Olive oil is derived from pressed olives, the fruits of the olive tree. This oil is in fact, the most representative aspect of the traditional Mediterranean Diet.
Olive oil has a rich fruity flavour which can go well with many dishes. Uses include:
- Can be used as a cooking oil, of which I would recommended it may be better to use refined olive oil. Although, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) has been argued to be safe for cooking because the fatty acids it contains, are surprisingly stable at high temperatures.
- In addition, EVOO can be used as a dressing, a marinade, a dip or a spread. It can also be used to make pesto. I particularly enjoy using the original and infused flavoured EVOO’s as a dressing for my salads.
Olive oil contains a rich source of phenolic compounds which in vivo, are scavengers of free radicals and therefore have antioxidant properties. Moreover, phenolic compounds have anti-inflammatory properties, prevent lipid peroxidation, induce favourable changes of lipid profile, improve endothelial function, and disclose antithrombotic properties. The oil has also been found have anti-microbial effects and has been inferred to exert a protective effect against food-borne pathogens when contaminated foods are ingested¹.
Monounsaturated fat is the primary fat source found in olive oil. Unsaturated fat, can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol & olive oil has been found to actually help to lower LDL cholesterol. For example, a Japanese study by Haben et al. found that when 28 outpatients were given olive oil supplements once a day for 6wks, their mean LDL-cholesterol concentrations decreased².
Olive oil contains modest concentrations of vitamin A & K, which are fat soluble vitamins that are needed by the body to perform a variety of important different functions.
Due to the nutritional profile of EVOO, this oil has been linked to the reduced risk of a number of chronic diseases.
- Protective against heart disease-observational evidence suggests that those that adhere to the Mediterranean diet the greatest (where olive oil is an integral part of the diet), lower incidences of heart disease are evident³. The mechanisms by which olive oil is believed to reduce the risk of heart disease includes its ability to reducing inflammation & LDL cholesterol, improving endothelial function and lowering blood pressure⁴.
- Protection against cancer-Due to its antioxidant properties, olive oil in vivo has been found to help fight cancer. However, human controlled trials are yet to be conducted.
- Protection against Alzheimer’s disease- Alzheimer’s disease is the world’s most common neurodegenerative disease and a leading cause of dementia. Olive oil has been suggested to be protective against cognitive decline⁶. In fact, a human controlled trial showed that a Mediterranean diet enriched with olive oil had favourable effects on brain function and reduced the risk of cognitive impairment⁶.
There are many beauty benefits of extra virgin olive oil as it promotes healthy skin, hair and nails.
- EVOO can be used as a pre-shampoo conditioner. This will help to reduce the amount of natural oils stripped from the hair due to washing. Simply apply the olive oil to your hair and leave it in for 20 minutes.
- It can also be used as a shine serum when styling the hair.
Skin & nails
- For your nails, it can be used as a cuticle conditioner. To do this, warm olive oil in the microwave and allow it to cool slightly. Soak your nails in the warm olive oil for 15 to 30 minutes.
- EVOO is a great moisturizer for the skin, especially when your skin is sensitive or sore. I used this after I had a rash from an allergy on my face and it was the only thing that didn’t cause me further irritation.
Olive oil is a super food that can works wonders for your cooking experience, health & beauty. I am a great believer in the principles of Mediterranean diet and especially the use of olive oil.