Olive oil is an integral part of the Mediterranean diet which has been recognized as one of the healthiest in the world. No self-respecting Spaniard, Greek or Italian table would be complete without olive oil for salads and chunks of fresh bread.
Why anyone would simply want to drink olive oil when it enhances the taste of salads and improves the flavour of any dish is a mystery, but if you want to you can drink it. However you should only have one or two tablespoons of it a day as it has a laxative effect.
Research has shown that the best type of olive oil is the extra virgin oil which comes from the first pressing. Others from later pressings are healthy, but the extra virgin is by far the healthiest. You should buy it in a dark glass bottle as it deteriorates in sunlight so should be stored in a relatively cool dark place. You can store it in the fridge too as this doesn’t detract from its taste or medicinal value. Extra virgin olive oil may be a luscious dark green or even a pale yellow; it depends on where the oil originated, the soil the olive tree grew in, and the particular climate of its area of origin.
There have been many research studies into olive oil and its health benefits, because of its importance in the Mediterranean diet, and it has been found to have heart protective properties as it can lower cholesterol levels and high blood pressure, and prevent hardening of the arteries. Olive oil consists of 75 per cent oleic acid which is an Omega-9 fatty acid and it now seems that this is able to decrease high blood pressure. With a decreased blood pressure rate you will lessen the risks of strokes and help lower your risk of heart disease.
Also, according to the Diabetes Care scientific journal, a diet rich in olive oil can reduce the risk of Type II diabetes which is becoming more prevalent today. Monounsaturated fats such as those found in olive oil may benefit insulin levels and help control blood sugar levels it is believed.
Having olive oil in your diet can also help with depression, (as can the herb, borage) as polyunsaturated fats such as those found in it, fatty fish and some vegetables, are associated with a lower risk of suffering from depression.
A phytonutrient in this oil, oleocanthal, has been found to imitate the effects of the pain-relieving drug, Ibuprofen, on inflammation. This can in turn reduce the risks of contracting breast cancer and its recurrence.
Squalene and lignans (such as those found in flax seeds) also found in this Mediterranean oil are currently being studied to find their possible effects on cancer; for example, vitamin E which is found in this is known to lower cancer risks.
Perhaps the group which benefits most from consumption of olive oil is that of post-menopausal women, as they are at risk from osteoporosis, which is basically a decrease in bone mass leading to having brittle bones which break easily if you have a fall. When tested on rats in the laboratory it was found that their bone mass improved when they were given daily doses of the oil.
Personally I can’t do without this oil, not because of its health benefits primarily, although I am well aware of these, but because of its taste and the flavour it adds to food. Why not treat yourself to a bottle of extra virgin olive oil and splash it on your next salad?