From its use since the dawn of civilization and the results of study after sudy, olive oil has proven to be a gracious gift of nature for its many health benefits and appetizing flavor. Among all oils, olive oil has the highest percentage of the desirable monounsaturated fatty acid. In a serving of one tablespoon (14 grams), 11 grams are monounsaturated, one gram is polyunsaturated, and two grams are saturated. Monounsaturated fatty acids are broken down and burned as easily as sugar, much easier than polyunsaturated and saturated fatty acids, but do not raise insulin levels as do sugar and polyunsaturated fatty acids. This is significant because cells need insulin to absorb calories and store them as fat; monounsaturated fatty acids do not cause cells to absorb calories and store them as fat. For this reason olive oil is not fattening and is a great source of energy. The fat fighting benefits of olive oil are also due to the fact that it has maximum content of oleic acid which stops fat tissues from absorbing fat from blood cells. It further stimulates the secretion of fat cells into the bloodstream so that they can be burned off. In addition, the oleic acid present in olive oil converts to OEA, a hormone that curbs hunger. OEA stimulates the nerve cells and signals the brain that your stomach is full. Olive oil is also a metabolism booster due to the fact that olive oil burns hot and fast creating a metabolic boost. Research has shown that taking olive oil at breakfast boosts metabolism by 60%. Everyone now knows that the higher your metabolism the more calories and fat you burn.
Olive oil is not only naturally cholesterol free. but it also acts to reduce cholesterol in the system. In 1986, research into the different types of fatty acids revealed new evidence about how they interact with cholesterol and the nature of cholesterol in relationship to the human body. There are two groups of lipoprotiens that interact with cholesterol, low density lipoprotiens (LDL), and high density lipoprotiens (HDL). LDL’s transport and deposit cholesterol into the tissues and arteries and for this reason are harmful. Consumption of saturated fatty acids increase LDL’s. HDL’s on the other hand remove cholesterol from the cells and transport it to the liver where it is passed out through the bile ducts. Monounsaturates reduce LDL while maintaining (or even possibly increasing) HDL. The maintenance (or possible increase) in the level of HDL in combination with a reduction in LDL acts not only to protect against cholesterol deposits but has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels in the body. The increase in heart disease since World War II motivated the American Heart Association to conduct research into the modern diets of the world, smoking habits, and obesity, and how they relate to cardiovascular illness and high blood pressure. The study revealed that in the Mediterranean countries, where olive oil consumption is high, the mortality rate due to cardiovascular illness was the lowest in the world. As for the results from within the Mediterranean
countries, the people of Greece, especially the Greek island of Crete, who consume more olive oil than any other country in the world (an average of over 20 quarts per person each year) were found to have the lowest rate of cardiovascular illness of all the heart healthy peoples of the Mediterranean. The United States and Finland reportedly had the highest coronary mortality rates. The most significant variable in the diet of the populations studied proved to be the type of fat ingested. The fat intake of those populations which suffered from higher rates of cardiovascular illness consisted of large amounts of animal (saturated) fats and small amounts of monounsaturated fat. Olive oil on the other hand, which contains the highest percentage of monounsaturates, was and still is the main fat used in the Mediterranean diets.
Studies conducted by Dimitrios Trichopoulos at the Harvard School of Public Health indicate a correlation between the fact that women of Greece and other mediterranean countries suffer only 50 to 60% of the rate of breast cancer compared with women of other countries and the fact that the Greek and Mediterranean women consume large amounts of virgin olive oil. Trichopoulos stated that part of the basis of this correlation may lie in the fact that olive oil is less easily oxidized than polyunsaturated fats and that unrefined virgin olive oil is full of antioxidant vitamins and other nutrients including Vitamin E and Alphatocopherol (a particular antioxidative form of Vitamin E). The analysis of this study, published by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, confirmed that this data came from one of the largest studies that has examined the role of diet in the cause and origins of breast cancer.
Since olive oil contains vitamin E and oleic acid, which is also found in human milk, it is beneficial for expecting and nursing mothers because it aids normal bone growth and encourages development of the brain and nervous system of infants before and after birth. Furthermore because olive oil contains antioxidants it has also been shown to prevent the deteriorating effect of age on the tissues, organs and the functioning of the brain. Another health benefit is that olive oil has been shown to reduce gastric acidity and its emollient effect and polyphenols protects the stomach against ulcers and aids the passage of food through the intestines. As a result it helps prevent constipation and is also prescribed by doctors to rid the intestines of parasites. It also reduces the risk of gall stones because it stimulates bile secretion and induces contraction of the gall bladder. A final nutritional note is that because virgin olive oils are cold pressed (extracted without the use of heat, steam, or solvents), the vitamins that are removed in many other oils as a consequence of chemical and heat extraction, and purification, remain in their natural state in cold pressed virgin olive oils. These vitamins include E, K , and Betacarotenes
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