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Diet

Photo courtesy of Moyan_Brenn(CC Attribution)

The existence of our establishment and increased media coverage over the quality of extra virgin olive oil, all point to one common fact. Olive Oil consumption is on the rise in unprecedented ways. This is in alignment as people begin moving towards adopting a healthier lifestyle and are increasing their health awareness. A simple navigation of olive oil culture on the internet will instantly lead you to the resounding ‘Health Benefits of Olive Oil!’ as people are eager to share what has been long established in the Mediterranean region. 

Consuming quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil is good for your health. 

The oil produced from the olive fruit has wide ranging health benefits that are easily incorporated into a healthy lifestyle. Among the listed benefits are ‘high antioxidants’, ‘polyphenols’, ‘oleocanthal’, ‘anti-inflammatory’ and others. Though these are great to know, many still feel slightly vague and lack a complete understanding of how that relates to us as individuals. 

So I’d like to take a moment and break down to the basics of why and how, extra virgin olive oil, as a natural food source, provides nutrition to the body. 

First, we’ll mention the antioxidants and in order to address them, one must first consider the oxidation process. 

When you leave an apple on the table, it begins to rot. A once shiny new bicycle, at the mercy of the elements, will eventually rust. 

This occurs because of oxidation which in simplest terms, is when objects lose electrons to oxygen molecules. They then become what are called ‘free radicals’. The same event that affects the apple and the bike chain also happens inside our bodies as oxidation is a naturally recurring byproduct of many biological functions including converting food to energy. The smoke created when burning a necessary fire. 

It is very undesirable to have these free radicals (smoke from fire) in our bodies as they are liable to cause damage at a cellular level, so in order to address the problem, our bodies need antioxidants. 

Antioxidants are able to bind to these free radicals and ‘neutralize’ them so they no longer pose an issue. 

Scientists have discovered thousands of types of antioxidants in food and many are indicated by color alone. (by rule of thumb) 

Blue/Purple Foods provide Anthocyanin which benefits the heart and blood production. To be found in eggplants, blueberries, and blackberries. 

Red foods indicate the presence of Lycopene (carotenoid), a substance that has been linked to the reduction of various cancers and may be consumed from Tomatoes, Watermelons, and Guava.

Yellow/Orange foods will often be high-level carriers of Beta-Cryptoxanthine and Beta-Carotene, and is amply found in Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Pumpkins,and Cantaloupe. They help the body produce vitamin A and support good eye health. 

                     

Extra virgin olive oil is host most notably to

  • Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)- Boost immunity, Acts as antioxidant
  • Hydroxytyrosol– Prevents blood clots
  • Oleuropein– Encourages nitric acid production; Relaxes blood vessels and has strong anti-bacterial properties

A refined oil originating from a fruit, olive oil still maintains properties associated with the fruit food group with the inclusion of minerals such as Vitamins E and C (an antioxidant).

 

Infused!

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Moving Forward,

Olive oil is one of many known good sources of monounsaturated fats. Others would include avocado, select nuts and seeds (walnuts, pumpkin seeds, hazelnuts, etc), and both sunflower and safflower oils. Though progress has been made, our country is still recovering from the dominant marketing from the 40s through the 80s (and perhaps later) that ‘Fat is bad’ as people rather still, by habit, opt for ‘low fat’ foods without knowing anything about ‘fats‘ as components of biological function and not just something hanging off the sides of another’s hips. 

“But this message was lost in translation. What did Americans hear? Fat is bad; carbs are good.

And the food industry saw the low-fat, high-carb mantra as an opportunity to create a whole new range of products. Fat-free frozen yogurt, fat-free muffins and cookies — the formula was: Take out the fat; add lots of sugar.”

It turns out, though, that fat is our premier source of energy and by nature, we crave it because of essential qualities in how our bodies operate. We want it and we need it.  

But when it comes to fat, quality is everything. 

The best fats we can consume are monounsaturated fats, and these are among many types of fats available in the diet. Other fats, that we’ll briefly describe, include 

  • Trans Fats– these are bad, stay away from them at all costs
  • Saturated Fats– Common, vary in quality from cooled grease to coconut oil (the latter is better for you) Always go for naturally occurring sources of saturated fats in moderation with your diet
  • Polyunsaturated Fats Essential Fats. Sunflower oil, Safflower oil, Salmon Mackerel, flaxseed (Omega 3s and 6s sources)

and rounding back to our subject, 

  • Monounsaturated Fats!

