My Daughter’s Eczema Story

The following incident was told to Nourishing Israel by R.S. Knowing that her experience would be helpful to our readers, we asked her to write it up for us. We hope that you find it as illuminating as we did. 

My Daughter’s Eczema Story

This is a very simple story, but I think it exemplifies what is wrong with the current medical paradigm that we live in.

My daughter developed a very itchy, dry, red rash, mostly behind her knees, but also in other places.  I took her to a dermatologist and showed him all the rashes.  He went to his computer, typed away and handed me two prescriptions, one for a syrup and one for a cream, telling me how many times a day to give each.  I got the impression that as far as he was concerned, the appointment was over, so I asked him what my daughter had.  He answered: “eczema”.  I asked him what causes eczema and he answered “I don’t know”.  When I asked him what I can do to stop the eczema from happening again, he said that she should take the cream and the syrup.  End of appointment.

Being that my daughter’s rash was not caused by a lack of hydrocortisone, taking the medication was not going to fix her problem.  Rather, we had to figure out what caused this problem, in order to find its solution.

Skin rashes are generally the body’s reaction to an irritant.  The irritant was likely to be something that was being put on her skin (e.g. soap, moisturizer, clothing detergent) or something in her body that the body was removing through the skin (e.g. a food chemical).

Her worst rashes were behind her knees.  Realizing that a few months earlier she had gotten new tights with “fresh feet” antibacterial agents in them, we severely washed them and the rash behind her knees got much better.

We tried taking her off milk and wheat and other known allergens, but this lead to no noticeable improvement (maybe since we were already drinking raw goats/sheep milk and eating sourdough spelt).  However, she had had another problem, which we had never bothered mentioning to the dermatologist (since he was a skin doctor, we didn’t think to mention any non-skin symptoms, also, we ourselves did not make any connection at the time between this problem and her eczema.  We now understand that any doctor who is so specialized he doesn’t know or care about other body parts is probably not a doctor that will be able to help bring the body back to health).  She had started frequently dislocating her shoulders, elbows and wrists, and had become so fragile, it bothered her to be touched or in any way treated in a non-gentle manner.

picture of Bowl of soup

Image by RitaE from Pixabay

Months earlier, we had begun drinking a lot of bone-broth soup (having understood that it was considered very healthy), but we were making this soup out of “regular” turkey-bones.  Conventionally raised birds/animals are fed pesticide-laden feed which they detox out through their milk, eggs, urine, feces, and sweat, and which gets stored in the fat and skin.  Glyphosate also gets placed in bones and cartilage.  Glyphosate is the most commonly used pesticide/herbicide in the world, and a molecule which, when present, replaces glycine (an amino acid found in every cell of our bodies) of which bones and cartilage contain a lot.  Glyphosate is highly poisonous to our bodies because it has a slightly different chemical shape than the glycine it is replacing, which causes different problems to different proteins throughout the body.  Glyphosate in the cartilage of the joints can cause the body’s joints to not function correctly. I made the connection between my daughter’s problems and the bone-broth after reading articles by Stefanie Seneff explaining the many problems with glyphosate. (She is an MIT senior researcher, who has just recently published a book on the toxicity of glyphosate.)  Therefore, since cooking bones for hours to make broth releases lots of glycine (which is super healthy for our bodies) and glyphosate (which is super poisonous to our bodies)), it turns out we had been ingesting lots of glyphosate from our bone broth.  When we stopped drinking the bone-broth soup made from “regular” turkey-bones (and later replaced it with organic chicken bones to make “organic” bone-broth soup), the rest of our daughter’s eczema and all her dislocations stopped.

We saw very clearly from this story an inherent danger of the current medical system.  The current medical system focuses on removing a patient’s symptoms without removing or in any way dealing with what actually is causing the illness.  This is often achieved by stopping an important function of the body (in our daughter’s case detoxification and reacting to irritants), thus leaving the person in worse health than before and leading to much bigger health problems.  We also learned how serious pesticides/herbicides/fungicides are to our health (other members of our family had also developed eczema, dislocations, and other various problems that cleared up when we moved over to eating organic).

