Benefits of Olive Oil
Choosing Olive Oil
Olive oil, once used in the U.S. primarily by immigrants from Mediterranean countries and adventurous gourmets, is now mainstream. In 2012, Americans consumed over 320 metric tons – more than 10 times the amount consumed in 1972. This is good news, as olive oil has the highest percentage of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat of any edible oil, and quality brands contain abundant antioxidants – substances that have been shown to provide cardiovascular and anti-cancer effects.
When choosing olive oil, Dr. Weil recommends buying small bottles of certified organic, extra virgin olive oil. Check the label for the ICEA (Istituto per la Certificazione Etica e Ambientale, which means Ethical and Environmental Certification Institute) logo, and that of another organic certification body such as the USDA’s green-and-white ORGANIC logo. Quality extra virgin olive oil should have a natural peppery finish and a deep, “green” aroma of grass and artichoke. Such oils are not cheap, because they rely on careful cultivation that preserves olive oil’s legendary taste and health benefits. But the reward is more than worth it.
Healthiest Bread Spread?
When it comes to spreads for your bread, Dr. Weil is a longtime proponent of extra virgin olive oil. Its heart-healthy fats are a much better choice than margarine. Margarine was originally developed as a cheap substitute for butter, and has evolved from some fairly unappealing animal-based ingredients into a vegetable-oil based spread with added chemicals that make it more flavorful and easier to spread. To achieve that solid, spreadable consistency, margarine manufacturers add hydrogenated vegetable oil, creating unhealthy compounds that may contribute to heart disease and stroke. In addition, the heat and chemicals used to harden vegetable oils produce trans-fatty acids (TFAs), which can contribute to heart disease, increase cancer risks, promote inflammation and accelerate tissue degeneration.
Butter is definitely the better choice. In fact, some recent studies suggest that natural saturated fats, such as those found in butter, may not significantly contribute to cardiovascular disease, though further study is warranted. In any case, butter is closer to a whole food than margarine. If you must opt for a spread that is not extra virgin olive oil, try natural, organic butter in limited quantities.