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 chemicals 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.
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