Olive Oil, Your Health, Your Kitchen

Extra virgin olive oil is becoming such a symbol of healthy eating that it is hard to believe that it was once accused of increasing the harmful cholesterol. It was a fat, so it needed to be bad for us. Fortunately, we left those times behind and now olive oil & most fats are far better understood.

The main reason olive oil is healthy is because it is rich in healthy monounsaturated fatty acids. About 75% of this monounsaturated fat is oleic acid, that is very stable even at high temperatures. Moreover, the body processes oleic acid easier than other essential fatty acids.

Secondly, organic extra virgin essential olive oil also contains high degrees of antioxidants like phenols, and vitamins E and A, which fight free radicals and therefore prevent premature aging. Those antioxidants help neutralize the oxidation process, which is common to alls fats, and preserve the properties of olive oil too.

So, the fact that essential olive oil is with the capacity of resisting oxidation at higher temperatures superior to seed oils helps it be the safest vegetable oil for frying.

Many in the non-Mediterranean industrialized countries feel uneasy whenever a Mediterranean recipe demands frying in essential olive oil. Frying is an old cooking technique that’s very popular in the Mediterranean cuisines. It really is as much an integral part of the healthy traditional Mediterranean diet as consuming raw essential olive oil with bread and salads.

Some olive oil strategies for the kitchen

When heated up, essential olive oil expands in volume and food absorbs it less than other cooking oils. Therefore, you need a smaller quantity of essential olive oil.

If it didn’t burn in your frying pan, it is possible to reuse olive oil around three times. Some say even five times, but I personally never use it more than twice.

Olive oil transmits flavors between foods, so never fry meat in olive oil you used to fry fish and vice versa. My grandmother always kept a jar for fish and one for meat close to the olive oil bottle. It is the best way never to get flavors mixed up.

Finally, essential olive oil looks thicker than other vegetable oils, but this is only appearance as, contrary to popular belief, it does not have any more calories than sunflower oil, for instance.

Olive oil for the health

In the 13th century Arnau de Vilanova, doctor of the Catalan royal family, already realized a moderate intake of olive oil enhanced the vital functions of the body. EB1-A In the 20th century, the late American doctor, Ancel Keys MD, documented that the essential olive oil based Mediterranean diet reduces the chance of cardiovascular disease.

We see that contemporary research has confirmed what the Mediterranean peoples knew and practiced intuitively all along.

Heart disease may be the Achilles’ heel of modern societies living at a frantic pace. Since Dr. Keys and his followers realized that we in the Mediterranean have an improved cardiovascular health, the initial medical studies on olive oil focused mainly on that area.

They proved that essential olive oil balances the cholesterol levels, can decrease the risk of a heart attack, can play a role in preventing arteriosclerosis, and fights high blood pressure.

Later, research was extended to other areas like digestion, cancer, and diabetes. The results have already been very positive and olive oil usually comes through with flying colors.

One particular study concluded that with only two tablespoons of virgin essential olive oil every day you can begin to experience the health benefits that the Mediterranean peoples have enjoyed for such a long time. Incorporating it naturally into your eating practices is easy.

How to integrate essential olive oil in your eating practices

The easiest way is to get into the habit of drizzling olive oil over slices of bread or toasts, eating it as a dressing for sandwiches instead of butter, and adding it to salads with some salt.

Wherever you go in the Mediterranean, Morocco, Provence, Tunisia, Italy, Greece, Catalonia, Andalusia, or Majorca, you’ll find people eating their own combination of bread and raw olive oil.

As a Catalan I eat pa amb tomaquet, literally bread with tomato, almost every day: as part of my breakfast, as a snack, or, I admit, when I am too lazy to prepare dinner. It’s the Catalan bruschetta, so to state, and you will prepare it very quickly with slices of bread or toasts, both are fine.

Here is the most elementary recipe for pa amb tomaquet. Cut a very ripe tomato crosswise, rub the bread with half on both sides, drizzle essential olive oil liberally over the bread and sprinkle some salt.

It is possible to eat it plain or add any topping and accompaniment you like: prosciutto-style or cooked ham, cheese, tuna fish, an omelet, anchovies, figs, olives. Even with a chocolate bar at tea or coffee time, it may sound weird, but it is delicious.

Other recipes with raw essential olive oil are authentic allioli, salads with essential olive oil dressing, cold sauces like romesco, and sopa de farigola or thyme soup. As the Catalan saying goes: Sopa sense oli no val un dimoni, literally, Soup without oil isn’t worth a devil, and therefore a soup without oil is junk.