Since ancient times, olive oil has a high and respectable position in the Greek cuisine. Later, research also showed the benefits of this elixir of youth and health. It improves health and prolongs life.
Olive oil: the elixir of youth and health
Olive oil is procured from olives. It has been part of the diet of the people residing along the Mediterranean sea since a very long time. The ancient Greeks called it the elixir of youth and health. It stands true to this phrase. Later, studies on the health aspects of this oil proved beyond doubt that it is the best oil to consume.
A 2020 study showed that consumption of more than half a tablespoon of this oil in the daily diet lowers heart disease risk drastically.
And in the early part of this year, the reputed academic medical journal, The Journal of the American College of Cardiology published an article. In this study, the researchers stated that those who had more than half a tablespoon of olive oil per day had reduced incidence of early deaths due to cardiovascular accidents, Alzheimer’s disease and other causes. The study’s senior author, Dr. Frank Hu who is the professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston states:
“Olive oil is the hallmark of the Mediterranean diet, and its link to lower mortality is well established in southern European countries. But this is the first long-term study to show such a health benefit here in the U.S.,”
Olive oil is a plant oil. But compared to all the other oils from plant sources, this oil has the highest amount of monounsaturated fats. And this fats can lower the bad LDL cholesterol and increase the good or HDL cholesterol. Moreover, this oil vasodilates the blood vessels and reduces blood pressure. Hence strain on the heart comes down. Additionally, this oil has potent plant-based compounds or phytochemicals. These possess anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Hence, risk of chronic diseases and heart ailments lessen.
Dr. Frank’s study did not differentiate between the different types of olive oil. But previous European studies have revealed that extra virgin olive oil or EVOO has the best heart protective action. This is because it contains the maximum amounts of plant compounds and antioxidants that are good for the heart. But the research team wants to compare the different types of olive oils and their beneficial action on the body.
Olive oil comes from the fruit of the olive tree. This tree is found mainly in the Mediterranean areas. Spain is the largest producer of this oil in the world. Italy and Greece also produce a lot of it. This tree came to the US in the 18th century. At that time, Spanish missionaries took it with them to California and started cultivating them along the coast. And now, California, Georgia, Florida, Arizona, Oregon and Hawaii have lots of these trees.
Grades of this oil from olives
There are several grades of this oil available in the shops worldwide. They can be regular to extra virgin one or EVOO. EVOO is the healthiest. It is part of the Mediterranean diet and even the American Heart Association recommends it to prevent cardiovascular diseases.
EVOO is the fatty part of the olive fruit. The extraction is by mechanical and physical means with no refinement. When the packages or container of the oil has on its label the terms first-pressed or cold-pressed, it means that it is healthy and unrefined. This is a natural product with no processing to change its quality. It is obtained by a simple single milling process.
On the other hand, when this oil is further refined, bleached, deodorized, blended and then mixed with 5 to 15% of EVOO, it is the regular oil of olive. It has a lighter flavor, aroma and color. Hence it is called pure or light.
It forms a healthy substitute for butter, margarine and such fats. Dr. Frank says:
“Olive oil is a much healthier replacement for dietary fats, especially animal fats,”