Feature image by ? Mabel Amber, who will one day from Pixabay

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What Israel’s Red & Green Food Labels Don’t Tell You About the Food You’re Buying

Pilanesberg salt lick

Pilanesberg salt lick

Natural salt is so important to health that salt licks are made available to animals. Giraffe and wildebeest enjoy this artificial salt lick at the Pilanesberg Game Reserve, South Africa [1]

How those red & green food labels misdirect attention

Like many governments around the world, the Israeli government attempts to steer the public’s health related decisions in particular directions, even though they may really be of more benefit to industry and not necessarily in the individual’s best interest. The red and green labeling on processed food products is one such example.

Beginning in January 2020, the Israeli Health Ministry required food manufacturers to put red or green labels on pre-packaged food items. To earn a green label, solid foods were not allowed to have more than 500mg of salt, 13.5g of total sugar, and 5g of total saturated fatty acids per 100 grams. Liquid foods were not allowed to have more than 400mg of sodium, 5g for total sugars, and 3g for total saturated fatty acids. Red labels mean that  the products are considered to have high amounts of these ingredients, even if they’re naturally present. 

red food labels

These amounts were reduced beginning January 2021, to 400 mg sodium, 10 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of total saturated fatty acids per 100 grams of solid foods and to 300 grams of sodium, 5 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of saturated fatty acids per 100 ml. 

Considering that 

  1. we need more sodium and fatty acids in our diet to be healthy than what is “recommended”,
  2. sugar, even in low amounts, doesn’t belong in many products containing sugar, 
  3. these are only three of many ingredients, and
  4. processing foods affects their nutritional value,

is it possible that there are important things that we are not being told?

Here’s what you should know

Food labels, in general, are very focused on just a few nutritional details that we have been trained to consider important above all else – calories, sugar, sodium, fat, cholesterol, and a few selected vitamins and minerals. Most foods contain many more important nutrients than the few listed. Real nutrient dense foods, which we should ideally be eating, contain many vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and micronutrients that are critical for our health. While some manufactured sugary, salty, and fatty products are really concerning, the bigger picture, that processed foods are often nutritionally depleted and some have been denatured, is not addressed. Many also contain chemicals and additives that may be worse for you than all the sugar, salt, and fat in the red label products. Perhaps the labels should be more reflective of all these damaged and damaging ingredients, as well.

Some suggestions for healthier (& more honest) labeling

These benefit the consumer, although manufacturers might not like them.

Red labels for:

  • Sugars and artificial sweeteners:
    • White sugar and anything that includes white sugar. Unlike unprocessed sugar, white sugar has been processed and stripped of the micronutrients needed to digest it. Your body will take those micronutrients from elsewhere in your body to do the job. Osteoporosis can be one of the long term effects!
    • Food products for which there is no reason to add sugar, such as tomato products and canned fruits packed in light syrup rather than natural juices. 
    • Cakes, cookies, chocolates, and other items that list sugar as the first (or second) ingredient. Ingredients are listed in order of amount from most to least.
    • Foods that have tremendous amounts of sugar – including sodas.
    • Products that contain artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners can cause serious metabolic derangement and other harms.
  • Chemical additives:
    • Products that have chemical additives and certain E-numbers that are detrimental to health. 

Even the almonds given the green label in the above video may have lost some of their nutritional value – if they come from California where all almonds for commercial sale must be pasteurized in one of several ways. This is fine if you want to buy roasted or blanched almonds, but if you are expecting to buy totally raw almonds, you might want to check the country of origin beforehand.


  • Grains: 
    • Cold breakfast cereals. Most cereals are made by pulverizing the grains into slurries (thin mixtures of a liquid and finely divided substances[2] and extruding the slurries under high pressure to make flakes and shapes. Most of the nutrients have been destroyed in the process, fatty acids are denatured, and lysine, a crucial amino acid is also destroyed. Although the manufacturing process is different, puffed cereals have similar problems[3]
    • Foods with altered grains labeled as whole grains.
  • Fats:
  • Salt
    •  White table salt and any products using table salt. Like sugar, table salt is devoid of valuable micronutrients which have been processed out of them. Sodium regulates the concentration of water within and outside our cells and is used with potassium for nerve signaling; these micronutrients, which are found in natural sea salt (see below), are needed for salt to do its job properly. See here and here.
    • Salt substitutes. Low sodium diets are dangerous.
  • Dairy
    • Milk in cartons that are not refrigerated as well as most refrigerated milk which, in Israel, is now ultra-pasteurized. “Because of the extreme process, ultra-pasteurized milk contains fewer nutrients than pasteurized milk, and even fewer when compared to raw milk. Researchers and microbiologists have also said that ultra-pasteurization is extremely harmful to milk, as it was found to flatten milk molecules and cause immune responses in the body when digested[4]” 
    • Low-fat milk and dairy products (see Fats above).

