limiting saturated fatty acids (SFA) in the diet. Those meta-analyses found that saturated fat has a protective effect against stroke.

The review stated “Whole-fat dairy, unprocessed meat, and dark chocolate are SFA-rich foods with a complex matrix that are not associated with increased risk of CVD [Cardiovascular disease]. The totality of available evidence does not support further limiting the intake of such foods.”

The review went on to say that increased risk of metabolic syndrome, diabetes, CVD, heart failure, and mortality tracked closely with dietary carbohydrate intake. This goes against what we are told by most dietitians and medical professionals.

What do the dietary guidelines say?

Current dietary recommendations advise limiting saturated fat to less than 10% of total calories. Carbohydrates are recommended to be 50-60% of total calories.

This is just the latest published evidence that reducing saturated fat has not been found to be beneficial. The evidence against reducing SFA intake has been mounting over the last few years but nutrition education and the dietary guidelines have yet to catch up.

This review goes into detail about the reasons behind the saturated fat recommendations and the benefits of different whole foods which contain high levels of saturated fat.

Should you make dietary changes?

It is important to note that carbohydtrates, fat, and protein effect everyone differently. Some people do well on a higher carb diet while others do well on a higher fat diet. This is the biggest problem with the dietary guidelines. It assumes there is a one size fit all approach to nutrition. If that were true, there would be no reason for dietitians to exist.

Despite there not being a one size fits all approach, dietary saturated fat is still limited for most people. Americans tend to buy low-fat products and avoid red meat and butter. While the attention has been on lowering saturated fat, processed carbohydrates have gone under the radar.

Though this review points out the issues with carbohydrate consumption and their connection to disease and mortality, try not to fret about foods like starchy vegetables and fruits. Processed food and particularly processed carbohydrates are extremely high in most diets. Reducing or eliminating those foods is the best way to ensure good health.

Practical Applications:

  • Increase your saturated fat intake by no longer limiting high-fat foods
  • Stop purchasing low-fat products
  • Reduce your processed carbohydrate intake
  • Increase whole foods

If you need help identifying processed carbs or whole foods email me at and be sure to follow me on instagram @jessbnutrition.


  1. Saturated Fats and Health: A Reassessment and Proposal for Food-Based Recommendations: JACC State-of-the-Art Review