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Dietary fats get a bad rap – but you need a certain amount of fat in your diet for good health. The key is to choose the right kinds of fat.
One type of fat that helps to reduce LDL-cholesterol, the “bad” kind that sticks to your arteries, is called monounsaturated fat. One of the best sources of these fats is olive oil.
Olive oil has a variety of health benefits that go beyond lowering cholesterol. It’s also a good source of polyphenols, antioxidants that protect your cells against damage from free radicals, rogue molecules that disrupt cells and lead to premature aging and disease.
There’s more good news about the oil folks in the Mediterranean called “liquid gold.” [Tweet “Countries that consume more olive oil have lower rates of heart disease and appear to have some longevity advantages.”]
Some research suggests that olive oil offers protection against breast cancer. There’s also research suggesting that it may protect brain cells, preserve memory, and keep Alzheimer’s disease at bay by reducing inflammation.
In addition, research shows olive oil lowers the risk of stroke – all good things when it comes to your health.
These are all reasons why olive oil is the best choice for sautéing at lower temperatures and to use in salad dressings and as a replacement for butter, when possible.
Shopping for Olive Oil: How to Maximize the Benefits
Now that you know WHY olive oil is so healthy, how can you enjoy its benefit?
When choosing olive oil, look for extra-virgin olive oil. Extra-virgin olive oil costs a little more, but the health benefits make it worth a few more nickels and dimes. Why?
Extra-virgin olive oil contains higher levels of cell-protective polyphenols since it comes from the first pressing of the olive. To be called extra-virgin olive oil, or EVOO, it has to have been extracted without the use of chemicals.
Extra-virgin olive oil is more pleasing to the tongue as well. It has a lower acidity than virgin olive oil and a richer flavor and more pleasing aroma.Curious as to how olive oil is made? Enjoy the video:
Supermarkets also sell olive oil that’s neither virgin nor extra-virgin. This oil is of lower quality and may have been extracted using heat or chemicals. The health benefits are fewer and the taste is not as pleasing as extra-virgin olive oil.
Prolong the Life of Extra-Virgin Olive Oil by Storing It Properly
How long can you expect to keep that bottle of olive oil around? With proper storage, a bottle of olive oil can last up to a year.
The key is to keep it away from heat and light. The best storage container is a dark glass bottle kept in a dark cabinet in a cool place.
Olive oil has a smoke point of 410 degrees Fahrenheit. If you heat it above this temperature, the oil smokes and it develops an unpleasant taste. It also loses some of its health benefits at high temperatures.
Use olive oil for low-temperature sautéing and for salad dressings, marinade,s and dipping sauces rather than high-temperature applications like frying. It’s a good idea to limit the amount of fried food you eat anyway.
Summing It Up
Extra-virgin olive oil is the healthiest choice for cooking at lower temperatures and for making salad dressings, marinades, dipping sauces and as a replacement for butter. You’ll get more health benefits dipping your bread into olive oil than putting butter on it.
Buy olive oil in a dark glass bottle and store it in a cool place to keep it fresh for up to a year. Don’t be fooled by “light olive oil.” It’s not lower in calories and is more refined with fewer health benefits and an inferior taste. Save your money for extra-virgin olive oil instead.
Dementia Weekly. “Olive Oil Stands Out”
Medscape Family Medicine. “Olive Oil May Protect Against Stroke”
WebMD. “Olive Oil versus Breast Cancer”