Green labels for:

  • Fats
  • Organic foods
    • Packaged organic foods without red label ingredients
  • Naturally fermented foods. Fermenting foods boosts the food’s nutritional value and adds beneficial bacteria that improve digestion. Most supermarkets do not carry naturally fermented foods but these are a few you might find. 
      • Fermented soy foods – some miso, some soy sauce, tempeh, natto.
      • Kombucha, a beverage sold in health food stores 
      • Sourdough breads. 
  • Milk
    • Pasteurized milk, which is hard to find on the shelves in Israeli supermarkets today, is healthier than ultra-pasteurized milk (מפוסטר על). Tenuva 3% milk in bags still says מפוסטר and not מפוסטר על. Unfortunately, much of the organic milk is also ultra-pasteurized.
    • Raw milk (where the farmers follow proper sanitary measures) is much healthier than pasteurized milk but is not legal to sell it in Israel and some countries. On the other hand, there are countries that have raw milk vending machines.
  • Eggs, particularly free range and organic
  • Fiber rich foods 
    • These are vegetables, fruits, nuts and unprocessed whole grains. Fiber is not digestible for humans, instead it helps improve digestion and detoxification, removing toxins and other waste products from our system.

If you would put labels on foods, how would you do it?

Choosing healthy fats and oils: what you need to know

Coconut oil making
Ox-powered mill for making coconut oil in Seychelles

Traditional way of making coconut oil using an ox-powered mill in Seychelles

One of the first things we did on our journey to better health was to get rid of the polyunsaturated vegetable fats we had been using in favor of monounsaturated fats like olive oil,  and saturated animal and  tropical fats — coconut and palm oils. Politics and profit, we learned, play a big role in what’s considered correct  nutrition — to the point that the polyunsaturated fats we had been told were healthy are in fact problematic, and vice versa. Not only is it difficult to account for all the variables in a nutritional study, but results of scientific studies can be manipulated to show the desired outcome, particularly when business is paying for the trials, as is often the case. And opposing voices can be effectively silenced (or at least subdued).*

This information was mind boggling at first. Not only was there a lot to digest, but it was hard to get our heads around the fact that what we’d been hearing and reading was not true. Could it really be that we, and the rest of society, had been misled and lied to?  However, reading the information presented, including the structure of the different types of fat molecules and how the body uses them left us no choice but to get rid of the corn, soy, cottonseed, safflower, and other polyunsaturated oils we had been using. And one day we even got rid of the canola oil.

In The Skinny on Fats, Mary G. Enig, PhD and Sally Fallon explain in detail the properties of common oils and fats. Contrary to “popular wisdom”, our bodies depend upon a good supply of natural fats. (Emphasis is mine.)

  • Saturated fatty acids constitute at least 50% of the cell membranes. They are what gives our cells necessary stiffness and integrity.
  • They play a vital role in the health of our bones. For calcium to be effectively incorporated into the skeletal structure, at least 50% of the dietary fats should be saturated.
  • They lower Lp(a), a substance in the blood that indicates proneness to heart disease. They protect the liver from alcohol and other toxins, such as Tylenol.
  • They enhance the immune system.
  • They are needed for the proper utilization of essential fatty acids. Elongated omega-3 fatty acids are better retained in the tissues when the diet is rich in saturated fats.
  • Saturated 18-carbon stearic acid and 16-carbon palmitic acid are the preferred foods for the heart, which is why the fat around the heart muscle is highly saturated. The heart draws on this reserve of fat in times of stress.
  • Short- and medium-chain saturated fatty acids have important antimicrobial properties. They protect us against harmful microorganisms in the digestive tract.

As a result, we stopped removing the skin and fat from chicken (including not skimming the fat off chicken soup), stopped looking for lean cuts of meat, and started buying full fat milk and dairy products. We buy coconut oil and palm oil as well.

