One of the main components of the Mediterranean Diet is olive oil, specially Extra Virgin Olive Oil!
Extra virgin olive oil is made from the first pressing of olives. This olive oil is the healthiest, due to the Polyphenols. The first pressing creates oil low in acid with a delicate flavor. The second pressing has a higher acid content and the taste is slightly stronger. It is also appears darker in color and is labeled Virgin Olive Oil. The blending of extra virgin and virgin olive oil creates what is known as Fino.
Being good marketers, the manufacturers of olive oil made sure to squeeze every drop of oil from those olives. This created the refined Pomace; a very pungent, strong flavored oil. Olive oil will present different flavors depending on the country and region of where the olives are grown.
The Superfood recommendation of how much olive oil to consume daily is one tablespoon (120 calories). Just keep this in mind when dipping that delicious crusty bread into a mixture of cold pressed extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It is not difficult to consume up to 1/3 cup of olive oil, 5 tablespoons plus one teaspoon, which equates to 640 calories of just olive oil.
Olive oil is good for you, but it can also negatively impact weight control.
Moderation is key!
The plethora of health benefits obtained from olive oil is overwhelming. Olive oil is a monosaturated fat, the healthy fat. The vitamin E it possesses is protected and preserved by the Polyphenols and is synergistic in its health benefits with the Carotenoids and Phytosterols. The positive effect from the vitamin E is significant with only a few days of consumption.
Blood lipids are protected from oxidative damage that can lead to cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancers. The oxidation of DNA is also linked to beginning stages of diseases and signs of aging. But this process has been shown to slow with olive oil consumption.
Research in cardiovascular disease (CVD) has shown that olive oil can play a role in lowering total cholesterol and the LDL cholesterol as a results of Polyphenols and powerful antioxidants. These fatty acids help our cell walls resist oxidative damage. We do know that oxidation of LDL can cause CVD and plays a significant role in atherosclerosis commonly known as hardening of the arteries.
As we have already indicated, olive oil is a major player in the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. The University of Athens did a study on more than 20,000 Greeks who did not have hypertension at the onset of the study. The respondents diets were comprised mainly of fruits, vegetables and olive oil. When a comparison of these foods were done, Olive oil alone was found to be responsible for the beneficial effects in lowering the blood pressure.
Olive oil consumption significantly plays a role in cancer prevention. If the western cultures would embrace the Mediterranean diet, there could be up to a 25% decrease in colorectal cancer, a 15% decrease in breast cancer and approximately 10% decrease of incidence in prostate, pancreatic and endometrial cancers.
We know studies have shown grilling meat causes the formation of amines, cancer causing compounds. Basting your meat using an extra virgin olive oil marinade would inhibit the formation of the amines to occur during the cooking process.
Let’s thank the Greeks, Spaniards and Italians for giving us one of our Superfoods!!
Yassas! Ciao! Adios!
Dr. Jim Bell,