Thursday, November 19, 2009

Olive Oil is Good for Your Health

Olive oil, commonly referred to as Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO), has become popular in the US due to its ability to help raise HDL and Lower LDL cholesterol.

Evidence shows that replacing commonly used hydrogenated and saturated fats with olive oil, which is a monounsaturated fat, decreases LDL cholesterol and lowers blood sugar. Futher more, olive oil is resistant to oxidative damage which in turn protects LDL cholesterol from oxidation, and protects the endothelial lining of the artery walls (which is what the plaque sticks to if it's damaged). This protection allows the arteries to relax and dilate as they should, preventing hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis.

The anti-inflammatory effects of virgin olive oil not only help the arteries and cholesterol levels, it also has been shown to reduce blood pressure commonly referred to as hypertension. It may even work similar to ibuprofen if used regularly. No it won't cure a headache, but continued use reduces inflammation and is much safer than long term pain reliever usage, considering the damage that over the counter pain meds do to the liver and kidneys.

Many books have been written about the Mediterranean diet and the french paradox, raving about how these groups of people are more healthy even though they consume more fats than the standard American diet. The difference is in the olive oil. Olive oil contains polyphenols which increase HDL cholesterol (the good or heavenly cholesterol), and allow the HDL to help recycle the LDL cholesterol therefore lowering the LDL in the blood.

Oleic acid in olive oil has been found to reduce breast cancer risk by reducing the chemicals that cause aggressive tumor growth. This is why the Mediterranean diet is touted to reduce risk factors for breast cancer.

Olive oil can also prevent and repair bone loss in osteopenia cases.

How to use and store Olive Oil!
  • Olive oil should be purchased as a "cold pressed" extra virgin olive oil and sold in dark containers. (cold pressed means that minimal heat was used in processing)
  • Store it away from heat.
  • Keep it in a dark area to preserve its taste and nutrient content. Do not use as kitchen decor.
  • Purchase in small containers that you can use in a few months. Longer storage can reduce its viability and it could go rancid.
  • Extra virgin olive oil has a milder taste than virgin, but virgin olive oil has more of the oleic acid, which is the compound mentioned above in regards to reducing risk factors for breast cancer. It also has a slightly higher acid content.
  • To receive the best health benefits from Olive Oil, do not cook it. Use it as a drizzle or dressing or dip your bread in it.
  • Using broth instead of oil to saute vegetables is recommended, but if you do use olive oil use a low heat and fry for the shortest amount of time possible. Olive oil cooked at high temperatures loses its nutritional value. It is not recommended to use olive oil for foods that must reach a temperature over 250 degrees. Which means its not recommended for baking, or deep fat frying. You might try safflower oil as an alternative for these methods.

Bottom line... olive oil when used to replace other fats, will reduce cholesterol, help control blood sugar, promote arterial health, reduce inflammation and overall health. A couple of tablespoons a day is all that is needed to get you on the right track.

Replace the butter or margarine on your bread with olive oil, add some oregano or rosemary or balsamic vinegar to the mix and dip your bread in it. Be creative!!!

Use it as a drizzle over steamed vegetables or salads. There are many uses for olive oil, do some research, locate some recipes and have fun with healthy alternatives to saturated fats!

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