The Olive Oil of Greece

Health Benefits

Olive oil in our daily diet is the main ingredient for healthy, wholesome living. The content in monounsaturated fatty acids has been shown to protect against heart disease by boosting ‘good’ (HDL) and reduce ‘bad’ cholesterol (HDL). Also, research has found evidence of it being protective against diabetes since it appears to help in the regulation of blood sugar levels, unlike other forms of fat such as saturated and polyunsaturated.

Olive oil is an excellent source of the fat soluble vitamins A, D, K, E and polyphenols, which have been indicated as safeguards from certain types of cancer (breast, colon, prostate, etc.). Due to its antioxidant action it slows cell aging and increases the life cycle, helps in proper functioning of the digestive system and improves skin health. The nutrients olive oil contains play a key role in fetal development during pregnancy and deficiency in one of them can have a negative effect.

Olive oil appears to have a favourable effect on bone calcification. It helps calcium absorption, thereby playing an important part during the period of growth and in the prevention of osteoporosis.

These are just a few of the beneficial properties of olive oil which is an elixir of life, health and longevity.

OLIVE OIL: THE SCIENCE BEHIND HEALTH BENEFITS

Olive oil is a key part of the Mediterranean diet, thought to have health benefits such as lowering the risk of heart disease. But how did Southern European countries come to add it to their food, and what is it doing to our health?

Olive oil has been the basis of the Mediterranean diet for thousands of years. The ancient-Greek poet Homer even referred to olive oil as “liquid gold”, whilst Hippocrates called it the “great healer” and prescribed it for many medical conditions.

Omega 3 fatty acids

The Omega 3 fatty acids belong to the “good” polyunsaturated fatty acids, also called “essential” because they can not be synthesized by our bodies and must be obtained from food. In relevant studies omega 3 have been proven to have beneficial properties for the human body:

  1. They prevent breast cancer and other cancers such as colon and prostate cancer.
  2. They are good for heart health. It has been shown that they reduce the risk of blood clots and stroke, the chances of developing irregular heartbeat, sudden death and blood pressure.
  3. They reduce triglycerides of plasma and increase levels of HDL-cholesterol.
  4. They contribute to the healthy development of the fetal nervous system, eyes and brain of the fetus.
  5. They assist in weight loss, omega-3 normalizes metabolism of food and reduces the feeling of hunger.
  6. They reduce pain and inflammation found in afflictions such as rheumatoid arthritis.
  7. They improve mental health and are beneficial against the onset of depression.

Basic nutritional principles

Include in your diet foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Such as oily fishes (salmon, tuna, trout, etc.), nuts, flaxseed, egg, green leafy vegetables and vegetable protein sources such as peas and beans. Consume olive oil daily as the main source of fat. Olive oil contains mostly monounsaturated fatty acids (beneficial for the health and resistant to oxidation) and has excellent balance of omega-3 to omega 6 fatty acids, similar to that found in breast milk (approximately 10:1). The importance of balance and proportion is very high, because a diet higher in omega-6 than omega-3 fatty acid consumption can change the human physiology. Omega-6 fatty acids, (when consumption is very high) can lead to inflammation, thrombosis and vessel narrowing. It is worth noting that olive oil contains much less omega-6 fatty acids in comparison with other vegetable oils such as corn oil, soybean oil, etc. By putting on our table foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and consuming olive oil on a daily basis we create a protective shield around us.

History

Greeks were the first to cultivate the olive tree in about 2500 BC and during the Minoan Era in Crete olive oil served as the foundation of the Cretan economy. As has been shown by archaeological discoveries at Knossos from the Minoan Era, were treated olives and produce oil stored in earthenware jars and amphoras and are often exported to the islands of the Aegean and central Greece.

The Minoans used olive oil in religious ceremonies, in medicine, in sports and in daily life as a basic product for feeding, lighting and heating.

The olive tree and its blessed fruit from the past and until today are still symbols of knowledge, peace, health and strength. In recent years, the international medical and nutritionists recommend olive oil as an essential dietary nutrient for ensuring health and longevity.

Homer called it “Liquid gold” and Hippocrates the “Great healer”. An olive branch called “Kotinos”, was the golden medal awarded at the Ancient Olympic Games.