In all the hype about coconut oil and its magnitude of health benefits in recent years, people seem to have forgotten about olive oil. This ancient Mediterranean food staple is full of healthy fatty acids and antioxidants that have proven to reduce the risk of a number of diseases and conditions. There has been quite a lot of research conducted on the health benefits of olive oil over the years, and it is one of the few fats that are not the subject of fiery debate. In fact, olive oil is a staple in the diets of some of the world’s healthiest people…
A Brief History Of Olive Oil
This golden oil is the product of olives, which are the fruits grown on olive trees. Olive trees have lifespans of between 300 and 400 years and belong to the Oleaceae family. It is not known for sure where the olive tree originated, but locals in Persia, greater Jordan and the valleys of the Nile each claim it as their own, while others say olive farming began in Crete and the nearby Greek Islands around 5,000 B.C.
Ancient Greeks were so impressed by the olive tree that they attributed it to being a gift from the goddess Athena, using olive oil in their religious rituals. It was named ‘liquid gold’ by Homer, the ‘immortal Greek poet’, and during the 6th and 7th century BC, the cutting down of an olive tree was punishable by death under the Greek Laws of Solon.
Olive oil was not just a food staple for Mediterranean civilizations – it was also known for its health and beauty benefits even back then. The Romans are believed to have used it as moisturizer on their bodies after bathing to soften and nourish their skin. Olives were finally introduced to the West by Spanish and Portuguese explorers in the 15th and 16th centuries, and groves were planted in California in the late 18th century.
How Olive Oil Is Made
Making olive oil is actually an extremely simple process. It involves pressing the olives so that the oil comes out. Anyone who has experienced traditional olive harvesting, however, would know how laborious and strenuous it is.
Luckily for farmers, the old method of raking the olives out of the tree and then kneeling down to gather them all from the ground has been replaced with a machine that shakes the tree, causing the olives to fall into large nets.
The problem with olive oil is that some cheaper brands and versions might include added chemicals and other oil dilutions. Therefore, it is important to check that the oil you are buying says ‘extra virgin olive oil’, and the ingredients section says ‘100% olive oil’. Extra virgin olive oil is pure, tasty and extracted using natural methods.
Health Benefits Of Olive Oil
Olive oil has been extensively studied, and the myriad of health benefits have been discovered and proven over a number of years. From lowering the risk of heart disease and total cholesterol to improving insulin level and blood sugar control, it continues to be appreciated – perhaps not as much as it was by the ancient Greeks – but significantly valued all the same…
1. Olive Oil Is A Healthy Fat
Monounsaturated fatty acids are the main types of fat found in olive oil, and they are unreservedly considered healthy dietary fats. By increasing the amount of monounsaturated fats in your diet and minimizing saturated and trans fats, you may help lower your risk of heart disease. This is achieved by improving related risk factors like total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. Research suggests monounsaturated fats may regulate blood clotting and improve insulin levels, which is particularly beneficial to people with type 2 diabetes.
2. Olive Oil Is Nutritious
With vitamins E and K and nutritious fatty acids, including Omega-6 and Omega-3, extra virgin olive oil has plenty of nutrients to add to your daily intake. However, with the relatively low quantities of olive oil that you would consume within a day, you could not rely on it alone for those nutrients. On the other hand, it is an incredibly powerful source of antioxidants, which can help fight some serious and topical diseases…
3. Olive Oil Is Packed Full Of Antioxidants
There are a few stand-out antioxidants in extra virgin olive oil, including oleocanthal, which is an anti-inflammatory compound, oleuropein, which is known for its ability to protect LDL cholesterol from oxidation, and hydroxytyrosol, which is a type of phenolic phytochemical that can absorb cell-damaging free radicals. Hydroxytyrosol and oleuropein are the components that give extra virgin olive oil its bitter, pungent taste. They provide powerful active antioxidants both in vivo and in vitro.
Chronic inflammation can affect people with cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases, cancer and degenerative joint diseases. Notably, people who follow a traditional Mediterranean diet are far less likely to suffer these chronic diseases, and that, according to research, is partially attributed to their high intake of virgin olive oil.
4. Olive Oil May Reduce The Risk Of Heart Disease And Cancer
Because of olive oil’s anti-inflammatory properties, it is believed to reduce the risk of some very serious diseases, including heart disease and cancer. Ecological evidence was discovered in 1979, finding a reduced risk of coronary heart disease and cancer associated with Mediterranean diets, despite the fact that these diets are high in monounsaturated fats. A number of studies have found that food associated with this traditional diet provides all the essential micronutrients and fiber known to protect and promote health for disease prevention.
5. Extra Virgin Olive Oil May Prevent Cardiovascular Disease
Research over the years has shown that countries around the Mediterranean Sea have far less deaths from heart disease and stroke than other areas of the world (where it is one of the most common causes of death). According to the very conclusive findings of a major clinical trial, which was released in 2013, around 30% of high risk people could prevent heart attacks, strokes or death by heart disease if they switched to a Mediterranean diet. Researchers cited olive oil, nuts, beans, vegetables, fruits and fish as the staple to heart health.
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