Did you know that the Greeks consume 25 kg of olive oil per year, compared to 5 kg in North America? Greece’s increased consumption of this healthy fat is part of why the Mediterranean diet has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease and lowered cancer risk for those who follow it.
Lets take a closer look at the benefits of adding olives and olive oil to your diet:
1. They protect against colon, breast and skin cancer: Olives and olive oil contain an abundance of phenolic antioxidants as well as the anti-cancer compounds squalene and terpenoid. They also contain high levels of the monounsaturated fatty acid and oleic acid which reduce chronic, excessive inflammation. These two compounds also work to neutralize the damaging effects of free radicals on the body’s cells.
2. Olive oil is good for your heart: Olive oil contains biophenols, which suppress the synthesis of LDL (or “bad cholesterol) which has been shown to play a role in the development of cardiovascular disease. High levels of LDL in the blood amplify oxidative stress which hardens the arterial walls (called atherosclerosis). The biophenols in olives reduce blood pressure, therefore reducing the development of arterial plaque as well.
3. They work to reduce pain : Olives contain a compound called oleocanthal that has been shown to have strong anti-inflammatory properties, mimicking the action of ibuprofen. Olive oil naturally reduces the pain of chronic inflammatory diseases such as arthritis and can be added to a daily diet to aid in pain reduction.
4. Olives and olive oil protect against ulcers : The antimicrobial properties in olives and olive oil help to combat the bacteria responsible for causing stomach ulcers. Studies have shown their high levels of polyphenols protect against eight strains of ulcer-causing bacteria, three of which are resistant to some antibiotics.
5. Eating olives will help to boost your iron intake: Olives contain a substantial amount of iron, a key factor in the formation of hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen throughout the body via the bloodstream. Iron also helps to build the enzymes responsible for regulating immune function and cognitive development.
In order to properly reap these health benefits, you need to make sure the olive oil you’re buying is real. Often times olive oil can be mixed with lower grade oils like soy or canola oil and sold for the same price.
To ensure the oil you buy is the highest quality, and most healthful, follow these tips:
1. Buy certified organic oil : If possible, try to find one that has paperwork to track the oil production from field to table.
2. Get to know what live oil really tastes like : Light olive oil is not olive oil. Real extra virgin has a taste of pepperiness and fruitiness. If you can’t taste the olives you may have deodorized cheap oil that could be soy or canola with some green colour added. The real deal is more expensive but worth the health benefits.
3. Buy oil packed in dark glass: The real stuff degrades in heat and light, so avoid the clear plastic bottles that could be leaching plastic into your next meal!
For more information about how and why to buy high quality olive oil, click here.
For a healthy olive oil salad dressing, click here.