The Health Benefits of Olive Oil

Benefits of Olive Oil

Olives are one of the oldest foods known to man, have been around for centuries and are mentioned in the Bible, depicted in ancient Egyptian art and heavily featured in Greek mythology – regarded as a symbol of peace and wisdom the Ancient Greeks believed they had supernatural powers !

Olive oil is a major component of the so called Mediterranean Diet. Evidence has shown that the Mediterranean population appear to have reduced risk for certain chronic diseases despite their high dietary fat intake. It should be remembered that the oil is high in calories but 2-4 tablespoons a day combined with a balanced, nutritious diet rich in fresh fruit, vegetables and fish is thought to be beneficial.

Olive oil is produced by grinding whole olives and extracting the oil using mechanical or chemical processes. It comes in different grades depending on the amount of processing involved. There are unrefined (Virgin) grades and refined grades – the less the oil is refined by heat and chemical treatment the higher the quality of the oil. Virgin varieties of olive oil are thought to offer the greatest health benefits as they retain most of the nutrients from the olive fruit.

Produced mainly in France, Spain, Italy and Greece olive oil is similar to wine in that it varies with the climate, country, area of origin and seasonal factors and can be bought with additions such as herbs, chilli or garlic. Hundreds of varieties of olives are used to make the oil varying in colour, flavour, aroma and character.
The main type of fat found in all kinds of olive oil is monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) which are considered a healthy dietary fat as opposed to saturated fats. They may help to lower your risk of heart disease and stroke by improving related risk factors such as reduction of total cholesterol levels and normalising clotting and blood sugar levels. It is also thought that the antioxidants, such as Vitamins E & K and polyphenols found in the oil provide some sort of defence mechanism that may help to delay ageing, prevent atherosclerosis  as well as boosting the immune system. Recent research has also shown reduced risk of bowel and breast cancer in people enjoying a diet rich in monounsaturated fats.

Heat, light and air can affect the taste of olive oil and possibly its health-promoting nutrients (some brands are sold in dark coloured glass bottles for this reason) so should be stored in a dark, room temperature cupboard and used within six months once opened as the quality reduces over time.

Olive oil is very versatile in all areas of cooking and can be poured over many foods and used as a base for salad dressings and marinades. It is also used in all types of frying and baking adding a new dimension of flavour to your favourite recipes and is a healthy substitute for butter or margarine.

Since ancient times olive oil has been used as a way to moisturise and help rejuvenate damaged and dehydrated skin. It contains a large proportion of vitamins A, D, K & E making it particularly helpful in the fight against skin disorders such as acne, psoriasis,and seborrheic eczemas. It can also be used to improve the condition of nails, cuticles and hair, as an exfoliator combined with sea salt, added to the bath water or as an eye make up remover.

There are also multiple uses around the home when used as a lubricant and for prevention against rust formation on tools and barbecues and lamp fuel.
Olive oil has religious symbolism for healing, strength and consecration and is referred to by many of the main world religions being used for such things anointing and burning in lamps.

Greece has by far the highest consumption of olive oil per head of the population but consumption outside its home territory has been steadily rising since people are appreciating its versatility and the extent of health benefits.

At Natures Healthbox we stock Organico Olive Oil and are looking to add to the range over the next month.