Food Spotlight: Olive Oil
Olive oil is an essential part of Mediterranean cuisine. It is a natural oil extracted from olives. If properly processed, olive oil retains the antioxidants and bioactive compounds from the olives themselves. Its primary countries of origin are Italy, Spain and Greece.
There are three types of olive oil: refined, virgin and extra virgin. Extra virgin olive oil is the least processed and is considered to be the healthiest. Quality extra virgin olive oil has a bittery taste.
Why You Should Eat Olive Oil?
The health benefits of olive oil consumption are numerous. For example, olive oil is rich in mono- and poly-unsaturated fats such as oleic acid (73%), omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. There is also a relationship between monounsaturated fats found in olive oil and reduced risk of stroke.
Extra virgin olive oil is one of the ingredients linked to reduced risk of heart diseases. Moderate consumption of olive oil can improve the lining of the blood vessels, may prevent excessive blood clotting and protects LDL cholesterol from oxidation.
Olive oil has antioxidants, that can reduce the risk of chronic illnesses and inflammation. One of the main antioxidants in olive oil is oleocanthal that has similar effect to ibuprofen. Antioxidants are molecules that are also good for cancer prevention since they reduce oxidative damage.
Plus, olive oil has been correlated to improved mood and brain function. Mediterranean diet that contains olive oil is associated with improved cognitive functions.
Some even say it is beneficial for weight loss. Because it is able to regulate blood sugar levels, olive oil is believed to curb cravings that may lead to overeating. And this is how it prevents weight gain.
Olive Oil In The Kitchen
Saturated fats do not have double bonds and are stable, while unsaturated fats are very unstable. What hides behind “monounsaturated” fats? This means the fatty acids have only one unsaturated bond that is unstable and easily oxidized. Because of the high content of monounsaturated fats, olive oil is relatively thermostable.
The high content of monounsaturated fats makes olive oil heat resistant, and therefore great for cooking. Olive oil has a smoking point of 191 °C.
Still it can also be used as a simple olive oil-vinegar seasoning on a salad, or as part of more complex and calorie rich salad dressings.
In Italy olive oil is frequently used on bruschetta, drizzled on pizza or pasta, or eaten as an appetizer with cheese and bread. Careful though, 1 tablespoon of olive oil contains 119 g calories, the majority of which is fat. So, olive oil should be eaten in moderation.
Olive oil is super healthy. Still, be careful what type of olive oil you will buy. There are a lot of mixed oils with only a small percentage of really quality olive oil. Make sure you buy a quality (extra) virgin olive oil and don’t wait long before you enjoy this healthy and tasty ingredient!