Olive Oil in Diet: In the sixties, a major public health survey was carried out on different eating habits in Europe, with compelling results: people living in Crete, Greece, had a much higher life expectancy than those living in northern Europe because of the astonishing level of protection against cardiovascular disease that their well-balanced diet provided.
Olive oil is an integral part of the "Mediterranean diet" which is associated with sensible portions and slower, more enjoyable eating. People who eat a "Mediterranean diet" have been shown to have a remarkable variety of health benefits. It is unclear if any single component of olive oil is responsible for these health benefits or if it is a combination of olive oil and a diet high in vegetables, fruit and fish. The Cretan diet, as it came to be called, is not a weight-loss diet, but rather a perfectly healthy way of eating in which olive oil plays a central role. The majority of medical research is unanimous: some researchers focus mainly on the anti-cholesterol effects of olive oil, others on its detoxifying and regenerative effects. Either way, olive oil is considered a "health food" because of its rich content of monounsaturated fatty acids, which act effectively to clean and protect the arteries and the digestive system.
Health Benefits: Studies suggest that olive oil decreases rates of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Olive oil can quickly satisfy hunger and lead to fewer total calories ingested at mealtime. Fresh pressed olive oil can be eaten immediately and retains the natural flavors, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other healthy products of the ripe olive fruit. Most doctors advocate lowering total fat and calories in your diet, and substituting butter, margarine and tropical oils with healthy fats like olive oil. Olive oil contains absolutely no cholesterol. Olive oil has been proven to reduce cholesterol levels.Olive oil can help reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Evidence has been presented that olive oil will help reduce the oxidation of LDL (bad cholesterol), and increase HDL levels (good cholesterol).
Nutritional Components: A tablespoon of olive oil contains 120 calories, 14 grams of fat, and no cholesterol. Monounsaturated fat: seventy seven percent (77%) of the fat in olive oil, Polyunsaturated fat: nine percent (9%), Saturated fat: fourteen percent (14%). Virgin olive oils also contain the antioxidants beta-carotene and Vitamin E. One tablespoon provides 8% of RDA for vitamin E. Studies show that people who eat antioxidant rich foods such as vegetable oils, fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts have a lower chance of getting heart disease and cancer.
Olive Oil Compared to Other Oils: Three things make olive oil superior to vegetable oils: taste, nutrition and integrity. Taste is the most obvious difference between olive oil and the commercially popular vegetable oils such as corn, soybean and canola oils. These oils are tasteless fats. Olive oil is the pure juice of the olive fruit. You would not want to eat a piece of bread dipped in vegetable oil; for the same basic reason, many chefs refrain from adding tasteless fat to the foods they prepare. Olive oil, especially extra virgin olive oil, adds a flavor and textural dimension lacking in other oils, making it a suitable substitute for butter and margarine in almost any recipe. In fact, more and more restaurants are serving extra virgin olive oil, both plain or flavored with salt and pepper, as an alternative to butter for bread.
Nutritionally, olive oil contains more monounsaturated fat than any of the popular vegetable oils: the good fat that helps lower bad cholesterol. Moreover, vegetable oils are industrial, processed foods. Vegetable oils are generally extracted by means of petroleum-based chemical solvents, and then must be highly refined to remove impurities. Along with the impurities, refining removes taste, color and nutrients. 70 percent of olive oil is composed of mono-unsaturated fatty acids: A good fat that lowers the level of bad cholesterol only. The flavenoid polyphenols in olive oil are natural anti-oxidants which have been shown to have a host of beneficial effects from healing sunburn to lowering cholesterol, blood pressure, and risk of coronary disease. There are as many as 5 mg of antioxidant polyphenols in every 10 grams of olive oil. Many other nut and seed oils have no polyphenols.
Integrity: Extra virgin olive oils are not processed or refined. It is said that you do not make extra virgin olive oil, you find it. Extra virgin olive oil is essentially "fresh squeezed" from the fruit of the olive tree, without alteration of the color, taste, and nutrients or vitamins. Because of the integrity of the product, and its antioxidant components, olive oil will keep longer than all other vegetable oils.