Olive Oil and Goodness

There have been numerous researches on the wonders of olive oil and this site here sheds more light on the suspected association between olive oil-rich Mediterranean diets and reductions in breast cancer risk among other things. Good quality extra-virgin olive oil contains health-relevant chemicals, ‘phytochemicals’, that can trigger cancer cell death.

Javier Menendez and Antonio Segura-Carretero led a team of researchers who set out to investigate which parts of olive oil were most active against cancer. Menendez said, “Our findings reveal for the first time that all the major complex phenols present in extra-virgin olive oil drastically suppress overexpression of the cancer gene HER2 in human breast cancer cells”.

Additionally, I got another “good news” email, which confirmed what we Mediterraneans have known for a long time: you can curb hunger pangs with this simple snack: whole-grain bread dipped in olive oil. Like it or not, the body needs oil, so with olive oil you’re not only eating the “least harmful” oil, you’re eating a necessary nutrient.

Olive oil is a tasty, quick and easy addition to salads, pasta dishes (I particularly love it on cold leftover pasta) and delicious drizzled over warm, crusty bread on which a little garlic is rubbed. But as well as its fabulous flavor, this all-natural product is bursting with health benefits too and is a fat that can help with weight control. High in unsaturated fats, olive oil can contribute positively to heart health by replacing saturated fats in the diet.

A tablespoon of olive oil contains 120 calories, 14 grams of fat, and no cholesterol. Seventy seven percent (77%) of the fat in olive oil is monounsaturated, and nine percent (9%) is polyunsaturated fat; fourteen percent (14%) is vegetable-derived saturated fat. Virgin olive oils also contain the antioxidants beta-carotene and Vitamin E, as well as the phenolic compounds tyrosol and hydroxytyrosol

Olive oil contains oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat. Upon reaching the small intestine, oleic acid triggers the production of oleoylethanolamide (OEA), another fatty substance. OEA then finds its way to nerve endings that carry a hunger-curbing message to the brain. And that message is loud and clear: I’m full! I read that researchers are hoping that a new appetite-suppressing drugs using OEA will be developed to reduce obesity in the near future.

I can’t say enough that olive oil is not only good for eating less, but it is a great way to reduce bad cholesterol. Olive oil is high in HDL which is the good type of cholesterol that collects bad cholesterol (LDL) and returns it to the liver for processing as energy. It is high in fat, however it is an unsaturated fat that is a better form of energy for the body to consume. Read the skinny on HDL below:

Saturated fat and cholesterol have been linked to increased levels of low density lipoproteins (LDLs)–the “bad cholesterol.” Thus, compared to butter, a serving of olive oil contains much less saturated fat (only 2 grams) and no cholesterol. The comparison with margarine is more difficult because the fat breakdown in margarines varies by manufacturer and ingredient. Margarine typically contains approximately 10 grams of fat per tablespoon. However, to solidify the vegetable oils used to make margarine, the oils have to be hydrogenized. In the hydrogenization process, trans fatty acids are created. Trans fatty acids have a double whammy effect of increasing LDLs and lowering the high density lipoproteins (HDLs)–the “good cholesterol”

The idea that all fat is bad and that diets should be fat free and nearly calorie free is completely outdated. The truth is while the bad fats slow the burn, healthy fats actually stoke the fire in turn, burning far more calories. Some might prefer to use canola oil as it is readily more available and certainly cheaper (I use it for frying, nothing wrong with that) but here’s why I don’t use on my bread: would you dip a bit of bread into some tasteless vegetable oil? No, I didn’t think so. And nowadays you can pick up a fairly good quality virgin oil in the US, but make sure it’s the real McCoy!

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