Olive trees can live to be hundreds of years old, and often rejuvenate themselves after being burned or damaged in other ways. Olive oil users have reasons to think that they might live a long time also. Olive oil appears to protect the bones, joints, skin, liver and heart. It may even slow aging.
Virgin Olive Oil
There are three levels of virgin olive oil that are obtained from the first pressing of the fruit. The three levels are based primarily on differences in acidity. The three levels are extra virgin, virgin and semi-fine virgin. To receive the title 'extra' virgin oil, it must achieve a high quality color and flavor and have an acidity of less than 1%. Virgin oil has up to 4%. The full aroma and flavor of extra-virgin olive oil adds authenticity to a wide variety of Mediterranean cuisine, including pizza and pasta dishes, and is also ideal for dressing salads. For professionals, the less acidic the finer the oil.
Pure Olive Oil
Virgin olive oil is a blend of cold-pressed virgin oil and refined olive oil that has been treated with chemicals and then heated and filtered. The color of the oil is normally paler and the flavor blander and less distinctive. Pure olive oil can fulfill all the functions of extra-virgin olive oil in recipes where a less pronounced flavor is required. It may also be used as a base for home-made salad dressings, mayonnaise and marinades.
Light Olive Oil
Light olive oil, which has a very mild flavor, is produced from the last pressing. This highly refined oil is an innovation which, with its mild flavor and light texture, has firmly established olive oil as an everyday cooking oil. Light olive oil retains all the health benefits, whilst it's high smoke point and slower breakdown, compared to other oils, makes it ideal for either deep or shallow frying, stir-frying and baking.
The major fatty acid present in olive oil is oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) constituting some 55-83% of total fatty acids. Olive oil also contains saturated fatty acids (8-14%), polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs at 4-20%), and other important minor constituents, particularly antioxidants, such as vitamin E and polyphenols. The beneficial health effects of olive oil are due to both its high content of monounsaturated fatty acids and its high content of antioxidant substances.
Olive oil is a fresh ingredient and should be treated as such. Buy no more than you can use in a 60-90 day period. Store unopened oil in a cool, dark place and, once opened, it is best kept refrigerated. If the oil forms solids in the refrigerator, place in a bowl of warm water or set out at room temperature briefly to dissolve solids before use. Olive oil has a smoking point of 350°F (176.6°C). It is used for salad dressings and low- or medium-heat cooking.
The relationship between dietary fats and blood pressure has not been definitively answered. However, evidence suggests that the multiple components of the "Mediterranean diet", i.e. low saturated fatty acids (SFAs), high monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), and carbohydrate, fiber, and micronutrient content have favorable blood pressure effects, and therefore that this diet is desirable for health. Dietary MUFAs may have a greater protective effect than initially realized.
Monounsaturated fatty acids – as contained in olive oil – reduce total and LDL cholesterol concentrations without reducing the levels of HDL cholesterol, thus leading to favorable changes in the serum lipid profile and possibly to changes in the physicochemical properties of lipoproteins. In this way olive oil, with its high monounsaturated fatty acid content, may contribute to the prevention and management of hypercholesterolemia, a dominant risk factor for the development of atherosclerosis, and to the prevention of CHD.
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