With the new fad to eat fat-free foods and remain healthy, the intent is to completely avoid fat. However, it is to be noted that fat is essential for various normal body functions, starting from proper brain functioning to hormone formation. What needs to be avoided is the unhealthy bad fat. Fat contains fatty acids, which are of two types-saturated and unsaturated. When heated, the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) react with the oxygen in the environment and get damaged. These are to be avoided. The saturated fatty acids are relatively strong and do not oxidize or create damage. So, the next time you pick up oils, this is what you need to look at.
The good thing about olive oils is that it mostly contains mono-saturated fatty acids (MSFA), which does not oxidize even at high temperatures (almost 180 degree Celsius.) Another study showed that with deep frying using olive oil, it takes about 25 hours to produce the same damage as other cooking oils. Olive oil is produced by crushing olives.It can be refined or unrefined based on the amount of free oleic acid (lesser in the unrefined version.) The unrefined form is the purer form, which is also known as extra-virgin olive oil. It has the aroma and flavor of olives and characteristic bitter taste.
What it contains: A can of 100 g of olive oil contains the following. Note the high content of mono-saturated fat is present, which is highly healthy.
- Monounsaturated Fat: About 70%
- Saturated fat:About 13%
- Omega-6:About 10%
- Omega-3:About 1%
- Vitamin E:72% of the RDA.
- Vitamin K:75% of the RDA.
Some of the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil are listed below:
- Anti-inflammatory: Heart disease, cancers, diabetes, Alzheimer's are all chronic inflammatory conditions and using olive oil for prolonged periods can reduce the onset and severity of these conditions. The oleic acid acts against the C-reactive protein responsible for spreading inflammation.
- Antioxidants: The ingredients in olive oil including the anti-inflammatory oleocanthal and oleuropein are known for their antioxidant properties.The latter is what prevents oxidation of olive oil when heated. These have powerful health benefits and can help fight severe diseases.
- Cardio-friendly: There are various ways in which olive oil helps the heart, some of them being reduced inflammation, preventing blood clotting, lowering blood pressure, improving blood vessel lining, and improves LDL levels.
- Cancer: With its oxidative properties, it reduces the amount of free radicals in the body, thereby reducing cancer.
- Brain function: Olive oil also reduces cognitive functioning and reduces the formation of beta amyloid which is seen in Alzheimer's disease.
The Mediterranean diet is rich in olive oil and they have inherited these health benefits over centuries.