- What is Extra Virgin Olive Oil? - Extra virgin olive oil is made simply by crushing olives and extracting the juice. It is the only cooking oil that is made without the use of chemicals and industrial refining.
Extra virgin is the highest quality and most expensive olive oil classification. It should have no defects and a flavor of fresh olives. It must be produced entirely by mechanical means without the use of any solvents, and under temperatures that will not degrade the oil.
- So, what are the health benefits?
Olive oil offers extensive health benefits with new characteristics being discovered every day. There are lots and lots of articles about health benefits of EVOO, but here is a short list of some of the most important:
1. It can help lower your "BAD" cholesterol - Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL), also known as the "bad cholesterol" can eventually cause plaque and block the artery. Monounsaturated fats can lower LDL thus protecting against atherosclerosis. Plus, this type of fat does not affect the levels of High Density Lipoproteins (HDL) known as the "good cholesterol," which carry all cholesterol away from the arteries, and high levels of which are associated with a decreased risk of heart disease. Olive oil is one of the best sources of monounsaturated fats and has the advantage of being less susceptible to oxidation.
2. Olive Oil Can help lower your blood pressure - Several studies for different age groups, and with a large number of participants, have found that the consumption of olive oil is associated with a decrease in blood pressure. The SUN (Seguimiento University of Navarra) study with over 6,000 participants found that olive oil intake reduced the incidence of hypertension in men, while another Spanish study published this month in the American Journal of Hypertension found that a diet containing polyphenol rich olive oil reduced blood pressure in young women with mild hypertension.
Results from the the Greek component of the EPIC study (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition) which included over 28,500 volunteers concluded that olive oil intake is inversely associated with both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. While it appears that the polyphenols in the olive oil may be responsible for this action, researchers have demonstrated that oleic acid; a fatty acid in olive oil may also induce this lowering effect.
3. Olive Oil can help prevent cancer - A review conducted by Greek researchers from the University of Athens published last year of 19 observational studies, with over 36,000 participants, found that higher rates of olive oil consumption were associated with lower odds of having any type of cancer. Another review of 25 epidemiological studies concluded that “preferring olive oil to other added lipids, particularly those rich in saturated fats, can decrease the risk of upper digestive and respiratory tract neoplasms, breast and, possibly, colorectal and other cancer sites.”
4. Olive Oil protects from oxidative damage - Apart from the monounsaturated fats in olive oil and specifically oleic acid, olive oil has another component that other sources do not have: polyphenols. Polyphenols are phytochemicals, components that have antioxidant activity. Researchers found that consumption of olive oil at real-life doses of about 2 tablespoons per day improved the fatty acid profile in LDL, associated with a reduction of the oxidative damage to lipids. It appears that oxidized LDL is an important contributor to atherogenesis; the process of plaque buildup in the arteries that eventually can lead to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
5. Obesity - Olive Oil is high in calories and yet helpful in treating obesity.