One of the casualties of our war against unhealthy food was bottled salad dressings; we began using olive oil and vinegar (red wine and white wine) or fresh-squeezed lemon juice with our salads. Today I also include some sea salt and, depending on what’s available in my kitchen, a variety of dried and/or fresh herbs.

Enig and Fallon also explain that olive oil is a monounsaturated fat which contains a variety of healthful properties:

Olive oil is a rich source of antioxidants, relieves the pain and inflammation of arthritis, normalizes blood fats and cholesterol, stimulates strong gallbladder contractions and is known for increasing longevity. Olive oil can be used for sautéing at moderate temperatures and is a perfect base for salad dressings.

Not only does salad dressing enhance the flavor of veggies, it is also necessary so that we can utilize the fat soluble vitamins contained in those vegetables! An article by Chris Masterjohn in the Winter 2012 issue of Wise Traditions  (a publication of the Weston A. Price Foundation), entitled Nutritional Adjuncts to the Fat-Soluble Vitamins, explains that:

In order to absorb fat-soluble vitamins from our food, we need to eat fat. Human studies show that both the amount and type of fat are important. For example, one study showed that absorption of beta-carotene from a salad with no added fat was close to zero. The addition of a low fat dressing made from canola oil increased absorption, but a high-fat dressing was much more effective. Canola oil, however, is far from ideal. Studies in rats show that absorption of carotenoids is much higher with olive oil than with corn oil.

Similarly, studies in humans show that consuming beta-carotene with beef tallow rather than sunflower oil increases the amount we absorb from 11 to 17 percent. The reason for this is unknown, but it may be that oils rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids promote the oxidative destruction of fat-soluble vitamins in the intestines before we are able to absorb them. Thus the more fat we eat, and the lower those fats are in polyunsaturated fatty acids, the more fat-soluble vitamins we absorb.

Masterjohn further explains that in addition to fat, we also need adequate levels of magnesium and zinc, two minerals that many of us are deficient in, to utilize of these vitamins. Adding high magnesium seeds and nuts to your salad, such as pumpkin, squash, sesame and sunflower seeds, brazil nuts and almonds will increase your ability to absorb and utilize fat soluble vitamins, as will the inclusion of peppers and tomatoes. There are many more foods that contain magnesium but the most abundant sources are seeds, whole grains, nuts, and vegetables. Fruits and some fish are also good sources. Meat and refined grains contain little to none.

The greatest kosher sources of zinc are red meat, liver, and cheese. Although zinc (at much lower levels) is found in plants and grains; it is absorbed much better from meat than from plant products. Grains must be soaked before cooking because of the presence of phytates which bind zinc and other minerals, making them unavailable for use in the body. To learn how to properly soak grains see my article Thick and hearty oatmeal – the Real Deal.

What happens when we have too much polyunsaturated fat in our system? Aside from just not being healthful, polyunsaturated oils are problematic for a number of reasons:

(1)    When the diet contains an excess of polyunsaturated fatty acids, these replace saturated fatty acids in the cell membrane, so that the cell walls actually become flabby. When this happens, cholesterol from the blood is “driven” into the tissues to give them structural integrity. This is why serum cholesterol levels may go down temporarily when we replace saturated fats with polyunsaturated oils in the diet.

(2)    Polyunsaturated oils are predominantly made up of omega-6 fatty acids which create a serious  omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid imbalance in the body that can interfere with production of important prostaglandins. This disruption can result in increased tendency to form blood clots, inflammation, high blood pressure, irritation of the digestive tract, depressed immune function, sterility, cell proliferation, cancer and weight gain.

(3)    Polyunsaturated oils are usually extracted through a chemical process using dangerous solvents like hexane which can make their way into the final product. The high heat at which they are processed also makes them turn rancid (oxidize) very quickly.

(4)    Polyunsaturated oil can cause diabetes and heart disease. A shocking report on Israeli health and polyunsaturate consumption in the Israeli Journal of Medical Science, 1996 Nov;32(11):1134-43, comes from the Department of Membrane Research and Biophysics, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel and is entitled Diet and disease–the Israeli paradox: possible dangers of a high omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid diet .  From the abstract:

In fact, Israeli Jews may be regarded as a population-based dietary experiment of the effect of a high omega-6 PUFA diet, a diet that until recently was widely recommended. Despite such national habits,paradoxically a high prevalence of cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus and obesity-all diseases that are associated with hyperinsulinemia (HI) and insulin resistance (IR), and grouped together as the insulin resistance syndrome or syndrome X. There is also an increased cancer incidence and mortality rate, especially in women, compared with western countries. Studies suggest that high omega-6 linoleic acid consumption might aggravate HI and IR, in addition to being a substrate for lipid peroxidation and free radical formation. Thus, rather than being beneficial, high omega-6 PUFA diets may have some long-term side effects, within the cluster of hyperinsulinemia, atherosclerosis and tumorigenesis.