Also known as MUFAs, Monounsaturated fats are amongst the healthiest as they provide prosperous advantages to a healthier life such as

  • Decreased risk of developing various cancers
  • Regulation of cholesterol
  • Aids in controlling  blood sugar
  • Anti-inflammatory (mild pain relief, oleocanthal)

    These are only a few of the immediate benefits of monounsaturated fats. 

Oil Green Bottles

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Also, there is one organ that uses up 20% of your metabolic energy and 60% fat by weight…

your brain!

Your brain craves fat and to function properly it needs these monounsaturated fats. Research has evidenced that olive oil consumption to play a role in 

  • Improving Memory and Learning
  • Stimulates new brain cell formation 
  • Protects against Dementia 

Sounds like a miracle food source, but it certainly can’t all be wine and roses, right? 

There is one indigenous truth in olive oil being primarily composed of fat. One may begin to make the argument that it’s a high-calorie food, at 120 calories per tablespoon (regardless of the quality, ‘light olive oil’ being a marketing term). Now I’m also to say that this is too a beneficial trait to Homer’s “liquid gold”. There are many people who opt for a lifestyle with less red meats and few carbohydrates, and when they turn to a mostly plant based diet with select fish, they realize, real food is rarely ever high in calories. 

Per 100 grams, calories look like

Kale 50 calories 

Apple 52 Calories

Salmon 208 calories

Grass Fed Beef 4 oz. roughly 175 calories

Cake made at home from recipe averages 250 calories

So a salmon dinner with a side of vegetables and upwards of two tablespoons of olive oil will provide the body with roughly 600 or 700 calories with variation and even a steak dinner with vegetables and olive oil might put you in that same range or even less because salmon, per gram, has more calories than other meats, even though it is universally acknowledged to be healthier. 

So in reality, even shooting for a 2,000 calorie daily intake, one would still have to eat a very large amount of food if you claim to be sticking to a healthy lifestyle. Alternatively, reasons to keep caloric intake high extend to gaining weight healthily on a monitored diet, dressing up low-calorie salads or add the final caloric punch to a salmon over greens dinner. It must be noted that 

The average American by some measures, consume nearly 4,000 calories daily, (unsurprisingly) beating every other country in the world. 

While not every study agrees on the number, all point to the fact that it’s excessive and most people don’t take into account that calories are meant to supply energy and used accordingly. 

Of note, olive oil consumption is always best beneficial to a healthy lifestyle which includes regular exercise. Something as simple as walking is enough to compliment the gains of olive oil as consumption supports cardiovascular health. 

There are many ways to integrate olive oil into your life another being linking it to your yoga practice as both are very old world traditions that have supported the mindset of leading naturally long and healthy lives. 

Half-ripe olives - Kyneton Olives

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This is hopefully a greater understanding into the specific antioxidants found in olive oil along with other benefits and where they stand in relation to other health foods and your body in general. In future posts, we’ll discuss more into the polyphenols, phenols, cholesterol-protection, and other health aspects of olive oil, but one bite a time. Today, there is constant research into olive oil that is often re-discovering the medicinal-like properties of olive oil as a bioavailable food product. 

In closing, I do want to emphasize the importance of choosing quality olive oil. In addition to the nutritional properties of olive oil, it has also been clinically proven that low-quality olive oil has little to no health benefits. In order to get the benefits, one must opt for an established quality, Extra Virgin Olive Oil. 

I can say with pride that The Olive Tap in Charlotte, does have a strict tasting panel and selection process ensuring that only the most premium of artisan oils ever make it to our shelves

Matthew

The Olive Tap, Ballantyne

REFERENCE LINKS

Why we got fat during the fat-free boom

Olive Oil and the Brain

Benefits of a ‘Rainbow Diet’

Need to Know about fats

WebMD Fats

Healthy Omegas

What are antioxidants? Breaking down the health benefits of olive oil and what it means to you and your body

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