Those who have been raised in the Mediterranean basin, are most known for their warmth, hospitality and good food. One thing that is becoming more known about them over time, though, is the fact that they are healthier than the rest of the Europeans, live longer and have fewer problems.

Why is that? Well, one factor is their nutrition or what we now call, their Mediterranean diet. This diet apart of being rich in vegetables and fruits with very little red meat, is also full of .

Olive oil is one of the most well know sources of what we call monounsaturated fatty acids – or good fat – a type of fat that science has proven to improve blood cholesterol levels (for the better). Whilst scientists originally believed that olive oil qualities was just that, further research has shown that extra virgin olive oil is highly antioxidant.
A clinical trial published in Clinical Nutrition, proved that olive oil polyphenols act as antibodies against LDL (or bad cholesterol).
With a daily dose of extra virgin olive oil (and a balanced diet plus exercise) you may be able to protect yourself from what doctors call arthrosclerosis – of the hardening of the arteries and avoid a .
However, not olive oils are created equal. You see, olive oil is one of the easiest products to be adulterated – and devious merchants mix it with palm oil, nut oil or rapeseed and sunflower oils which are tasteless and odorless.
A study performed by 5 European universities in Europe was aimed at assessing how olive oil can benefit our and wellness. Two hundred men and women were assembled and were instructed to consume 25ml (two tablespoons) of olive oil everydayits worth noting that each olive oil they consumed was measured to have different amount of polyphenols.
What’s interesting is that the study also included refined olive oils as well. Refined olive oil means olive oil that has been extracted from the fruit but is not good for eating (called lampante) and is sent to the refinery to be cleaned up (many of the low cost supermarket oils are refined oils.)
When the results came they showed that when the subjects were consumed olive oil rich in polyphenols (that is extra virgin) the levels of an antibody that is linked with the reduction of bad cholesterol increased, considerably.
So the questions that you might have are:
a. Will just two tablespoons help me and
b. How will I know if the olive oil I am buying is high in these “polyphenols”?
The first one is easy – just take a look at the Mediterranean people. They live longer, have lower heart attacks and consume a lot of olive oil. Two tablespoons maybe an acceptable quantity – just add it in your salad, raw or on top of your favourite pasta dish. But don’t just take our word for it – see the actual experiments here.

As for the second question – well, we believe that the educated consumer has the power. When going to the supermarket check out how the olive oil is stored. Is it in a cool with low lights? If the bottle is dark coloured, that means that the olive oil is protected from any light and will last longer.
Also, make sure to read the label. Labels read “various olive oils from Europe” means that is it’s refined. If on the other hand it says “Extra Virgin olive oil from a single source” then buy it – it will well worth your money. Also pay attention the bottling date. Olive oil tends to go bad at the moment of bottling so the freshest the better.

Image from Arizona Foothills Magazine

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