Mountains of information have been published about the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet and, in particular, olive oil. Condensing and filtering the information is not always easy. Here is a conservative summary of the many healthful advantages to extra virgin olive oil.
Extra virgin olive oil is distinguished from all other oils (even other grades of olive oil) in that it is richly endowed with a unique combination of monounsaturated fats, polyphenols and phytosterols. A consistent body of scientific evidence exists that diets rich in these three natural components are associated with:
- lower levels of “bad cholesterol” (LDL) and higher levels of “good cholesterol” (HDL).
- lower levels of heart-unfriendly oxidized LDL’s.
- reduced DNA oxidative damage which in turn is related to a reduced risk of some cancers.
- reduced incidence of hypertension.
- improved glycemic control, which is particularly advantageous to diabetic patients.
Fresh extra virgins contain higher levels of these beneficial components. Suggested consumption is two daily tablespoons of high quality extra virgin olive oil, preferably in place of other fats.
Be aware that heat, light and air can affect the taste of olive oil and its health-promoting nutrients. Always store olive oil in a dark, room-temperature cupboard. Also, the flavor and nutrients of extra virgin olive oil slowly degrade over time, so it is best used within two years of harvest and within a few months of opening.