Tim Smith explains, in Our Deadly Diabetes Deception, why eliminating polyunsaturated oils (and for a time, all oils) from his diet enabled him to cure himself of diabetes:

“The biggest culprit, however, seems to be polyunsaturated oil. [13] Studies have shown that when polyunsaturated fats from the diet are incorporated into cellular structure, the cell’s ability to bind with insulin decreases, thus lowering their ability to get glucose. [14] In other words, the “locks” on the cells which open the door for glucose to enter degrade when too much polyunsaturated oil is consumed in the diet. Insulin is then unable to open the door.

Other studies and sites which point out the relationship between polyunsaturates and heart disease include:

Although we do have a need for some polyunsaturated fat in our body, it is at a much smaller proportion than what we are currently consuming. In fact, animal fats do contain some polyunsaturated fats – at the level which our body actually needs.

To your health!

Updated December 2017

What You Need to Know Before Buying Your Next Bottle of Olive Oil
Here’s Why Using Coconut Oil Regularly Contributes to Your Health

* Science, Pseudoscience, Nutritional Epidemiology, and Meat
The Lipid Hypothesis
THINCS: The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics

Additional Sources and For More Information:

Some oily (and other) tips and great latkas for Chanukah.
The Importance of Saturated Fats for Biological Functions
Taking the Fear Out of Eating Fat
Zinc – Health Professional Fact Sheet
Canola Oil Might Impair Memory

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Some oily (and other) tips and great latkas for Chanukah

Gastronomy is at least as important as ritual when it comes to the 201070_285321208256225_1796874080_oholidays. We all enjoy the delicious latkas (vegetable pancakes) and sufganiyot (donuts) that are customary Chanukah fare. However, since we still want keep our waistlines and health in check, I have a few tips for you.

Cut back on the carbs. Carbohydrates are what really help to put on the pounds. Simply put, carbohydrates are starches, polysaccharides, made up of glucose (sugar) molecules. Carbohydrates break down into glucose in the digestive system; too much glucose released too quickly into the bloodstream causes an insulin rush as the pancreas tries to get the excess sugar out of your bloodstream. What cannot be immediately utilized for energy, gets stored as fat in your cells in the form of triglycerides.

So, rather than loading up on sufganiyot (have one or two whole grain ones if you must), you are better off enjoying latkas, non-potato latkas in particular, since potatoes are carbohydrates as well.  Now I’m not going to tell you to avoid potato latkas entirely, I will  have some too, but it would be good to have a combination of different types, if you are having them more than once during the holiday.  If you do have potato latkas during a milichig/chalavi meal, choose sour cream over applesauce as an accompaniment. For a fleishig/besari meal you are probably already eating a meal with fat.  Fats take longer to digest than carbohydrates, so by eating the two together, glucose is released into your bloodstream at a slower rate.

Switch from polyunsaturated oils to healthier options. In general, there are three major problems with consuming polyunsaturated oils.
1) They are very high in omega-6 fatty acids (about 50%) and extremely low in omega-3 fatty acids (soy oil being an exception). To function properly, we need these polyunsaturated fatty acids in a ratio of 1.5% omega-3 to 2.5% omega-6.
2) Our intake of polyunsaturates should only be about 4% of our caloric intake; however, we are consuming as much as 30% of our calories as polyunsaturates.
3) Polyunsaturated oils become oxidized or rancid when subjected to heat forming free radicals which cause much damage in the body.  Polyunsaturated oils which are not cold-pressed are subject to high heat and chemicals in order to extract the oil.

