So, after last week’s newsletter on how to select good or “real” olive oil, I would like to give a brief overview of its health benefits. This is a big subject and I am not an expert. This overview is meant as a starting point. Please do your own follow up reading and research. There appears to be a lot of conclusive finding as well as some speculative conclusions.
Traditionally a low fat diet has been prescribed to prevent various diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. While studies have shown that high fat diets may increase the risk of certain diseases such as cancer and diabetes, it appears that it is the typeof fat that counts rather than the amount of fat. Fat is essential to your health because it supports a number of your body’s functions such as cell growth, the regulation of your body temperature, nutrient absorption, energy levels & the production of important hormones. We need fats in our diet. The key is to focus on eating the healthy fats and avoid the unhealthy fats.
Many experts and nutritionists agree that a diet rich in monounsaturated fats such as the ones found in olive oil, nuts and seeds bolsters the immune system, protects against viruses and actually protects from many chronic diseases.
These include: CANCER, HEART DISEASE, OXIDATIVE STRESS, HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE, DIABETES, OBESITY, RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS AND OSTEOPOROSIS.
Cancer: The phytonutrient in olive oil, oleocanthal, mimics the effect of ibuprofen in reducing inflammation, which can decrease the risk of breast cancer and its recurrence. Squalene and lignans are among the other olive oil components being studied for their possible effects on cancer.
Heart Disease: Olive oil helps lower levels of blood cholesterol leading to heart disease.
Oxidative Stress: Olive oil is rich in antioxidants, especially vitamin E, long thought to minimize cancer risk. Among plant oils, olive oil is the highest in monounsaturated fat, which doesn’t oxidize in the body, and its low in polyunsaturated fat, the kind that does oxidize.
Blood Pressure: Recent studies indicate that regular consumption of olive oil can help decrease both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
Diabetes: Most popular research agrees that a” Mediterranean style” diet rich in olive oil , low in saturated fats, moderately rich in carbohydrates and high in soluble fiber from fruits, vegetables and grains is the most effective approach for diabetes. This diet reduces the risk of type II diabetes by almost 50 percent compared to a low fat diet. (Type II diabetes is the most common and preventable form of diabetes). Olive oil helps lower “bad” low-density lipoproteins while improving blood sugar control and enhances insulin sensitivity.
Obesity: Although high in calories, olive oil has shown to help reduce levels of obesity, as long as they are used in moderation. Choose monounsaturated rich foods such as olive oil in place of other fatty foods (particularly butter and margarine) — not in addition to them. And remember that you can't make unhealthy foods healthier simply by adding olive oil to them.
Rheumatoid Arthritis: Although the reasons are still not fully clear, recent studies have proved that people with diets containing high levels of olive oil are less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoporosis: A high consumption of olive oil appears to improve bone mineralization and calcification. It helps calcium absorption and so plays an important role in aiding sufferers and in preventing the onset of Osteoporosis.
Other studies indicate that olive oil consumption can minimize depression, risk of stroke and the hardening of the arteries as you get older and even skin cancer. Olive oil has many positive health benefits. But like most “super foods” it is only one part of a healthy diet and life style.
Again, this is only a brief overview. There is a ton of good information out there….continue reading on this subject.
*Information from the Mayoclinic.org., Sarafino.com and Oliveoiltimes.com