What is Olive Oil?
From the Natural Health Perspective, Olive Oil is the magic bullet of nutrition and a healthy diet. Olive Oil is a panacea, the perfect Oil for all ages. One or two teaspoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil should be added to most of your meals.
In Greece, Olive Oil has been considered numinous for millenniums. The olive was known as the “gift of the gods”, according to Greek mythology that claimed that it was initially brought to the Greeks as a gift by the Goddess Athena, and then later picked by Zeus as the most useful invention of the time.
Olive oil is a complex compound made up of fatty acids, vitamins, microscopic bits of Olive and other oil-soluble components. Its primary fatty acids are oleic and linoleic acid. Oleic acid is monounsaturated and makes up approximately 55-85% of Olive Oil. Linoleic is polyunsaturated and makes up about 9%. It also contains a small amount of saturated fat. Olive Oil’s polyunsaturated fatty acids lower both LDL and HDL levels in the blood.
Its monounsaturated fatty acids on the other hand help control LDL levels while raising HDL levels. No other naturally produced oil has as large an amount of monounsaturated fat as Olive Oil – mainly oleic acid. And furthermore, the modest amount of well-balanced polyunsaturated fatty acids in Olive Oil is well protected by its own natural antioxidant substances.
Organic Olive Oil
Organic olive oil is seen as the pinnacle of oils when it comes to nutritional benefits, and for a number of good reasons. Olive oil has been used for cooking in Mediterranean countries for centuries, and over time its popularity has spread across the globe. The oil itself can offer a host of health benefits in a number of areas, and choosing organic will ensure that you are getting the best out of the oil without the addition of unnatural additives.
Organic olive oil is frequently “cold pressed,” which means that the actual process of extracting the oil from the olives themselves is carried out by squashing them between two large stone rollers. This is a more effective way to separate the oil and keep the process as natural as possible without the use of machines.
As organic olives are grown without the use of additives, they tend to have a much richer taste and color that makes them stand out over their non-organic counterparts. The “first pressed” types of organic olive oils, such as extra virgin, are usually also the more expensive to buy as they undergo the least amount of processing.
If you are looking at the different options of organic olive oils that are available at the market, try to choose a variety that comes in an opaque container. A transparent bottle makes the contents more easily susceptible to light and heat, which can destroy the vitamin E content of the oil.
Health benefits of Olive Oil
High in Monounsaturated Fat
This is known as the “good” fat that the body needs in order to function properly. And most people who live in countries that incorporate olive oil into their diets on a regular basis can stand testament to the benefits it provides. Monounsaturated fat is great for the heart and cardiovascular system as a whole, and can help to reduce the chances of heart attacks and strokes. It does this by lowering the levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol, while raising the “good” HDL levels at the same time
Good for Digestion
Olive oil has been shown to be of particular benefit to those who suffer from stomach ulcers and other gastrointestinal disorders. As the oil is a much more effective and natural inducer of pancreatic hormones and bile in the body, it can help prevent the formation of gallstones.
The way the fatty acids are structured in organic olive oil is similar to that of the human body, which makes it very easy to digest. In fact, a spoonful of extra virgin olive oil is often given as a digestive aid in countries like Spain and Italy where the olives are indigenous.
Great Source of Vitamin E
Vitamin E is a very powerful antioxidant that helps to prevent the damage inflicted by free radicals on the body. It also helps protect against heart disease and cancer. The recommended daily intake of vitamin E for adults is around 15mg. A 100 gm serving of organic olive oil contains 19 mg.
The beneficial health effects of olive oil are due to both its high content of monounsaturated fatty acids and its high content of antioxidative substances. Studies have shown that olive oil offers protection against heart disease by controlling LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels while raising HDL (the “good” cholesterol) levels. (1-3) No other naturally produced oil has as large an amount of monounsaturated as olive oil -mainly oleic acid.
Olive oil is very well tolerated by the stomach. In fact, olive oil’s protective function has a beneficial effect on ulcers and gastritis. Olive oil activates the secretion of bile and pancreatic hormones much more naturally than prescribed drugs . Consequently, it lowers the incidence of gallstone formation .
Olive Oil and heart disease
Studies have shown that people who consumed 25 milliliters (mL) – about 2 tablespoons – of virgin olive oil daily for 1 week showed less oxidation of LDL cholesterol and higher levels of antioxidant compounds, particularly phenols, in the blood.(4)
But while all types of olive oil are sources of monounsaturated fat, EXTRA VIRGIN olive oil, from the first pressing of the olives, contains higher levels of antioxidants, particularly vitamin E and phenols, because it is less processed.
Olive oil is clearly one of the good oils, one of the healing fats . Most people do quite well with it since it does not upset the critical omega 6 to omega 3 ratio and most of the fatty acids in olive oil are actually an omega-9 oil which is monounsaturated.
Olive Oil and colon cancer
Spanish researchers suggest that including olive oil in your diet may also offer benefits in terms of colon cancer prevention (5). Their study results showed that rats fed diet supplemented with olive oil had a lower risk of colon cancer than those fed safflower oil-supplemented diets. In fact, the rats that received olive oil had colon cancer rates almost as low as those fed fish oil , which several studies have already linked to a reduction in colon cancer risk.
If Olive Oil is high in fat, why is it considered healthy?
(Answer provided by Donald Hensrud, M.D.)
The main type of fat found in all kinds of olive oil is monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs). MUFAs are actually considered a healthy dietary fat. If your diet emphasizes unsaturated fats, such as MUFAs and polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs), instead of saturated fats and trans fats, you may gain certain health benefits.
MUFAs and PUFAs may help lower your risk of heart disease by improving related risk factors. For instance, MUFAs may lower your total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. MUFAs may also help normalize blood clotting. And some research shows that MUFAs may also benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control, which can be especially helpful if you have type 2 diabetes.
But even healthier fats like olive oil are high in calories, so use them only in moderation. Choose MUFA-rich foods such as olive oil instead of other fatty foods — particularly butter and stick margarine — not in addition to them. And remember that you can’t make unhealthy foods healthier simply by adding olive oil to them.
Also, be aware that heat, light and air can affect the taste of olive oil and possibly its health-promoting nutrients. Store olive oil in a dark, room-temperature cupboard, or even in the refrigerator. The fats and healthy phytonutrients in olive oil — as well as the taste — can slowly degrade over time, so it’s probably best to use it within a year or within six months once opened.
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