Health Benefits Of Olive Oil

Olive oil, as part of a healthy diet, is known to be instrumental in reducing the risk of heart disease and is believed to reduce the risk of breast cancer as well.

Olive oil, when part of a healthy diet, is known to reduce the risk of heart disease. It is widely believed that it reduces the risk for breast cancer as well. Studies have shown that women who consume olive oil daily have a significantly lowered risk for breast cancer. It is believed that the vitamin E in olive oil thwarts the cellular damage that leads to breast cancer.

Even people who consume high-fat diets (along with significant amounts of olive oil added) have lessened rates of heart disease. Olive oil contains monounsaturated fat. When damaging saturated fat is replaced by monounsaturated fat, LDL cholesterol is lowered. Reducing meat in the diet and replacing it with more vegetables and legumes seasoned with olive oils has the effect of lowering saturated fat consumption, thus reducing cholesterol. Olive oil also contains substances called polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants. Polyphenols attack free radicals that can cause artery damage and reduce the ability of LDL cholesterol to adhere to artery walls.

The most effective type of olive oil from a health standpoint is the "extra-virgin" variety. Extra-virgin olive oil contains the highest density of polyphenols. It is made from the first pressing of perfectly ripe olives. This is the type most valued by food connoisseurs for its purity and taste. It is usually used in foods as a flavoring rather than as a cooking oil.

Two other types of olive oil, both of which contain high monounsaturated fats but lower levels of polyphenols, are "pure" and "light" olive oils. Pure olive oil is lighter in color than extra virgin and mostly used to cook foods at medium heat. Light olive oil has a less pronounced taste than the others and is used for cooking foods at high heat. Olive oil should be stored in a cool, dark place. Refrigeration of olive oil can cause it to thicken and darken but bringing it to room temperature will restore its color and fluidity. Prolonged unrefrigerated storage will cause olive oil to lose its taste and protective qualities.

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