Sippin’ on gin and olive juice

I love the smell of olive oil. Seriously, it is one of my all-time favorite scents. Every time we buy a bottle of quality olive oil I can’t wait to crack it open and inhale that first huff of intense olive-y goodness.

Olive-Oil1

I try not to get caught sniffing the olive oil too often, but I’m found nose deep in the bottle with some consistency when we are cooking. Not only do I think it smells awesome, but (I think) olive oil tastes great on practically every food and it’s chock-full of health benefits!

Here are just a few of my favorite reasons olive oil rocks:

Fats

Heck yeah, let’s talk about fats.

Your body needs a balance of healthy dietary fats to function optimally.

The ‘big three’ fats (or fatty acids) are:
saturated (found in coconut oil and animal fats for example),
monounsaturated (found in olive oil and nuts for example), and
polyunsaturated (found in fish oil and flax for example).

Research has shown that a diet rich in these healthy fats offers increased cardiovascular protection, improves body composition, and helps alleviate depression.

Olive oil is one of nature’s best sources of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs).

Studies show MUFAs in particular can lower total cholesterol levels by reducing low-density lipoproteins (LDL), also known as the “bad” cholesterol, as well as slow the development of syndromes such as arteriosclerosis (thickening of the artery wall), a major contributor to heart disease.

I know what some of you are thinking; “Isn’t DIETARY FAT bad for me?” Well, since the 80’s, we’ve been told that fats (specifically saturated fats) are the devil. Turns out, 30+ years of scientific research hasn’t been able to prove dietary fat intake is linked to an increase in heart disease, stroke, or obesity… And in the meantime, dozens of studies HAVE found that low-fat diets are actually no better (and potentially worse) for health than moderate or high-fat diets.

crapfood

Pretty much sums it up.

Walter Willett, Chair of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health had this to say about the war on fat, “The idea that all fat is bad for you, the exclusive focus on adverse effects of fat may have contributed to the obesity epidemic…The emphasis on total fat reduction has been a serious distraction in efforts to control obesity and improve health in general.

Polyphenols

Extra virgin olive oil contains tyrosol and hydroytryosol, beneficial plant compounds known as polyphenols. Polyphenols are powerful antioxidants that bolster the immune system and help trap harmful free radicals in the body. These compounds can even reduce microbial activity and infections, improving the health of arterial linings.

Nota Bene:
You can’t just guzzle down some olive oil and expect to be doused in antioxidant super powers. Everything else you eat will affect the absorption of polyphenols. For example, refined sugars are known to inhibit the transfer of certain polyphenols. Just one more reason to cut out those highly processed, carbo-loaded, trans-fatty foods.

eggo

I cannot even believe they were able to convincingly bring this to market. This soooooo doesn’t count as having antioxidants…

Gene Expression

The polyphenols found in extra virgin olive oil have also been shown reduce inflammatory gene activity, decreasing the cell oxidation and damage associated with many degenerative diseases such as metabolic syndrome and coronary artery disease, and subsequently (you guessed it) heart disease.

oliveoyl

Heart healthy Olive Oyl!

Purchasing Olive Oil

Many olive oils on the market are sub-standard and will be lacking in most of the above health benefits… plus they taste gross. Seriously. Freshness of your olive oil is critical. Look for a harvest date printed on the bottle. Olive oil has an optimal shelf life of only 6 months, and needs to be stored in a cool, dry, dark place to retain its potency and flavor.

Olive oil is not like wine, it does not age. The sooner you put that sweet nectar in your mouth the better. Like most oils, cold-pressed/first pressed extra-virgin oils are best (and the smaller the production the better).

One important thing to note; olive oil is not for high heat cooking. The highest quality olive oils have a smoke point somewhere between 375-400 F. For high heat cooking you may want to try a refined coconut oil (smoke point of 450 F) instead.

Get your olive on! Happy eating.

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