Canola oil is also not a healthy oil to use. Although it’s been marketed as one of the healthiest of all the vegetable oils because it has a better balance of omega 6 to omega-3 fatty acids,  there are several problems with using it for food. Canola oil  is really rapeseed oil which has been bred to reduce the amount of toxic erucic acid it contains to levels which are considered safe. Its high sulfur content causes it to go rancid very easily;  the deodorizing process transforms the omega-3 fatty acids into trans fats; and there is evidence that canola oil creates a deficiency in vitamin E, as well. It is also a genetically modified crop.

The best, most stable, and healthiest oils to use when frying are olive oil, at moderate temperatures, peanut oil and sesame oil occasionally since they are stable when heated but high in omega 6 fatty acids, and palm oil and coconut oil which are not only very healthy but are also very stable when heated.  Flax-seed oil which, because of its high omega-3 fatty acid content (a good remedy for the omega-6 to omega-3 imbalance most of us have), should not be heated and always kept in the refrigerator.  It is best consumed in small amounts.  Animal fats and butter are also good choices for cooking and frying.

frying potato pancakeWith the exception of flax-seed oil, all of the above contain medium to high percentages of saturated fats as well. Saturated fats are very necessary as they fill many roles in the body. They are critical to maintaining the stiffness and  integrity of our cell walls, are needed to incorporate calcium into our bones, help us properly utilize omega-3 fatty acids, protect the liver from toxins, and more. Our over-consumption of polyunsaturated oils and their inherent imbalance of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids unfavorably alters our biochemistry, leaving us prone to disease and illness.

Heat up the pan very well before frying to cut back on the amount of oil needed. I noticed several years back that the pancakes that I fried last came off the pan more easily than the ones I did first. The only difference between the earlier and later batches was how hot the pan was, having had the opportunity to heat up more while I was frying. So I started making sure that the pan is well heated before I start. When it’s ready I pour a little oil in (probably about a tablespoon for a 10 inch pan) , spread it around, and then drop in my batter by spoonfuls. If it needs to be scraped off the pan, leave it alone. It is not ready. Flip the latka or take it out of the pan when it feels firm enough to lift off with a spatula. I do add more olive oil when necessary, but in really small amounts. Olive oil is rich in antioxidants and, besides coconut oil, is the safest vegetable oil to use when cooking.

SP_A0197I made two zucchini latka recipes. The first one, a takeoff on the Mashed Zucchini Salad recipe from The Book of Jewish Food, by Claudia Roden, used zucchini, onion, salt, lemon juice, and coriander. It was good; we all enjoyed it. However, the second one I made, Sweet Potato and Zucchini Latkas was a real winner. Yes, sweet potato is a carbohydrate too, but by adding the zucchini, it becomes a lower carbohydrate option.


  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 2 cups peeled and grated sweet potato
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin organic olive oil to start, adding as necessary
  • 1/4 cup finely diced yellow onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 medium eggs (that’s the size I had in the house)
  • 1/3 cup spelt flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

I used a hand-held grater. It was pretty quick and easy with less mess and easier clean up than if I had used the food processor. If you are making a larger batch, however, the food processor is quicker. Mix the zucchini and sweet potato together with the salt, put into a colander and let drain. The salt removes the excess liquid so the latkas are not wet. I actually put in all the salt at this point and did not add any more afterwards. After about half an hour I pressed out any remaining liquid, mix in the other ingredients, and dropped by spoonful into the frying pan, tapping them down so they are wider with more surface area being directly heated.

Of course these can be made without the flour and baking powder. They will probably not hold together as well, but the taste should still be great.

Chag Chanukah sameach.

Related Articles:

Choosing Healthy Fats and Oils: What you need to know
What You Need to Know Before Buying Your Next Bottle of Olive Oil, Olive Oil Fraud, and Israeli Olive Oils
Here’s Why Using Coconut Oil Regularly Contributes to Your Health
The Skinny on Fats

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What You Need to Know Before Buying Your Next Bottle of Olive Oil

Old olive oil press

Olive Oil Fraud, Health, and Kashrut Concerns

Ancient olive press

Ancient olive oil production

Just as harvesting quality grapes and producing wine is a complex operation, so too is the harvesting of olives and production of good quality olive oil to ensure that the oil tastes good and contains optimal nutritional components. Unfortunately the olive oil industry is fraught with deception and fraud. Often times soy oil or nut oils are substituted for olive oil with coloring and a small amount of olive oil added for taste, or low quality olive oil is deodorized and mixed with a bit of extra virgin olive oil for taste. Even thousands of years ago, olive oil fraud was a problem! In fact, the Romans clearly labeled each bottle of olive oil, noting the quality of the oil and origin and sealing, it as a guarantee of authenticity and quality when it reached its destination.

