Greek gastronomy has recorded a history of around 4,000 years, with especial characteristics based on pure and unique quality goods produced on Greek land. In fact, it was Archestratos who wrote the first cookbook in history (330 B.C.).
Greek olive oil deserves a special note. It accompanies almost all Greek dishes, it is used abundantly in most of them, it is of excellent quality and it is very good for your health.
Extra virgin is the highest quality and most expensive olive oil classification. It should have no defects and a flavor of fresh olives.
Buying the right type of olive oil is incredibly important.
The best type is extra virgin olive oil. It is extracted using natural methods and standardized for purity and certain sensory qualities like taste and smell. Olive oil that is truly extra virgin has a distinctive taste and is high in phenolic antioxidants, the main reason why (real) olive oil is so beneficial.
For this reason, the only type I recommend is extra virgin olive oil.
Most of us have heard that Extra Virgin Olive Oil is good for your health, but what exactly makes it so good for you? There are a number of scientific studies that show olive oil can help prevent and treat heart disease. How does it do this, you might wonder? Olive oil actually protects against heart disease by helping to control the “bad” cholesterol (LDL) levels while simultaneously increasing the “good” cholesterol (HDL) levels in the body. Approximately 2 tablespoons of a high quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil each day contains high amounts of antioxidants (vitamin E and phenols in particular) which help to lower LDL cholesterol levels and increase anti-oxidant compounds in the blood.
The health benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil don’t stop there, however. New positive attributes of EVOO are being discovered regularly. Did you know that it helps boost your immune system, thus protecting against viruses? It’s true! In addition to that, it’s also been found to be very effective in warding off the following diseases:
High Blood Pressure: In recent studies, systolic & diastolic blood pressure has been lowered thanks to the regular consumption of olive oil.
Heart Disease: Heart disease is caused by a buildup of cholesterol, but the consumption of olive oil helps to lower these cholesterol levels- thus decreasing one’s risk for heart disease.
Cancer: There is a phytonutrient, oleocanthal, that is found in olive oil which can reduce inflammation by mimicking the effects of ibuprofen. This has actually been seen to decrease the risk of breast cancer (and its recurrence)! There are currently a few other olive oil components that are being studied for their possible effects on cancer; these components include squalene and lignans.
Diabetes: A diet rich in olive oil has shown to help lower “bad” low-density lipoproteins while improving blood sugar control and enhancing insulin sensitivity. As part of a diet low in saturated fats and moderate in carbohydrates & soluble fiber from fruits, veggies, and grains, olive oil is a healthy addition.
Oxidative Stress: It is well known that olive oil is rich in antioxidants (vitamin E especially) which have long been rumored to minimize one’s risk of cancer. Olive oil is actually very high in monounsaturated fats, the kind that do not oxidize in the body, while also being low in polyunsaturated fats, the kind that do oxidize in the body. This makes olive oil a wonderful addition to a healthy diet.
Osteoporosis: A diet high in olive oil has been shown to improve bone mineralization and calcification. It actually improves calcium absorption, thus playing an important role in aiding current sufferers and in the prevention of the onset of osteoporosis in others.
The polyphenols (antioxidants) that are found naturally in olive oil play a prominent role in the various health benefits attributed to olive oil. Of course, not all olive oils contain the same polyphenol content, which is determined by a number of factors. These factors include:
Olive Varietal: They variety of olive used to produce the oil determins the polyphenol count of the oil itself. For example, Koreneiki olives have a very high polyphenol count and Arbequina’s have a very low count.
Time of Picking: Oil produced from unripe (green) olives will be richer in polyphenols than oil produced from the same olives that have been allowed to reach maturity.
Environmental Factors: Things such as altitude, irrigation, and cultivation all have an impact on polyphenol counts.
Extraction Conditions: Polyphenols are lost when techniques meant to enhance yield are utilized. Things such as adding water, heating the paste, and increasing malaxation time mean your oil will contain less polyphenols.
Storage Containers: The longer an oil sits the less polyphenols it will have. Storing your olive oil in the right container will extend your oil’s life and keep the polyphenols from oxidizing too quickly.
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