Why is Olive Oil So Good for You?

Evidence from epidemiological studies suggests that a higher proportion of monounsaturated fats in the diet are linked to a reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease. This is significant because olive oil is considerably rich in monounsaturated fats, most notably oleic acid. Olive oil, a natural juice which preserves the taste, aroma, vitamins and properties of the olive fruit, is the healthiest oil and therefore a prime component of the Mediterranean Diet.

The benefits of the Mediterranean Diet are well known. Hundreds of researches attest to the fact that the people of the Mediterranean are less vulnerable to coronary ailments, some types of cancer, diabetes and other common diseases found in the western populations. Understanding and adopting the Mediterranean Diet gives new meaning to eating habits and a new approach to health. Including olive oil in one’s daily diet signifies gaining a great ally in treating one’s body and preserving a healthy life style.

Foods included in the Mediterranean Diet:

  • Variety of fruits, green and other vegetables, consumed almost daily.
  • Abundance of items rich in carbohydrates and fiber, such as pasta, bread, rice, potatoes and cereals.
  • Dairy products, especially cheese and yogurt, consumed in moderation.
  • Seafood, poultry and lean meats in moderation.
  • Olive oil must be adopted as the main source of fats.
  • Wine, consumed in moderation, and in general, accompanied by solid foods.
  • Sporadic consumption of red meat.

As mentioned, olive oil is very beneficial to your health due to both its high content of monounsaturated fatty acids and its high content of antioxidative substances. During the last decades, studies have shown that olive oil offers protection against heart disease by controlling “bad” cholesterol (LDL) levels while raising the "good" cholesterol (HDL) levels and protecting against free radicals. No other naturally produced oil has as large an amount of monounsaturated fats as olive oil.

Olive oil is very well accepted by the stomach and its protective function has a beneficial effect on ulcers and gastritis. In addition, it 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

Again, studies have shown that people who consumed about 2 tablespoons (25 ml) 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. It is clear by now, that while all olive oil types are sources of monounsaturated fat, it is the Extra Virgin olive oil that contains higher levels of antioxidants, particularly vitamin E and phenols, because it is less processed.

Olive oil and colon cancer

Researchers from Spain suggest that including olive oil in your diet may also offer benefits when it comes to colon cancer prevention. In their study, results showed that animals fed diet supplemented with olive oil had a lower risk of colon cancer than those fed safflower oil-supplemented diets. In fact, the animals 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.

Olive Oil as an Anti-Inflammatory Ingredient

A daily dose of olive oil may act as a natural pain reliever, according to a new study that shows the Mediterranean staple contains an anti-inflammatory ingredient. Researchers say they've discovered a previously unknown ingredient in freshly pressed, extra virgin olive oils that acts as a natural anti-inflammatory, much like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin or ibuprofen. They say the soothing effects of the enzyme, which they named oleocanthal, may be responsible for some of the health benefits associated with the Mediterranean diet, such as a reduced risk of stroke, heart disease, breast cancer, lung cancer, and some forms of dementia, all of which have been linked to inflammation. Researchers say they began researching the potential anti-inflammatory properties of olive oil after observing that fresh extra-virgin olive oil irritates the back of the throat in the same way that NSAIDs do. After isolating the throat-irritating enzyme, they found that it also inhibited the inflammatory activity of Cox-1 and Cox-2 like the anti-inflammatory drugs. Inhibiting these reactions impedes the production of the chemical messengers that cause the pain and swelling of arthritis inflammation. The results, published in the Sept. 1 issue of Nature, show that a 50 gram (1.75 ounce) daily dose of olive oil is equivalent to about 10% of the ibuprofen dose recommended for adult pain relief. That dose is relatively low and won't relieve a headache, but researchers say low doses of other anti-inflammatory agents, like aspirin, have been shown to provide substantial health benefits when taken consistently over time. Researchers say the finding is significant because chronic inflammation is increasingly thought to play a role in a variety of diseases, from heart disease to cancer.

Olive oil versus canola oil

Do not fall into the hype which is put out by traditional medicine regarding the promotion of canola oil (rapeseed) as superior due to its concentration of monounsaturated fatty acids. Olive oil is far superior and has been around for thousands of years. Canola oil is a relatively recent development and the original crops were unfit for human consumption due to their high content of a dangerous fatty acid called euric acid.

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