The Israeli Health Ministry repeatedly warns about problems in Israel  with companies selling sub-par olive oil or substituting with seed oils and selling them as olive oil. See their latest one here. The Israeli Rabbinate has issued notices about fraudulent kosher certification on olive oils as recently as last year.

Rabbi Yirmiyohu Kaganoff, of Yeshiva Beit El, wrote a very interesting article entitled Olive Oil Concerns in which he reviews the use of olive oil in the Beit Hamikdash, methods of pressing the olives, health benefits of olive oil, and concerns about olive oil adulteration not only today, but also as discussed in the Gemara and by the Rama over a thousand years later. In his article, Rabbi Kaganoff discusses the important differences in standards that kashrut agencies employ today to guard against the possibility of olive oil adulteration. And he very astutely concludes that “this information is highly useful not only from a kashrus perspective, but also from the perspective of someone purchasing extra virgin or virgin olive oil who wants a guarantee that they are getting the health benefits they are paying for.”

What to Look for When Buying Olive Oil

You do not have to remain at the mercy of the bottlers; if you know what to look for when purchasing olive oil you can be pretty sure that what you are getting is the real thing. If you would like to become a real olive oil aficionado, you can learn to sip different olive oils to detect their qualities in a manner very similarly to how one tastes wine. Since this is not practical for most of us, here is what to look for

In the store:

  • Oil should come in dark glass bottles to protect against light.
  • Don’t worry about color. Good oils come in all shades, from green to gold to pale straw.
  • Buy oil labelled “extra virgin” (in Israel look for שמן זית כתית מעולה – shemen zayit katit meula), since other categories have undergone chemical refinement, lost many of their health benefits, and may contain traces of chemicals and other contaminants.
  • If you see olive oil labeled as “pomace oil” steer clear of it. It is basically (to put it bluntly) re-purposed waste from the olive oil refining process. It may sound fancy, but it is not.
  • The acidity (חוּמצִיוּת – chumtziut) content on the label is also an indication of quality – the lower the better. Anything over 0.8% is lacking in quality; however, even that percentage is considered too high. In Israel olive oils that have acidity greater than 0.8% are considered virgin, not extra virgin.
  • Try to buy oils only from this year’s harvest – look for bottles with a date of harvest. Otherwise, look at the “best by” date which should be not more than two years after an oil was bottled (but even that may be too long since there is no way of knowing how long the oil sat till it was bottled).
  • Buy a quantity that you’ll use up quickly.

At home:

  • The flavor and aroma of extra virgin oils have a marked fruitiness reminiscent of fresh olives and some level of bitterness and pepperiness. Good quality oil will have a pleasant taste and clean sensation and you should feel a “burn” at the back of your throat when you’ve swallowed the oil plain (neat).
  • If you put some olive oil on your skin and the smell does not go away after a few minutes then it is not olive oil.
  • Contrary to popular belief, putting the oil in the refrigerator to see if it hardens is not an indication of whether or not it is truly olive oil. Read why here.

Tom Mueller, in his book  Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil (both an entertaining and eye-opening read) explains that

… the oil’s healthful properties are directly proportional to the strength of its flavors, aromas, and other sensory characteristics. If an oil doesn’t sting at the back of the throat, it contains little or no oleocanthal (an anti-inflammatory). If it isn’t bitter, it’s low in tocopherol (vitamin E – which would also help prevent the bottled oil from oxidizing) and squalene. If it isn’t velvety in texture then it’s missing hydroxtyrosol.

Back of olive oil bottle showing awards on top and Seal of Authenticity below

Note the seals showing the awards above and the olive leaf Seal of Quality below on this bottle of Israeli olive oil.

Quality olive oil is not inexpensive, but you are buying a product with significant health benefits that has been carefully harvested and processed.

The Israeli consumer can find many award-winning Israeli olive oils (not necessarily organic) that are reasonably priced. Oils that have received an award from the  TERRAOLIVO   International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition have a round seal with a pitcher on the label with the year awarded or multiple seals if they’ve won in more than one year.

