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Health Benefits of Olive Oil

Olive oil is a wonder ingredient, and its peppery smoothness lends itself to everything from summer salads to spicy pasta dishes. And, despite its high calorie content, it’s one of the healthiest oils to consume thanks to its high levels of monounsaturated fats. These are thought to lower ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, while maintaining or raising ‘good’ HDL cholesterol.

HDL cholesterol, or ‘good’ cholesterol, appears to scour the walls of blood vessels, cleaning out excess cholesterol. It then carries that excess cholesterol — which otherwise might have been used to make the “plaques” that cause coronary artery disease — back to the liver for processing. So when we measure a person’s HDL cholesterol level, we seem to be measuring how vigorously his or her blood vessels are being “scrubbed” free of cholesterol.

Olive oil plays an important role within the immune system as it protects it against bacteria and/or viruses. It also aids the digestive system by inhibiting gastric motility. Apart from its nutritional benefits, olive oil may assist with anti-aging by releasing anti-oxidants such as vitamin E and polyphenols and assisting in the lubrication of joints, thereby reducing the risk of bone degeneration.

When it comes to culinary olive oil, there are various grades:

  • Virgin olive oil means that the oil was produced without any chemical treatments. This type of oil is generally darker than refined olive oil.

  • Refined olive oil means that the oil was produced using chemicals and is of lower quality oil than virgin olive oil.

  • Extra virgin olive oil contains no more than 0.8% acidity, while virgin olive oil has an acidity of less than 2%.

  • Standard olive oil has 1% acidity, however, it commonly lacks a strong aroma and flavor.

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