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Olive oil forms the cornerstone of the Mediterranean Diet, and stands out not only for its organoleptic qualities but also for the multitude of benefits it brings to our health.
Recent studies provide more evidence supporting olive oil properties and its amazing ability to protect against inflammation, cardiovascular risk caused by aging, and oxidative stress.
Some nutrition experts from countries such as Italy and Spain, call olive oil “liquid gold” for the many virtues and benefits it provides. As such, it is a major component of the daily Mediterranean diet.
The Mediterranean diet is said to be one of the healthiest and most balanced in existence today. It is based on the consumption of vegetables, cereals, fruits, legumes, fish and, of course, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), which has been said to have increased the life expectancy of southern Europeans. For example, Spaniards and Italians (the largest olive oil producers worldwide) consume around 13 liters of olive oil per person/year.
Although this diet itself plays a fundamental role in health, it is EVOO that contributes to the longevity and well-being of those who consume it. The scientific studies of the benefits of olive oil are constantly being reviewed and revised, and always point toward this oil’s good properties and benefits.
At some point I am certain that you have heard about the benefits and affects that olive oil can have on your body. Olive oil comes with many favors and consuming it on an empty stomach does great things for your overall health. Today, there are many studies to corroborate claims of better digestion, healthy skin and hair, movement and joint health, heart health and I have heard… even better eyesight.
EVOO is rich in polyphenols such as oleocanthal, making it beneficial for controlling intestinal microbes. It also acts as a powerful antioxidant agent with anti-inflammatory, cardiovascular and protective properties against neurodegenerative diseases. These same benefits in "normal" virgin oil are diminished. Always look for pure and organic “extra virgin" oil whenever possible; it offers the greatest health benefits.
Among the extra virgin oils, cold-extracted or cold pressed oils are preferred. This method of processing is least likely to destroy the delicate properties of the oil and thus it’s overall benefits. As mentioned before, the high content of polyphenols in EVOO also gives it antioxidant properties. Some studies suggest that this property provides antiproliferative activity (which inhibits cell reproduction, particularly cancer cells) against melanoma cells (studies are needed to certify that extra virgin olive oil can act as a pharmacological agent in the treatment of melanoma). What studies do confirm is that extra virgin oils definitely help strengthen the immune system.
It also warrants mentioning, that olive oil, especially the “extra virgin” version, does not always need to be taken on an empty stomach… it provides a multitude of benefits regardless of when consumed.
While EVOO is a great flavorful oil to cook with; to get as much overall benefit as possible, it is advisable to consume it with minimal exposure to heat to avoid affecting its antioxidant compounds that are so beneficial to health.
EVOO is considered the healthiest oil and is recommended to be added to food to provide the “good” fats at all stages of life. It is an ingredient used in preparing 1st foods for babies, all the way to through to the elderly stages of life.
The high palatability and gastronomic contribution to prepared dishes make EVOO a culinary resource that increases not only the taste of sautéed meats and vegetables, but also acts to keep our bodies in top physical condition. Here are some beneficial properties for health and the prominent role EVOO plays in preventing various diseases.
Some Health Benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The consumption of this oil promotes good intestinal health due to its antibacterial properties. It is particularly effective against Helicobacter pylori, a type of bacteria capable of causing stomach ulcers and cancer. Scientific studies show that it is effective against eight strains of this bacterium. The same studies have confirmed that 4-5 tablespoons / daily of extra virgin olive oil can eliminate Helicobacter pylori infection in 15-40% of people in a little more than 2 weeks.
As indicated in the previous point, olive oil consumption enhances the digestive system's health. It acts as an anti-inflammatory, reducing excess acids in the digestive tract. EVOO reduces the plasma levels of acute-phase proteins (present in inflammatory processes). Scientists attribute this benefit in part to its high richness in micronutrients and point to the possibility that it acts by a direct effect, similar to that of anti-inflammatory drugs.
