Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Food of the Week . . . Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Did you know that countries where people use olive oil regularly, especially in place of other fats, have much lower rates of heart disease, atherosclerosis, diabetes, colon cancer, and asthma? These countries enjoy a Mediterranean-style diet, which studies continue to uncover as being among the healthiest in the world. For example, one study, which followed participants for over six years, discovered that those most closely following a Mediterranean 'olive oil and salad' dietary pattern had a 50% reduced risk of overall mortality! Another study published in the British Journal of Nutrition suggests that the naturally high concentration of phenolic compounds with their antioxidant properties found in extra-virgin olive oil, (that is properly cold pressed and stored in opaque containers), may be one of the key reasons for the lower incidence of cancer and cardiovascular disease in the Mediterranean region. The monounsaturated fats in olive oil have also been found to be used by the body to produce substances which are relatively anti-inflammatory. By reducing inflammation, these fats can help reduce the severity of arthritis symptoms, and may be able to prevent or reduce the severity of asthma. And not least of all, let's not forget it's great flavor!

 Olive oil is made from the crushing and then subsequent pressing of olives. The fact that olives are rich in oil is reflected in the botanical name of the olive tree-Olea europea- since the word "oleum" means oil in Latin. Extra virgin olive oil is derived from the first pressing of the olives and has the most delicate flavor and most antioxidant benefits.

Health Benefits

Pure, extra virgin olive oil is not only a light and delicate addition to many wonderful dishes, it is one of the most health-promoting types of oils available. Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fat, a type of fat that researchers are discovering has excellent health benefits

Practical Tips:

Instead of serving butter, fill a small condiment dish with extra virgin olive oil for use on bread, rolls, potatoes or other vegetables.

For even more flavor, try adding a few drops of balsamic vinegar or a sprinkling of your favorite spices to the olive oil.

To get the most health benefit and flavor from your olive oil, buy and store oil in opaque containers, and add olive oil to foods immediately after cooking.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas:

Use extra virgin olive oil in your salad dressings.

Purée roasted garlic, cooked potatoes and extra virgin olive oil together to make exceptionally delicious garlic mashed potatoes. Season to taste.
Drizzle extra virgin olive oil over healthy sautéed vegetables before serving.
Purée extra virgin olive oil, garlic and your favorite beans together in a food processor. Season to taste and serve as a dip.

Instead of putting the butter dish out on the table, place a small cup of extra virgin olive oil out instead to use on your bread or rolls. For extra flavor, try adding a little Balsamic vinegar or any of your favorite spices to the extra virgin olive oil.