The Health Benefits of Olive Oil
Ever wondered how people in Southern Europe manage to live so long and look so young? Well, their seemingly effortless youthful appearances and lengthy life spans could be attributed to the very healthy Mediterranean diet – most notably olive oil.
Olive oil is produced in most of the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea and is extremely popular with the inhabitants. Maybe not so coincidentally, these areas boast some of the highest life expectancies in the world. For example, the Greeks grow olives on a staggering sixty per cent of their rural land, and are expected to live an average of 79.5 years. In Italy the average life span is even higher, at 80.5 years. And French woman Jeanne Calment, who lived to the ripe old age of 122, claimed her long life was due to her daily consumption of olive oil.
But why is this particular oil so effective? What magical, life-giving properties does it possess?
First of all, let’s explore the different types of olive oil:
* Extra Virgin olive oil is the best type of olive oil as it boasts the most antioxidants and the strongest flavour. It is called ‘virgin’ because no chemicals are added to it during production. Extra virgin olive oil is best used on cold dishes like salad or added to foods after cooking, as when the oil is heated above 177°C it can become toxic.
* Virgin olive oil also has no chemiacls added, but is slightly more acidic than extra virgin olive oil.
* Refined olive oil is virgin olive oil which has had chemicals added to it, and therefore has fewer antioxidants and a higher acidity level than the other types of olive oil.
* Pure Olive oil is a mixture of both virgin and refined olive oil. It has fewer antioxidants, as some are lost during the refining process, and not as strong a flavour as virgin oils.
Olive oil boasts a very high mono-unsaturated (good) fat content. This type of fat has an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, which in turn can lead to a lower chance of developing heart disease, high blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol. Olive oil also contains polyphenols – beneficial chemicals found in plants – which may reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke. Research suggests that olive oil could also help to prevent certain types of cancer, such as gastric cancer and skin cancer.
There are a number of ways to feel the benefit of olive oil if you don’t enjoy the taste. For example, you could use it as a moisturiser to ward off signs of ageing, such as wrinkles, or rub it into your hair to achieve a healthy shine. It is even used by some people to eliminate excessive ear wax.
So, if you want to live longer and look younger, try adding olive oil to your food and rubbing it into your skin.
Always store your olive oil in a cool, dark place and replace it every few months.
The Top 7 Reasons to Consume Olive Oil
Olive oil, obtained from the humble olive fruit, has been consumed for thousands of years world-wide. In countries where olive oil is part of the population’s staple diet, it has been recorded that the incidence of heart disease amongst the populace is much smaller than other parts of the world. Numerous scientific studies have shown that olive oil has many health benefits.
Olive oil is made by pressing olives and extracting the oil in the process. There are four types of olive oil available on the market. These are Extra Virgin, Virgin, Refined and Light olive oil. Each type is differentiated by the amount of acid in each variety. Virgin olive oil is obtained from the first pressing of the olives and can have less than 4 percent acid. Extra virgin olive oil is also oil obtained from the first pressing but contains less than 1 percent acid. Refined olive oil is a blend of virgin and extra virgin olive oil and contains less than 3 percent acid. Light olive oil is finely filtered oil that in the process removes much of its flavour. Its acid content can vary.
The best oils to consume are extra virgin and virgin olive oil. This is because the lower the acid content, the greater the amount of antioxidants it contains. Antioxidants remove harmful free radicals from the body which are responsible for many diseases.
Extra virgin and virgin olive oil have stronger flavours, are full bodied, fragrant and retain their colour in the manufacturing process. They also have a longer shelf life before breaking down. Light olive oil has a higher smoking point and hence is better used for deep frying but does not contain as many health benefits.
Olive oil contains oleic acids. These acids are known as monounsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats are healthy fats compared to saturated fats. Monounsaturated fats contain high density lipoproteins (HDL) which is healthy cholesterol. HDL can lower unhealthy cholesterol known as low density lipoproteins. High LDL levels in the body are responsible for many common disease processes.
Heart disease is caused by fatty plaques developing on the walls of arteries. These plaques occlude the flow of blood to the heart muscle. The heart is starved of it’s supply of oxygen. This can lead to initially, symptoms of chest pain and shortness of breath, known as angina. If left untreated, it results in a heart attack. Olive oil helps to remove these fatty plaques and prevent them from forming.
Scientific studies have proven that people who consume more monounsaturated fats than saturated have less of a risk of developing some types of cancer. The oleic acid in olive oil has been shown to have a direct effect on switching off certain genes responsible for cancer growth. Positive results have been recorded when oleic acid is used in cancer treatments. Oleic acid destroys aggressive tumor cells and is being used to treat breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, skin cancer and endometrial cancer.
High Blood Pressure
Olive oil has been proven to lower blood pressure. It prevents the build up of fatty plaques on the walls of arteries. This plaque hardens and occludes the flow of blood. The heart has to work harder to pump the blood throughout the body. This results in high blood pressure. High blood pressure can lead to strokes and heart attacks. The oleic acid in olive oil, removes these plaques from the arteries and also prevents them from forming.
People with diabetes are at higher risk of heart attack and are overly sensitive to insulin. Studies have proven that consuming monounsaturated fats greatly reduces the risk of heart attack in diabetics and decreases sensitivity to insulin.
Olive oil is a strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Consuming olive oil has been proven to reduce inflammation responses in diseases such as asthma, crohns disease, ulcerative colitis, gastritis, irritable bowel syndrome and arthritis.
Studies have shown that overweight people who consumed a diet higher in monounsaturated fats compared to saturated fats, lost overall body fat and in particular, belly fat. Olive oil helps to breaks down fat cells. Regarding weigh control applications, as with any oil, you'll still want to keep serving size and caloric content in mind.
Constipation can be relieved by regularly consuming olive oil. It coats the inside walls of the intestine acting as a lubricant. It helps to eliminate waste from the bowel therefore relieving constipation.
How to use olive oil in your diet
• Olive oil is an excellent substitute for margarine or butter. It is flavoursome and a healthy choice to use on sandwiches and rolls, you only need a few drops.
• Olive oil can be used as a dipping sauce for breads. You can find olive oil with extra flavours infused, such as garlic and chilli, or add your own flavours. This is a healthy snack option or as an entrée.
• Olive oil can be used as a salad dressing. You can flavour the oil before adding to the salad or simply use it straight from the bottle.
• Olive oil can be used on steamed vegetables to add flavour after cooking. You can add a few drops to complete a pasta dish. It gives the food a glossy finish which looks more appetizing and you will know that it’s healthy.
• Olive oil can be used in baking. Simply substitute the butter or margarine for olive oil.
• Olive oil can be used for shallow frying meats. Use light olive oil for deep frying only.
Simply put, use as much olive oil in your cooking and diet as possible. Try to include at least 2 tablespoons of olive oil in your diet per day. Be creative. In mediterranean countries, olive oil is consumed in almost every meal. The health benefits of olive oil are truly miraculous. By making small changes in our diets today, we can all benefit from healthy bodies, now and in the future.
Aviva is proud to offer the very finest extra virgin olive oil from Acropolis.
Health Disclaimer. Copyright ©2010-2013. Published with permission. Sandra Markcrow and Nicola Stretton are freelance writers and are not affiliated with avivahealth.com.