The Health Benefits of Olive Oil
In general, the Mediterranean diet consists of fresh fruits and vegetables, the consumption of unrefined cereals, nuts, seeds, pulses, dairy-based cheese and yogurt, consumption of fish, eggs and birds, rather than red meat, wine, and especially red wine with meals. Mediterranean people take about four or five simply prepared daily meals at the table with family or friends. Ingredients mostly include, olive oil, garlic and onion. The olive oil was in fact, the fat of choice. Modern-day feasts are well differentiated from ordinary days.
Over the past few years, everyone has been giving special emphasis to the Mediterranean Diet. This is because, despite high fat intake, the results of several scientific studies show that this dietary pattern is associated with others in decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and cognitive decline along with increased quality of life and longevity.
Unlike other high-fat diets, like the typical Western one, most of the fat of the Mediterranean Diet comes from a single food component – the olive oil. This explains why the Mediterranean diet is low on saturated fat, cholesterol and trans fat and high in monounsaturated fat. The fatty acid composition of olive oil is similar to other vegetable oils such as sunflower oils, soybeans and canola. However, these oils need to be refined before consumption, which may change their original composition.
The olive oil is derived from mechanical and physical processes that do not induce changes in the composition. Besides being rich in oleic acid, olive oil is still the source of other compounds that show beneficial properties for health, for example, vitamin E, phytosterols, carotenoids and phenolic compounds.
Several studies have shown that replacing saturated fat diet with, monounsaturated fat, helps to reduce levels of LDL (bad cholesterol). It also notes that the levels of HDL (good cholesterol) and increased triglyceride levels decreased in diets rich in monounsaturated fatty acids compared to diets low in fat and rich in carbohydrates. Moreover, olive oil consumption is associated with increased resistance to oxidation of lipoproteins and unsaturated fats, given the quality and proportion of fatty acids and by providing their content in antioxidants.
Besides contributing to the improvement of lipid profile, some studies suggest that consumption of olive oil also contributes to the reduction of other risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Thus, it seems to be associated with among others, a decrease in blood pressure, improved glucose metabolism, and exerts anti-inflammatory and anti-thrombotic.
Olive oil offers many health benefits no matter how it is used. Even when absorbed through the skin as a health & beauty aid, or medicinal component, the vitamins, minerals and nutrients it contains are utilized by the body just as if they were ingested through the foods included in the diet. Olive oil has proven benefits when it comes to lowering cholesterol, improving heart and cardiovascular function and strengthens the circulatory system.
Because olive oil is a monounsaturated fatty acid, it does not add to the risk of heart disease like trans fats. Quite the opposite is true. Olive oil has also proven to reduce the risk of stroke and lower the effects of diabetes and other chronic conditions. Olive oil’s abundance of antioxidants not only improves how well the blood carries oxygen, it also considerably lowers a person’s risk to several different types of cancers, including breast, prostate and ovarian cancers.
Olive oil nourishes the skin when applied topically. It does not clog pores or leave the skin feeling greasy or slimy. The nutrients it provides are absorbed gently through the skin and tissues in the body are able to utilize them directly, improving overall health and keeping skin smooth, youthful and elastic.
However, despite all the benefits of olive oil for health, we must not forget that this is a fat and, when consumed in high quantities, contributes to weight gain.
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