In the Mediterranean diet, olive oil is the condiment par excellence: it is used both raw and for cooking, and nutritional experts recommend a certain daily amount to protect health. In summary, it is believed that daily consumption of olive oil, preferably extra virgin, is an excellent way to prevent certain diseases and slow aging, thanks to:
- Cellular protection, possible due to its high monounsaturated fatty acid content, active in countering the concentration of cholesterol.
- The activity of the many antioxidants that it contains, which fight free radicals and protect cells from inflammation.
SINU (the Italian Society of Human Nutrition) has called olive oil the key ingredient of the Mediterranean diet, and recommends a consumption of about 25 grams of olive oil a day, basically five teaspoons, to meet the average requirement of an adult eating around 2,000 calories (Kcal) a day.
There is oil and then there is oil
Many believe that consuming olive oil or vegetable oils is more or less the same thing. It's not exactly so.
As an alternative to olive oil it's possible to use single-seed oils such as: corn, peanut, sunflower, which provide roughly half of the monounsaturated fatty acids, but a higher amount of polyunsaturated and a similar dose of vitamin E.
Undoubtedly, these oils also promote health and can be eaten either raw or cooked, although some sources claim that monounsaturated fats from the plant world and polyunsaturated fats from fish are better. It's important to respect a balanced diet by using 25 g of extra virgin olive oil a day and three times a day a portion of fish of about 150 g.
Nutritional and protective characteristics
Being derived from a fruit (pressing of the pulp and pit), olive oil has unique nutritional and health properties.
First of all, the taste gives it a special personality that sets it apart from all other fats.
Olive oil's nutritional properties of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, plus vitamin E, provide numerous benefits both for prevention and fight against diseases such as hypercholesterolemia and diabetes, as well as cardiovascular diseases.
Its numerous polyphenols, along with vitamin E, carry out a formidable action against oxidative stress by slowing cellular aging and fighting serious diseases such as cancer.
- Olive oil rarely transforms to produce toxic substances: its smoke point when frying is well below the temperatures that are normally reached.
- It improves the symptoms of ulcers, gastritis, and acid reflux because it reduces the secretion of stomach acids.
- It acts on the secretion of the pancreatic juice that contains digestive enzymes to metabolize proteins.
- It improves the function of the liver, acting as a hepatoprotector.
- It helps the growth of long bones improving calcium absorption.
- The fatty acids help the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A and D.
- It supports intestinal function by improving bowel movement and preventing constipation.
At the table everyday
Without excess, but it should never be missing from the table: for those who feel it is too caloric (about 9 Kcal per gram), in addition to a moderate use, olive oil can also be transformed into an original condiment by adding aromas, spices, balsamic vinegars in addition to the traditional lemon juice. The aromas add flavor without adding oil. Instead, those who are underweight and need to gain a few pounds can easily consume more of it because it is easy to digest, in addition to the fact that it provides a lot of energy.
Those who have problems with appetite and are underweight should add a lot of olive oil to their plates, similarly to those who have problems swallowing, thanks to the fact that food becomes much softer with olive oil. Mothers should never do without during pregnancy and while weaning children up to six months. Olive oil contributes to the formation and growth of the bones and nervous system, as well as to enhancing the immune system and can thus help prevent infections.
More about tomatoes
In the Cilento area (Campania region), homeland of the Mediterranean diet, a snack meant eating a slice of bread, fresh tomato, olive oil and a pinch of salt.
Ripe tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil give this simple slice of bread a delicious taste, but there's more: this snack provides energy, good fats, vitamin E, A, and C, without exceeding 200 Kcal. It's difficult to match such a nutritious snack with only three ingredients!
The contents of this article are in accordance with the parameters set out by the European Food Safety Authority - EFSA.