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Little Known Health Benefits of Olive Oil

April 7th, 2012 · 2 Comments ·
 
 

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Recently I was discussing with my friends about what cooking oil is the best.  Some said sunflower oil and corn oil, some said virgin coconut oil and some even said butter and margarine.  Each has its supporter.  None is wrong, depending on hat criteria you classify the oil.  For me, I look at the “good fats” and “bad fats” which are based on its ability to raise or lower the total and LDL (bad) cholesterol.  (For newbie, to find out what exactly is cholesterol, check this out – What Is Cholesterol?)

Here is a simplified version on the explanation of bad and good fats:

The Bad Fats
Saturated Fats Saturated fats raise total blood cholesterol as well as LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol).
Trans Fats Trans fats raise LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) and lower HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol).
The Good Fats
Monounsaturated Fats Monounsaturated fats lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) and increase the HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol).
Polyunsaturated Fats Polyunsaturated fats also lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Omega 3 fatty acids belong to this group.

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So, based on the above information, the “good” cooking oil should contain higher amount of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and with minimal saturated and trans fats.  With that in mind, here is the list:

Good Cooking Oils:

  • Flax seed oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Olive oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Corn oil

Not So Good Cooking Oils:

  • Butter
  • Palm oil
  • Coconut oil

Among the good cooking oils, I highly recommend olive oil. My wife has been using it ever since we started to eat in with home cooked food.

Olive oil is natural.  It is actually a natural juice extracted from olive fruit.  Not many people know that olive oil is the only vegetable oil that can be consumed as it is.  If you have been to Italian restaurant, you will find olive oil on the table.  It can be used as a dipping sauce for bread or mixed with vinegar as a dressing for salads.  It is actually a staple in the diet of Mediterranean countries even though olive tree originated in Asia.

What Are Health Benefits of Olive Oil?

  1. My family doctor told me that he has used olive oil as cooking oil after he realized that he has high level of LDL cholesterol year ago.  Researchers found Greeks have very low occurrence of heart disease despite high fat content in the traditional Greek diet.  After years of studies, they found out that the Greeks have been using olive oil in many of their diets.  So, if you are looking for ways to lower your LDL cholesterol, you should seriously consider using olive oil in your daily diet.
  2. Apart from that, the olive oil also helps in colon cancer and breast cancer prevention.  Again, based on studies, female population Greece has far less breast cancer compared to other countries. The high concentration of vitamin E in olive oil (which has been proven to slow cell damage) contribute to this belief.

No doubt, while olive oil has some great health benefits, I recommend you to use it moderately because each tablespoon of olive oil still contains about 120 calories.

How Many Types Of Olive Oil?

Depending on the amount of the processing, olive oil has many different types which include:

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  1. Extra virgin – This type is the best because it is least processed and comprise the oil from the first pressing of the olives.  No heat or chemicals is used in the extraction process.  The less the olive oil is processed, the closer it is to its natural state and the better the oil is.  Therefore, extra virgin oil has the highest amount of disease fighting polyphenol which is a powerful antioxidant.  However, extra virgin oil is the most expensive too.
  2. Virgin – Virgin olive oil is obtained from the second pressing.
  3. Pure – This type undergoes some processing, such as filtering and refining.
  4. Extra light or light – Extra light olive oil undergoes considerable processing and only retains a very mild olive flavour.  In fact, the term of “light” or “extra light” is not really a classification of olive oil grade.  It is used as a marketing term and unregulated by authorities.  Therefore, it can be safely assumed that this type of olive oil may be made with chemical refining and filtering.

How To Keep Your Olive Oil?

  • Do not place the olive oil close to the window.  Store it in dark cool spot like in a kitchen cabinet far away from the stove and direct sunlight.  If you have wine cellar, store it there.
  • Keep the oil in tinted glass, stainless steel or porcelain container. Avoid plastic or any reactive metals.
  • Make sure it is tightly sealed with cap. Olive oil, just like other oil, may become rancid when it is exposed to air, light or heat.  If the oil has a buttery taste, it is probably rancid.
  • Some people buy many bottles of olive oil in one go and store them oil in the refrigerator to extend the life of olive oil.  If you do so too, you will find that it will become thick and cloudy.  Do not throw it away.  The oil will return to normal once you take it out and let it warm up slowly to the room temperature.  So, I do not recommend you to store expensive extra-virgin olive oil because it will affect the natural flavor.  So, if you do not consume a lot, buy olive oil in small amount. Otherwise, split the large bottle with friends.

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Can I Fry Deep Fry with Olive Oil?

Heating olive oil does not change its nutrients, but only the flavor.  While some will disagree my point saying that we should not use olive oil in deep frying.  The debate can be academic.  The truth is that the high cost of extra virgin olive oil makes it an expensive choice.  I mean, to fry properly, you need at least 3 small cups of oil to fill the pan so that the food can be fried till having golden color and delectable crisp texture.

If you still want to fry with olive oil, what you can do is to use a cheaper olive oil (which does not have much flavor) and later add a more flavorful of extra virgin olive oil (after cooking) to allow ifs true flavor to shine through.  This refined oils are perfectly suited for deep frying foods.

Actually, you should not often deep friy food often even if you can afford to fry it with expensive olive oil.  Fast food restaurants definitely are not using olive oil because it is just too expensive to do so.

What Are Other Use of Olive Oil?

My mum likes to put bit of olive oil in her hair.  According to her, it helps to “cure” her damaged hair.

My friend use it as it as lip balm.  She uses it to keep chapped lips at bay.

Final Words

If you just start to use olive oil, you may find that it taste quite different from your other typical cooking oil. Some say that it is a bit bitter.  I have to say that it is an acquired taste.  With the above benefits, I really strongly suggest you to give it a try.  Instead of serving butter, try use it on bread, rolls, potatoes or other vegetables.  Also, don’t forget to use olive oil dressing on your favorite salad.


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To compare different prices of olive oil online, check it out at Amazon.

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Category: Nutrition


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2 responses so far ↓
  • Tom Parker // Apr 7, 2012 at 9:04 PM

    Hey Mun – Totally agree with you on the olive oil benefits but saturated fat isn’t as bad as you think. In fact it directly improves the health of many vital organs. For example, the lungs use saturated fat to create lung surfactant and half the fats in the brain are actually saturated.

    Tom

  • sunny // Nov 18, 2012 at 3:46 PM

    virgin coconut oil may not be suitable for cooking but i think its the best source for fat. why dont u write abaout virgin coconut oil after this…

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