Healthy Foods: Olive Oil

Healthy Foods

Though you may like the taste of bread dipped in olive oil, have you ever hesitated because you’ve thought it can’t be good to eat all that oil? If so, hesitate no more, extra virgin olive oil boasts many surprising health benefits and is considered a super food for the heart.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil has a high concentration of monounsaturated fatty acids, in particular oleic acid, as well as polyunsaturated and saturated fats. It also contains Vitamin E and, like other fruits, is packed with phytonutrients and antioxidants. These nutritional elements are eliminated through processing so stick to extra virgin olive oil packaged in small, opaque containers to maintain freshness. Even though heat will reduce the health benefits of olive oil, using it will still make the food you cook better for you than if you used other oil or fat (except coconut oil). Following are some of the health benefits backed by studies.

Oleic acid is good for heart health by reducing the presence of damaging LDL cholesterol and increasing and strengthening the protective HDL cholesterol. Anti-inflammatory effects protect the lining of our blood vessels (endothelial) and help to prevent high blood pressure. The endothelial function, often impaired for a few hours after a meal, instead increases after a meal with virgin olive oil. The polyphenols present provide an anticoagulant effect minimizing the clumping of platelets which form blood clots.

Extra virgin olive oil has been determined to be a key factor in lowering risk of breast cancer and protects against several stages of colon cancer development, bone loss and chronic degenerative disease. It lowers rates of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis and, when used in place of animal fats in food, reduces gastric and duodenal ulcers. It also lowers blood sugar levels and reduces the insulin requirement for type 2 diabetics. There is a connection between belly fat and insulin resistance and both are reduced with olive oil in the diet. As if that’s not enough, the monounsaturated fats increase the breakdown of fats in fat cells.

To maximize the benefits of olive oil, use it exclusively in place of other oils and butter in your meals. Pour a little over already cooked vegetables, meats or fresh vegetables and salads.