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     Volume 6 Issue 15 | April 20, 2007 |

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Samin Mortada

For centuries, the nutritional, cosmetic and medicinal benefits of olive oil have been recognised by the people of the Mediterranean. Olive oil was used to maintain skin and muscle suppleness, heal abrasions, and soothe the burning and drying effects of sun and water. Olive oil was administered both internally, and externally - for health and beauty. In the late twentieth century the American scientists found a distinct connection between the Mediterranean Diet and lower incidences of health problems.

Today, olive oil is popular than ever and plays a pivotal part in the cuisines in almost all the culture. There are over 800 million olive trees in the world today with more being planted every single day.

Epidemiological studies suggest that higher proportion of monounsaturated fats in the diet is linked with a reduction in the risk of Coronary Heart Disease; and olive oil is considerably rich in monounsaturated fats, most notably oleic acid. Studies in the health benefits of olive oil have found that it can lower the risk of coronary heart disease by reducing blood cholesterol levels and that olive oil may influence body fat distribution, with less fat stored around the stomach. Praveen Chandra, senior consulting cardiologist of Max Heart and Vascular Institute, India, says that there is not a single cooking oil that is perfect for our health, but the best amongst all is olive oil. It contains a low amount of saturated fat that helps in maintaining the cholesterols in the body at a desirable level. It greatly reduces the chances of heart attacks.

Olive oil contains large amount of antioxidants as well and reduces the effects of aging and increases life expectancy significantly. Many food experts strongly suggest a gradual shift from normal cooking oil to olive oil, simply because of its vast benefit on health; content wise olive oil is the healthiest of all. Research has now proven that consuming olive oil can actually help lower harmful LDL cholesterol and the antioxidants in the oil discourage artery clogging and chronic diseases, including cancer. This oil is good for the digestive system, activates the secretion of bile and pancreatic hormones much more naturally than prescribed drugs, lowers the incidence of gallstone formation, acts as a mild laxative, is a friend to the intestine and an enemy of ulcers and gastritis, and is a good tonic, with specific benefits for people suffering from heart disease.

Olive oil has been regarded as the "beauty oil". The body's cells incorporate the valuable fatty acids from the oil, making arteries more supple and skin more lustrous. Simply put, olive oil is a panacea, the perfect oil for all ages. Spanish researchers say that including olive oil in your diet may also offer benefits in terms of colon cancer prevention. In short, olive oil means good health and development for us and our children.

Generally, olive oil is extracted by pressing or crushing olives. Olive oil comes in different varieties, depending on the amount of processing involved. They are: Extra Virgin, Virgin, Pure and Extra Light. The lesser the oil is handled and the more it is in its natural state the better is the quality of oil. The oil that comes from the first pressing of olive, without the use of heat or chemical is known as the Extra Virgin; the one extracted from the second pressing is Virgin; pure olive oil undergoes some processing; while light or extra light considerable processing and retains only a mild flavour.

Therefore if you wish to obtain a bottle make sure you go for the one with the Extra Virgin status. And after you buy it remember to give it that extra little care and attention, meaning always store the oil in a cool and dark place and remember to keep it tightly sealed. Oxygen promotes rancidity and it can easily go rancid when exposed to air, light or high temperatures. All said and done, using olive oil for daily consumption can be pretty hard on your wallet, but if you think you can afford it and you believe in leading a healthy and pleasant life, there is every reason you should make olive oil a part of your palate. After all, it is one of the best nutritional gifts you can offer to yourself and your family!



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