Over the past few decades, the subject of dietary oil has been quite controversial.
From people who claimed that a no fat diet is healthy to those who believe that a full fat diet is necessary for proper central nervous system functioning, opinions vary widely regarding the type and amount of dietary fat you should consume.
In this article, we will discuss olive oil, it’s uses and the many benefits it brings. Read on to learn more.
What’s The Difference Between EVOO & Inexpensive Olive Oil
In its natural, virgin state olive oil is a remarkable super-food. Unfortunately, these days it is difficult to find true, pure extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO).
Quite a bit of the olive oil on the market today is not really pure olive oil. For this reason, it can be a detriment to your health rather than a benefit.
The very best olive oil comes from Italy in the Tuscany region. Specifically there is an area known as Cinque Terra that is well known for its high quality olive oil.
This oil has a very strong and pungent flavor and scent. In fact, plain pasta tossed in authentic EVOO with a bit of garlic is a flavor adventure.
This is quite a difference from the adulterated olive oil we generally have available to us in the United States today.
Many common types of olive oil are actually mixed with canola oil, soybean oil or other highly processed oils that are actually carcinogenic.
The steps taken to prepare an oil for consumption are very important. Typical commercial oils such as canola and soybean oil are processed using high heat.
This changes their molecular structure and causes them to be hazardous to your health.
EVOO prepared by traditional methods in Italy is first-pressed and cold-pressed. This means that the oil comes from the first pressing of the harvest and that the oil is prepared and processed without heat.
These are very important points because second and third pressing are not as nutrient filled as first pressing, and as we have discussed heat pressing destroys oil and renders it toxic.
What Are The Benefits Of EVOO?
Pure, first-pressed, cold-processed olive oil is filled with nutrients, one of the most important of which is polyphenols. This is an antioxidant that provides cardiovascular and brain support.
For this reason, people who are concerned about their cholesterol levels (and who isn’t) would do well to add EVOO to the daily diet. This change can go far to help lower cholesterol levels.
Simultaneously, EVOO supports good central nervous system functioning by helping coat the myelin sheath of the central nervous system so that impulses can be conducted smoothly and well.
This is why EVOO helps you enjoy clear focus and sharp thinking. It is also extremely beneficial in helping prevent cognitive diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Oleic acids are another valuable nutrient found in EVOO. These mono and saturated fatty acids support a wide range of bodily functions. In fact, your heart, your hormones and your joints will all benefit from adding EVOO to your diet.
EVOO is abundant in vitamin E which also supports good cardiac and brain function and contributes to joint health.
Vitamin E is well known for helping keep hormones in balance and enhancing sexual function. Additionally, vitamin E is essential to healthy skin and hair.
Consider Following The Mediterranean Diet
When you understand all of the benefits of adding EVOO to your diet, it’s easy to see why this tasty and nourishing oil is such an important part of the Mediterranean diet.
This healthy diet consists of large amounts of wild caught fish fresh fruits and veggies and lots of olive oil.
Studies have shown that following the Mediterranean diet is a good way to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and improve your overall health.
How To Avoid The Bad Olive Oil
Unfortunately, true extra-virgin olive oil is very hard to find in the United States.
Most of the olive oil you find on your grocery store shelves is mixed with soybean oil or canola oil, which in addition to being processed are also usually made from genetically modified ingredients.
As such, this type of olive oil is quite inflammatory. EVOO, on the other hand is anti-inflammatory.
As we have discussed elsewhere, inflammation is the basis of all disease, so avoiding foods that cause inflammation is very important.
Here are the qualities to look for in excellent olive oil:
1. Distinctive scent: Real EVOO has a very strong scent. It should smell very flavorful and have an aroma that is reminiscent of herbs and pepper.
2. Protective packaging: Genuine olive oil is always packaged in dark glass. It may be in a dark green bottle or a dark brown bottle, but it should be a dark bottle and it should be glass (not plastic).
This helps protect the oil from damage caused by light and contamination caused by carcinogens leaching from the plastic container.
3. Temperature sensitivity: Real olive oil becomes cloudy and/or solidifies at cold temperatures. Put your bottle of olive oil in the refrigerator.
If it does not solidify, this is a clear indicator that it is mixed with a highly processed oil.
4. Labeling: Be sure to read the label carefully. Ideally you want extra-virgin olive oil that is organically produced. The label should also tell you when the olives were harvested and which lot number your oil came from.
It’s important that olive oil be consumed fresh, so don’t purchase oil that was harvested more than a year ago. While the lot number may not actually mean much to you, its presence is assurance that the oil is genuine.
How To Add Extra Virgin Olive Oil To Your Diet
It’s easy to see that adding EVOO to your diet can be extremely beneficial to your health in many ways, but exactly how can you use olive oil effectively?
The first thing you should remember is that olive oil should not be used in hot cooking.
When you expose olive oil to high temperatures, you change its molecular structure and render it carcinogenic.
This is why olive oil should be used in salad dressings, as a topping or in warm cooking. Here are some ideas:
- EVOO is excellent mixed 50-50 with flaxseed oil, garlic and herbs slightly warmed as a dipping oil for French bread.
- If you want to add it to sauces, such as spaghetti sauce, wait until you’re done cooking. Remove the pot from the heat and allow it to cool a bit, then add your olive oil.
- After cooking pasta, rinse it with hot water and then toss it with extra-virgin olive oil.
- Pour extra-virgin olive oil into a tub, crock or jar to keep in your refrigerator. It will solidify, and you can use it as a spread on toast and rolls.
Once you get in the habit of using EVOO in your daily diet, you are sure to come up with many wonderful ideas for adding flavor, variety and nutrition to your everyday routine.