Olive Oil and the Mediterranean Diet
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Olive Oil and the Mediterranean Diet
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- June 26 2013
Olive Oil and the Mediterranean Diet
Recognized as one of the healthiest diets in the world, the Mediterranean diet is not a creation of some doctor or nutritionist, nor is it a passing fad, it’s a centuries-old eating lifestyle originally followed by the people living in the Mediterranean basin.
It all started when University of Minnesota Physiologist Ancel Keys studied the diets and habits of seven countries in the 1950s (often referred to as the Seven Countries Study), including the US, Japan, and Greece. He found that individuals from Greece had the lowest rates of heart disease and lived the longest even though they had a relatively high intake of fat. This astounding information was enough to take the Mediterranean diet from the tiny villages of Greece to the headlines of cities around the world.
It has ever since become a scientific standard paving the way for nutritionists, doctors and specialists to identify what’s good for us and what’s not. Thanks to an ever-growing body of evidence that the diet can prevent everything from heart disease to cancer, the Mediterranean diet is what sets the standard for long life and good health.
We all think of olive oil when we hear the term “Mediterranean Diet", but in fact it is a lot of other things. It is characterized by a high intake of vegetables, fruits and complex carbohydrates with the main source of fat being olive oil. As a result, it is rich in fiber, phytochemicals and antioxidants. However, it is not a vegetarian diet, as red meat is something to be enjoyed once a month, with the main source of protein coming from beans and local fatty fish such as sardines and anchovies.
Reaping the benefits of the Mediterranean diet and the traditional Greek diet is all about using the right nutritional ingredients in the right way. In other words, just adding olive oil to all your dishes isn’t going to do the trick; you need to consume a variety of foods in order to see healthy results.
Health Benefits of Olive Oil
The health benefits of olive oil are extensive with new positive attributes discovered all the time. One prominent cardiologist recommends at least two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil each day . At present it is believed that in addition to bolstering the immune system and helping to protect against viruses, olive oil is also effective in fighting against diseases such as:
- Heart Disease : Olive oil helps lower levels of blood cholesterol leading to heart disease.
- Oxident Stress : Olive oil contains antioxidents such as Vitimin E , carotenoids and phenolic compounds which also help lead to long life.
- Cancer : Studies suggest that olive oil exerts a protective effect against certain malignant tumors (breast, prostate, endometrium, digestive tract…). A number of research studies have documented that olive oil reduces the risk of breast cancer . Eating a healthy diet with olive oil as the main source of fat could considerably lower cancer incidence.
- Blood Pressure : Recent studies indicate that regular consumption of olive oil can help decrease both systolic (maximum) and diastolic (minimum) blood pressure.
- Diabetes : It has been demonstrated that a diet that is rich in olive oil, low in saturated fats, moderately rich in carbohydrates and soluble fiber from fruit, vegetables, pulses and grains is the most effective approach for diabetics. It 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.
- 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 rheumatiod 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.
Olive Oil and Skin Care
Since ancient times olive oil has been used as a way to moisturize and help rejuvenate damaged skin.
As we age our skin deteriorates and its inner and outer layers (dermis and epidermis) grow much thinner. The stresses and strains of aging also cause the skin to lose elasticity, which soon becomes noticeable as wrinkles. External factors, such as the suns rays can also speed up the aging process by generating what are called ‘free radicals’. The good news is that it’s possible to reduce the damage done to cells by using ‘inhibitors’ that lower the risk. There are many creams and lotions on the market that can help with this but if you’re looking for a natural ‘inhibitor’, you need look no further than olive oil, which has a lipid profile very close to that of human skin.
Olive oil has a large proportion of vitamins A, D, and K, as well as vitamin E, which is a key source of protein needed in the fight against free radicals. This makes olive oil particularly helpful in the fight against skin disorders such as acne, psoriasis, and seborrheic eczemas.
More generally, olive oil can be used daily to improve the condition of skin in the following ways:
- As an exfoliator : Mixing olive oil with sea salt and massaging into an affected area helps remove dead skin and enrich the healthier layers below it. Adding oil to a bath also helps moisturize the whole body.
- In nail and cuticle care : Extra virgin olive oil is a simple solution for dry nails and cuticles. By rubbing a few drops into the cuticle area and around the nail, cuticles stay moist, and nails respond with a natural shine.
- A s an eye makeup remover : A drop or two of extra virgin olive oil on a cotton pad helps to gently and effectively remove eye makeup without irritating the delicate skin. Olive oil also helps to smooth wrinkles that can form around the eyes.
Cooking with Olive Oil
As a finish and condiment, high quality extra virgin olive oils are poured over everything from rices, potatoes vegetables and beans to meats, poultry and fish.
Olive oil is a versatile ingredient that has been used in cooking for thousands of years. It has broken down a lot of boundaries in recent times, becoming a staple in kitchens well beyond the area of its Mediterranean roots. Not only can you cook just about anything with olive oil, you should cook just about everything with olive oil instead of using less healthy fats or butter.
Robust extra virgin oils are perfect for cooking seafood, to make marinades, or on strongly flavored ingredients such as peppers or garlic. A medium intensity oil is delicious with mozzarella and for dipping bread, for frying and sautéing. More mild olive oils work well when used in baking. Whatever the use, the most important thing is to find an oil that tastes great to you. Have several different kinds on hand and experiment pairing oils with your dishes. When it works, you’ll know it. The flavor of fresh olive fruit will shine through adding a new sublime dimension to your creation.
Read more: http://www.oliveoiltimes.com/olive-oil