Olive oil is rich in anti-aging vitamin E and plays a vital part in the Mediterranean diet that has attracted lots of interest from nutritionists and health professionals in recent years. Its high concentration (over 70%) of monounsaturated fatty acids helps in reducing the level of bad LDL cholesterol in the blood while maintaining levels of good HDL cholesterol.
But scientists have long suspected that there must be more to it than this. After all, rapeseed oil contains similar levels of monounsaturates, but doesn’t seem to confer the same health benefits. Olive oil is unusual among vegetable oils in that it can be consumed in its crude virgin form without the need for refining. This has the effect of conserving a wide range of nutrients, including Vitamin E, pigments (chlorophylls and carotenoids), and other powerful natural antioxidants.
Extra Virgin Olive oil also contains a natural anti-inflammatory substance called oleocanthal. This works by blocking (COX) enzymes, an action it shares with ibuprofen. This could be significant because inflammation is believed to be associated with a wide range of chronic conditions.
There are 2 types of Olive oil: Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the best quality. Its scent and taste are fresh and fruity. Its free acidity content must be less than 0.8%. Some manufacturers add ‘Cold Pressed’ to their labels. All extra virgin olive oil is cold pressed these days. Once opened, extra virgin olive oil should be used within two months. Virgin Olive Oil is of slightly lower quality. It still has the fruity attribute but it may be downgraded because the content of free acidity which ranges between 0.8% and 2%. It is used mostly for blending.
Another benefit of olive oil, when used in frying; it is more heat stable than many other oils, which means that it’s less likely to degrade into potentially harmful substances. Olive oil is easily digestible; it contains the same amount of calories as any other oil or fat, and is best eaten as part of a healthy lifestyle program that includes a sensible diet and exercise. Eating about 30ml (2 tablespoons) of olive oil a day in place of your usual oil or fat can improve cardiovascular health, joint health and defences against potentially harmful substances.
About the Author
Jaz has compiled an article on why we should include Olive Oil to our daily diet.