What is olive oil and how is it made?
Olive oil refers to the fat that is extracted from the fruit of the olive tree. The olive tree is native to the Mediterranean basin, and the peoples of the area have been making the oil for thousands of years. Whole olives are usually pressed in order to produce olive oil, forcing the fatty liquid out of the flesh of the olive.
Is it good for the body and why?
Leading by example, the health of Mediterranean cultures has sparked much interest in the benefits of consuming olive oil. Many studies have confirmed that olive oil is extremely good for the body, largely due to it being a rich source of monounsaturated fatty acids and its high antioxidant levels of polyphenols.
Maria-Isabel Covas’ review of studies of the effects of olive oil found that regular consumers had lower levels of bad cholesterol and were less likely to develop cardiovascular diseases. It is also shown to be anti-inflammatory and anticoagulant and to help reduce cancer risk and tumor cell activity.
Olive oil is also good for mental health. Studies have suggested that it may be useful for those with depression and in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. A study over 6 years showed that those consuming trans fats had a 48% higher risk of developing depression compared to those consuming olive oil regularly.
A natural compound present in extra virgin olive oil, called oleocanthal, is thought to help with Alzheimer’s disease by helping carry abnormal proteins from the brain, according to the work of researchers published in the journal of Chemical Neuroscience.
How much should we consume and what about when we heat it?
According the EurOlive Study concluded in 2004, it is suggested that we need to consume about 2 tablespoons of high quality olive oil a day to reap the benefits.
This doesn’t just have to be in salad dressings either. Olive oil can also be used for cooking, without sacrificing its healthful properties, but only at moderate heat levels. Since it has a low smoke point, the beneficial nutritional components will be damaged if you are cooking at high temperatures. If you do want to sizzle it up in the kitchen, it’s best to use an alternative with a higher smoke point. A great alternative for this is coconut oil!
What should you look for when choosing an olive oil product?
Opt for cold pressed extra virgin olive oil,” says registered dietician Mary Snell. This comes from the first extraction, is the most unrefined form and no chemicals are used in the extraction process. The end product has the best flavour and the highest levels of antioxidants. Your next best choice is virgin olive oil, which comes from the second press and is still chemical free.
Are there other beneficial uses for olive oil other than consuming it?
Olive oil also happens to be one of Mother Nature’s beauty products! It makes a beautiful remedy for dry skin or hair. Simply massage into the skin as a moisturiser, or put in your hair and leave for 30 minutes (can do this while exercising!) then wash, for frizz-free shiny locks. Olive oil has also been reported to help with irritated skin, under eye wrinkles and chapped lips.
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