Many Israeli  olive oils also have a a Seal of Quality (תו איכות – tav aychut) from the Israel Olive Board, shaped as an oil droplet, which includes a unique number on the bottom.

The quality mark for Israeli olive oil is a voluntary quality standard, the rules of which are accepted by the participants. The label is a registered trademark and is subject to the Israeli standard for olive oil… and today it is used by more than 100 growers and manufacturers.
                                                                                                                   (Translated from the Hebrew.)

Seal of quality from defunct oilve council

Seal of quality from the defunct Olive Council.

Previously, the defunct Israel Olive Council provided a similar certification. Their stickers, like the one to the left, if found on bottles of olive oil today, are fraudulent.

A major concern when buying uncertified Israeli olive oil is that it may contain mostly foreign oil. As explained in this HaAretz article,  Israeli companies are allowed to market their olive oil as Israeli if at least 35% of the production costs originate in Israel. This means that olive oil bottled and sold as Israeli olive oil can really be mostly foreign oil. Legal fraud or just misleading? Olive oils bearing the Certificate of Quality must be 100% Israeli oil from a certified grower or distributor.

It pays to bear in mind, however, that there are many excellent Israeli olive oils that do not have this voluntary seal. If you are interested in using one without a quality or award seal, then it’s best to peruse their website or call them up for information, in order to determine the integrity of their products. And while you may also find excellent olive oils imported from other countries, unlike wine that improves with age, olive oil starts degrading after it’s produced. Therefore, quality oil produced and bottled in your own country will most likely be fresher and retain more of its health/nutritional components than oil that sat in a tanker as it made its way from foreign shores.

One caveat: Olive oil should not be the only oil or fat used since we also need the nutrients found exclusively in animal fats; too much monounsaturated fat without a balance of saturated fats can cause health problems.

No-Mayo Coleslaw with Olive Oil

Try out this great recipe for coleslaw prepared by food blogger Marc Matsumoto who explains why he prefers his coleslaw without mayo:

I’m not a big fan of traditional coleslaw. Call me crazy, but I really don’t get the appeal of raw cabbage swimming in mayonnaise soup. That’s why I make my coleslaw without mayonnaise.

Instead, I use lemon juice, a little honey and generous dose of olive oil. The latter two ingredients add depth, while smoothing out some of the sharp edges of the lemon juice. Not only is it healthier, it makes for a light, citrusy contrast to the foods of summer, be it an unctuous rack of barbecued ribs, or a greasy leg of fried chicken.

My suggestions: You can substitute white wine vinegar or fresh lime juice  for the lemon juice, if you prefer. I buy organic limes when in season, squeeze the juice, freeze in an ice-cube tray, and then store in a baggy. If using vinegar I would recommend adjusting the proportions to start, so that you have about 1/4 the amount of vinegar as oil. Not only is this healthier than using mayo made from GMO soy oil, it tastes great, and you avoid the  risk of spoilage that coleslaw with mayonnaise has. You can also use this as a starting point and get creative. We enjoy it so much that it actually disappears very quickly.


  • 1/4 small red cabbage
  • 1/2 small green cabbage
  • 1/2 carrot, shredded
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper


  1. Remove any tough outer leaves from the cabbage.
  2. Trim the core and any tough stems from the cabbage and thinly slice.
  3. Add to a bowl with the shredded carrot, lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, honey, salt and black pepper. Toss to combine.
  4. Serve this right away for more of a salad, or store it in the fridge overnight for a slaw that’s more pickled.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Garlic Oil

I would also like to thank our dear friends Shoshana and Scott for introducing us to Garlic Oil at their Shabbos table. Since then we have been enjoying olive oil with chopped garlic in it on our challah.  Very often it’s actually olive oil in our chopped garlic!  (Of course, it’s enjoyable during the week, too.) Much better and healthier than the garlic bread I used to make or buy (many years ago) with powdered garlic.

To your health!

Choosing Healthy Fats and Oils
Coconut Oil is Good for Health

Resources and additional information:

Cover Image of Extra Virginity: the Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil









Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil
by Tom Mueller

How to Buy Great Olive Oil
Olive Oil Times
19 Olive Oil Brands Certified for Purity and Quality (North America)
The World’s Best Olive Oils 2017: The winners of the New York International Olive Oil Competition

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