Olive oil and health
Olive oil 101
Olive oil is the key component of the 'Mediterranean diet'; the way of drinking, eating and cooking of the people around the Mediterranean Sea that is generally assumed to be the reason why that region has so few cases of cardio-vascular disease and even of certain types of cancer.
One should minimize eating fat in most cases – after all, a tablespoon of olive oil (13,5g) has 119 calories! - but a healthy human body needs fat to survive and Can Solivera extra virgin olive oil provides plenty of the best. It is composed of no less than 87% of unsaturated fatty acids, mainly of the Omega-9 type, but also some Omega-6 and Omega-3. Good news for your heart and blood vessels as especially mono-unsaturated fat (73% in olive oil) is considered beneficiary. Olive oil does not contain trans-fats, cholesterol or sodium.
Olive oil is since a couple of decennia under close scrutiny by a score of medical research institutes and food scientists, interested to unravel its amazing scope of health promoting properties. Although in some cases there is still lack of clear-cut evidence confirmed by high quality double blind tests, the following list of substances, by no means conclusive, but all found and isolated in fresh extra virgin olive oil, are widely accepted as important and generally beneficial for the human health:
Vitamin E – (alpha-tocopherol) - slows the ageing process, protects the nervous system and widens the blood vessels – 1 tablespoon of olive oil provides 8% of RDA (U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance)
Vitamin K - required for the blood clotting process – 1 tablespoon of olive oil provides 10% of RDA (U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance) .
Polyphenols – a group of more than 30 phenolic compounds, accounting for a fruity flavor in early harvested Extra Virgin Olive Oil, thereby extending its shelf life. These compounds include powerful vitamins and anti-oxidants and can be divided in lipophilic (fat-loving) such as tocopherols (vitamine E) and hydrophilic (water-loving) phenols such as phenolic acids, alcohols, hydroxyl-isochromans, flavonoids, secoiridoids, lignans and pigments. Especially many hydrophilic phenols are exclusive of the Olea Europaea species (olive oil producing trees) endowing it with special chemotaxonomic and nutraceutical interest.
In general: polyphenols are believed to act as powerful anti-oxidants, absorbing free radicals and having a positive impact on cardiovascular disease and certain forms of cancer. They include Tyrosol and the esters of Hydroxytyrosol (easing neurodegenerative problems like Alzheimer's disease), Oleuropein (anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-viral as confirmed in several clinical studies and also available now as a food supplement in pharmacies) and a lipid found in Philadelphia in 2005 called Oleocanthal (acting like the anti-inflammatory agent Ibuprofen, albeit to a lesser extent).
Sterols, such as betaSitosterol – a compound chemically related to cholesterol, but shown in clinical tests to protect the prostate against benign prostatic hyperplasia (BHP),
Squalene – perhaps the most important anti-oxidant of them all.
All the above mentioned amazingly beneficial chemical compounds and substances are by no means exclusive to the olive tree as they are plentiful in the Kingdom of the Plants. But it is grateful to see so many of them together in one plant, Oliva Europaea, which not only puts them in the oil, but moreover stores this oil mainly in the fibers of the fruits rather than the seeds. It gave early mankind the opportunity to obtain the nectar by simply pressing the fruit at ambient temperature. A gift of life. Almost all other plants store their oil only in the seeds. Impossible to reach easily.