Almost everyone has a bottle of olive oil in their kitchen cupboards. It can be used every day, with every meal, or you can get creative with it and make dips, sauces, and dressings. Olive oil is a truly versatile ingredient, so today we shine the spotlight on this fruity condiment. Here are a few facts about olive oil that may surprise you.
Spotlight on Olive Oil
Olive oil comes from the fruits of the olive tree. Every 100 grams of oil contain 880 calories. But before you cut it out of your diet because of the calorie content, know that these calories contain the healthiest kind of fats for your body. Olive oil is packed with Omega 3 and 6, and is a good source of minerals including calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphor, potassium, and sodium. What’s more, it is drenched in antioxidants, which are highly beneficial to the body, fighting disease and boosting the immune system. With its saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, olive oil is said to be one of the healthiest fats you can eat. It is also high in vitamins, most notably vitamins E and K, which are essential for both skin and bones.
Is your Olive Oil Authentic?
Not all olive oils are created equal. Cheaper, lower quality versions of the oil can be extracted using chemicals, and are sometimes even mixed with other, poorer quality, oils. The best type of olive oil you can buy is extra virgin olive oil, which is cold-extracted naturally and has to pass high standards of taste and smell. The cold-extraction helps to preserve the oil’s many nutrients. Among them are phenolic antioxidants, which are chemical compounds that can protect you from illnesses ranging from cancer to flu and infections.
The good news is you can easily check whether the oil you’ve bought is authentic and high quality. Simply place two spoonful of the oil in a jar, and place it in the fridge for a few hours. If the oil solidifies it is authentic. If it is still liquid, then it is most likely poorer quality oil.
The Benefits of Olive Oil
- Happy heart
- Olive oil contains 70% unsaturated fatty acids, which have been shown to lower blood cholesterol, and protect the heart from cardiovascular disease. It also helps to lower blood pressure.
- Weight loss
- The unsaturated fatty acids plentiful in olive oil may help in weight loss. It slows down the intestinal transit, thereby keeping you feeling fuller for longer, and less likely to snack between meals.
- Youthful skin
- Olive oil is high in free-radical-fighting antioxidants, which slow skin ageing. It gives a natural glow to your skin, and is often used in beauty products.
- Healthy kidneys
- Olive oil helps to prevent the formation of kidney stones.
- The antioxidants contained in olive oil help fight chronic diseases like cancer, especially breast and colon cancer.
- Strong bones
- A study from the International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition finds that olive oil may lessen your risk of osteoporosis by preventing the loss of bone mass.
- Quicker brain
- Research published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease finds that extra virgin olive oil can reverse oxidative damage to the brain and has beneficial effects on learning and memory.
- The Journal of Food Protection finds that the phenolic compounds in olive oil are antimicrobial. In one study, virgin olive oil reduced the counts of salmonella and listeria in packaged foods.
Which Olive Oil Should You Buy?
- Extra virgin olive oil – the best olive oil you can buy, cold extracted naturally and packed with nutrients. It has a distinctive fruity taste, delicious drizzled over a multitude of dishes.
- Virgin olive oil – the next step down from extra virgin olive oil, virgin oil is also cold extracted but is slightly more acidic. It still has a good flavor and can be used raw.
- Semi-virgin olive oil – slightly more acidic than virgin olive oil, this oil is good for cooking but doesn’t have enough flavor to be enjoyed raw.
- Light olive oil – this type of oil is mixed with other cooking oils like canola or soya. It is best avoided, because oils like canola or soya are less nutritious and contain high ratios of Omega 6 to 3, which can cause inflammation.
With such a long list of benefits, no wonder it’s a kitchen favorite! So why not drizzle it onto your lunchtime salad, add some to your hummus recipe, or spoon a generous helping into a warming soup, and start feeling the benefits today!
Olive oil is safe with no side effects when eaten in moderation or messaged into skin. However, pregnant women should use it sparingly and consult their doctor before using it during breastfeeding. Because it can lower blood sugar levels, diabetics should be careful when using it on a regular basis.