Anyone who has travelled to the Mediterranean can tell you about the wonderful, healthy food in that region. Much of the health benefits and flavor are due to the generous use of olive oil on salads, pasta, vegetables, fish, and almost anything else. Researchers are learning that people who consume olive oil regularly - especially in place of unhealthy fats such as animal fats, hydrogenated oils, and vegetable oils like corn oil - have much lower rates of heart disease, athersclerosis, diabetes, colon cancer, and asthma.
Olive oil is made from the crushing and then the subsequent pressing of olives. It is a natural juice that preserves the taste, aroma, and nutrients of the olive fruit. Extra virgin olive oil - derived from the first pressing of the olives - has the most delicate flavor and the most health benefits.
The Health Benefits of Olive Oil
1. It protects against heart disease. Studies show that two tablespoons of olive oil per day decreases LDL and total cholesterol. It decreases atherosclerosis and protects the lining of our blood vessels, thus preventing high blood pressure.
2. It protects against breast cancer. Oleic acid, the primary monounsaturated fatty acid in olive oil, has been shown to reduce the expression of certain oncogenes related to aggressive breast cancer tumor growth.
3. It reduces abdominal fat and insulin resistance. Diets high in olive oil, as compared to those high in saturated fat, prevent belly fat accumulation and insulin resistance, which are associated with type 2 diabetes.
4. It decreases rates of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. The monounsaturated fats in olive oil are used to decrease inflammation in the body, thereby reducing inflammation involved with asthma and arthritis.
5. It decreases osteoporosis. Polyphenols in olive oil greatly decrease the inflammation-mediated bone loss associated with osteoporosis.
6. It has anti-oxidant properties. Polyphenols in olive oil protect DNA from free radical damage.
7. It protects against colon cancer. The olive oil polyphenols protect the lining of the colon, blocking the carcinogenesis pathway.
* To get the most health benefits and flavor from your olive oil, add olive oil to foods immediately after cooking.
* Instead of serving butter, fill a small bowl with olive oil and use as flavoring for your whole grain bread.
* Along with balsamic vinegar and lemon juice, rely on olive oil as your first choice for dressing salads.
* Drizzle olive oil over steamed vegetables, soups, grains, beans, and potatoes to enhance the flavor of your food.
* Add a tablespoon of olive oil to your morning eggs.
Purchasing and Storing Olive Oil
Because olive oil can become rancid when exposed to air, light, and heat, there are some important guidelines to follow when purchasing and storing your olive oil. Look for olive oils that are sold in dark, tinted bottles since the packaging will protect the oil from oxidation caused by light exposure. Make sure the oil is displayed in a cool area away from any light or heat sources. Instead of choosing the bottle in the front of the store's display, choose the bottle in the back that has been protected from light exposure. At home, store your oil in a dark, cool place, such as a cabinet or pantry, instead of leaving it on the kitchen counter or table, which will lessen the oil's health benefits. Keep your olive oil bottle tightly sealed. Be sure to buy only cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil for the best health benefits.
Make a positive choice for your health by incorporating a Mediterranean-style diet rich in olive oil. Especially when replacing unhealthy fat sources, olive oil will help you to live longer by decreasing the risk of many diseases. To enjoy the taste, aroma, and nutrients of the Mediterranean, grab yourself a bottle of cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil today!