The health benefits of olive oil

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The health benefits of olive oil



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 - The health benefits of olive oil
The health benefits of olive oil

We may be more known for fried chips and lardy cakes but the UK is finally making the switch to healthier olive oil.

The health benefits of olive oil speak for themselves. Olive oil is full of polyphenols and antioxidants - both known for their heath benefits. And of the varieties extra virgin olive oil is the most potent.

The Office of National Statistics confirmed that the UK consumed more than 28 million litres (approx. 25,760 tons) of olive oil in 2010 - a huge increase in the last ten years but still nowhere near our Mediterranean cousins in Spain, Italy and Greece!

There's some debate as to whether Greece is the world's biggest exporter of olive oil or if it's the Spanish who are by far the biggest consumers. They put away 555,000 tons last year!

These countries also report some of the lowest cardiovacular problems - especially when compared to countries like ours where animal fats (butter etc) are more widely used. Increasing your use of olive oil can reduce the risks of arteriosclerosis and heart attacks.

As the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest in the world and Jamie Olive Oil, sorry Oliver, coats everything he cooks in the stuff - it's about time you got involved with the olive oil revolution!

Olive oil can aid digestion and helps balance your metabolism. When consumed by children it's been seen to aid bone growth.

Olive oil is packed with health protecting monounsaturated fats and naturally has less calories than saturated fats. Plus it's high in vitamin E which is fantastic for skin - it's practically an anti-ageing beauty product too.

But it's not only a healthy choice; it's also a delicious one!

Differing types of olive oil are as varied as wines. The type of olive, the type of soil, the climate and the processing all effect the final flavour of the olive oil.

Fortunately getting to know olive oils is slightly easier than with wine - but there's a few things you need to know before you begin.

Teresa Perez, Director of The Interprofessional Olive Oil From Spain, gave us the low down on what to look out for:
  • Virgin olive oil is made from the "juice" of olives. The olives must be mechanically pressed without any chemicals being added.
  • Extra virgin olive oil is made from the best olives at the perfect ripeness.
  • Plain olive oil may be made from sub-standard olives either over ripe or under ripe and can be a mix of various types.
  • There are different types of oil which are good for different things - have at least four types of olive oil in your cupboard: for cooking, for dressing, for deep-frying, etc.
  • All olive oil must be kept away from sunlight as this degrades it.
  • Olive oil doesn't get better with age like wine, it's better fresh - so don't be afraid to use it!

Get olive oil into your diet

Interprofessional Olive Oil have long been trying to convert us Brits to the wonderful ways of olive oil and we're totally behind them.

“We are committed to increasing consumption of olive oil in Europe." Pedro Rubio, Vice-President of the Interprofessional Olive Oil from Spain, said, in a statement in 2010.

"The nutritional, health and environmental benefits of olive oil production and consumption are highlighted in this new Europe-wide campaign which sets out to enhance the consumer’s perception of olive oil as a healthy all-purpose cooking product, offering a wide range of dietary benefits and exceptional culinary attributes.”

Getting olive oil into your diet couldn't be easier. If you always put butter on the table for your bread then swap it for a small ramekin of extra virgin olive oil instead.

Have a tasting session with your friends: each bring a bottle of olive oil and baguette. Then taste for yourself the different types available - it's a good way to figure out what you like. We love the mild fruity varieties but maybe you'll prefer intense or ripe varieties.

Switch your sunflower or vegetable oil for olive oil in all recipes to make the most of the reduced calories and health benefits.

You can even make cake with olive oil!

To get you started we've put together a number of our favourite olive oil recipes.

Perfect for summer!





 
  

Food and Drink Editor
13/07/2011
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