Olive Oil, Your Health, Your Kitchen

Extra virgin olive oil has become this type of symbol of healthy eating that it’s hard to believe that it had been once accused of increasing the harmful cholesterol. It had been a fat, so it had to be bad for us. Fortunately, we left those times behind and now olive oil and most fats are far better understood.

The main reason essential olive oil is healthy is because it is rich in healthy monounsaturated essential fatty acids. About 75% of this monounsaturated fat is oleic acid, which is very stable even at high temperatures. Moreover, our body processes oleic acid easier than other essential fatty acids.

Secondly, organic extra virgin olive oil also contains high degrees of antioxidants like phenols, and vitamins E and A, which fight free radicals and therefore prevent premature aging. Those antioxidants help neutralize the oxidation process, which is common to alls fats, and preserve the properties of essential olive oil too.

So, the fact that olive oil is with the capacity of resisting oxidation at higher temperatures much better than seed oils makes it the safest vegetable oil for frying.

Many in the non-Mediterranean industrialized countries feel uneasy whenever a Mediterranean recipe demands frying in olive oil. Frying is an old cooking technique that is very popular in the Mediterranean cuisines. It really is as much a fundamental element of the healthy traditional Mediterranean diet as consuming raw olive oil with bread and salads.

Some olive oil strategies for the kitchen

When heated up, essential olive oil expands in volume and food absorbs it significantly less than other cooking oils. Therefore, you need a smaller quantity of essential olive oil.

If it didn’t burn in your frying pan, it is possible to reuse olive oil up to three times. Some say even five times, but I personally never utilize it more than twice.

Essential olive oil transmits flavors between foods, so never fry meat in olive oil you used to fry fish and vice versa. My grandmother always kept a jar for fish and one for meat next to the olive oil bottle. It’s the best way not to get flavors mixed up.

Finally, essential olive oil looks thicker than other vegetable oils, but that is only appearance as, contrary to popular belief, it has no more calories than sunflower oil, for example.

Olive oil for the health

In the 13th century Arnau de Vilanova, doctor of the Catalan royal family, already realized that a moderate intake of olive oil enhanced the vital functions of the body. In the 20th century, the late American doctor, Ancel Keys MD, documented that the essential olive oil based Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.

We note that contemporary research has confirmed what the Mediterranean peoples knew and practiced intuitively all along.

Heart disease may be the Achilles’ heel of modern societies living at a frantic pace. Since Dr. Keys and his followers realized that people in the Mediterranean have a better cardiovascular health, the initial medical studies on olive oil focused mainly on that area.

They proved that essential olive oil balances the cholesterol levels, can decrease the risk of a coronary attack, can are likely involved in preventing arteriosclerosis, and fights raised blood pressure.

Later, research was extended to the areas like digestion, cancer, and diabetes. The outcomes have been very positive and olive oil usually comes through with flying colors.

One particular study concluded that with only two tablespoons of virgin essential olive oil every day you can start to experience the health benefits that the Mediterranean peoples have enjoyed for such a long time. Incorporating it naturally into your eating practices is simple.

How to integrate essential olive oil in your eating practices

The easiest way is to get into the habit of drizzling olive oil over slices of bread or toasts, eating it as a dressing for sandwiches rather than butter, and adding it to salads with some salt.

media coverage Wherever you go in the Mediterranean, Morocco, Provence, Tunisia, Italy, Greece, Catalonia, Andalusia, or Majorca, you will discover people eating their own mix of bread and raw essential olive oil.

As a Catalan I eat pa amb tomaquet, literally bread with tomato, almost every day: as part of my breakfast, as a snack, or, I admit, when I am too lazy to cook dinner. It’s the Catalan bruschetta, so to say, and you may prepare it very quickly with slices of bread or toasts, both are fine.

Here is the most basic recipe for pa amb tomaquet. Cut a very ripe tomato crosswise, rub the bread with half on both sides, drizzle olive oil liberally over the bread and sprinkle some salt.

You can eat it plain or add any topping and accompaniment you prefer: prosciutto-style or cooked ham, cheese, tuna fish, an omelet, anchovies, figs, olives. Despite having a chocolate bar at coffee or tea time, it could sound weird, nonetheless it is delicious.

Other recipes with raw olive oil are authentic allioli, salads with olive oil dressing, cold sauces like romesco, and sopa de farigola or thyme soup. As the Catalan saying goes: Sopa sense oli no val un dimoni, literally, Soup without oil isn’t worth a devil, and therefore a soup with no oil is junk.