The oleocanthal in EVOO is a polyphenol capable of dealing with pain in adults, acting like certain non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
One of the most beneficial ways to consume EVOO is on an empty stomach. The oil forms a film on the gastric wall which benefits intestinal transit, and improves the absorption of nutrients, especially zinc, B vitamins, calcium, and magnesium, increasing the body's pH. Besides, it optimizes the work of the gallbladder, liver, and pancreas.
One of the best ways to enjoy EVOO benefits is to choose to eat a good diet like the Mediterranean diet regularly and read information on the subject. It will help you achieve good intestinal health, and will also help you maintain a state of health, which is key to obtaining an overall sense of well-being and better quality of life.
The anti-inflammatory property of EVOO described in the previous section helps reduce joint pain and swelling caused by rheumatoid arthritis. These effects are increased when combined with the intake of fish rich in omega 3.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease that causes deformed and painful joints. While the exact causes are unknown, it is believed to be due to deficiencies in the immune system where antibodies mistakenly attack healthy cells. Studies support that extra virgin oil minimizes inflammation and oxidative stress in people with this condition.
Having a strengthened immune system is vital to enjoying good health, as it is key to fighting viruses or bacteria that are harmful to our body. The antioxidants in "liquid gold" make it a unique healthy fat that helps to strengthen the immune system and, in this way, prevent diseases:
Consuming EVOO on a daily basis is recommended so that our bodies can enjoy receiving anti-inflammatories naturally and avoid possible health problems. However, we must not forget that oil is a fatty product, so it is also recommended to get plenty of exercise; at least half an hour of physical activity a day to burn the calories ingested and maintain a healthy balance.
In addition to enhancing the flavors of food and adding nutritional value, studies have shown that daily consumption of EVOO also is thought to help in the prevention and treatment of many diseases including some types of cancer. The high content of antioxidants in this amazing oil helps reduce oxidative damage caused by free radicals, which is believed to be one of the primary sources of cancer. EVOO, in addition to being tasty, is very healthy.
Studies have shown that polyphenols, one of the primary nutrients in extra virgin olive oil, are bioactive compounds that act as antioxidants and anti-inflammatories promote the production of new neurons in the brain. It has also been determined that consuming healthy fats helps improve memory. Individuals who consume monounsaturated fats typically enjoy better cognitive and metabolic functions and more remarkable brain development as it promotes the formation of braincell membranes and brain tissue.
People who suffer from obesity and are undergoing dietary treatment should seek and follow their healthcare professional’s advice, helping them determine the recommended dose of extra olive oil consumption and enjoy its benefits.
Consuming EVOO during the day helps prevent heart disease, one of the leading causes of death worldwide. It significantly minimizes the risk of heart disease through numerous mechanisms, for example:
Something worth mentioning is that this isn’t a “once in a while” thing. The Mediterranean diet typically incorporates about four tablespoons of EVOO per day. It’s not that much, but for it to do its job properly, it needs to be consumed daily.
There Are Many More Benefits and Others That Are Being Discovered Constantly
Recent studies indicate that some benefits depend on or are enhanced by consuming EVOO. EVOO is rich in microcomponents and its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, along with the other beneficial effects already mentioned.
Here are other potential benefits:
Now that you are well informed about EVOO, there is one more thing you should know and take seriously. Not all olive oils are created equal! I’m going to say it again… Not all olive oils are created equal! Due to being solely driven by profit, many companies have found ways to get around the intent of labeling laws. There have been and are oils on the market, labeled as “olive oil” that contains very little or no olive oil at all. They are blends of other oils that contain chemicals and preservatives and made to taste and smell like pure olive oil. BEWARE when purchasing, make sure it is a brand you can trust, purchased from a reputable store. You can find out what to look out for online. There are also some good tips and reviews on YouTube.
EVOO is one of nature’s wonders. It has been consumed and used for thousands of years for all types of things. Explore for yourself what other uses and benefits EVOO may have that you might enjoy.
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