Sometimes in one bite of Italian, Greek, or Spanish cuisine there seems to be more olive oil than bread, pasta, or salad. If you are of Italian, Greek or Spanish heritage this probably reminds you of home cooked meals, but some other places in the world are much less familiar with this ingredient. Researchers internationally have discovered and agreed that olive oil might just be one of the healthiest things for your heart, so if your kitchen cabinets aren't usually stocked with that extra virgin olive oil, make your way to the nearest Italian restaurant and get your fix.
Have you ever heard of the Mediterranean triad? No, this is nothing like the Bermuda Triangle. It is what Ancient Greek Cuisine was founded on and it includes grain, olives and grapes (some of you may prefer the wheat, olive oil and wine specification). These ingredients are still the heart (pun intended) of Mediterranean cuisine today. Medicinal Food News published an article stating that olive oil has received an endorsement from the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) that gives it a qualified health claim. This is only the third time that an entire food, rather than a food ingredient, has received USFDA endorsement. Olive oil is finally getting the publicity and credit it deserves. Combine that olive oil with leafy green vegetables and you are on your way to much more than just improved heart health and a good salad.
Research in Florence, Italy conducted by Dr. Domenico Palli and his team have concluded that a woman who eats one or more servings of leafy greens a day is 46 percent less likely to develop heart disease than a woman who eats less. Three tablespoons of olive oil a day provides, more or less, the same benefit. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published the eight year study, which collected data from approximately 30,000 Italian women. The study connected the cases of heart disease and dietary habits and revealed that the amount of leafy green vegetables and olive oil in the diet directly correlates to cardiac health.
Science Daily reports that Portuguese researchers also found that olive oil provides protection from heart attack, as well as stroke. Heart disease is explained to be caused in part by reactive oxygen, free radicals included, that acts on ?bad cholesterol? (LDL) and results in the hardening of arteries. Since red blood cells carry the body?s oxygen, they are especially susceptible to oxidative damage. The University of Porto?s lead researcher, Dr. Fatima Paiva-Martins said, ?These findings provide the scientific basis for the clear health benefits that have been seen in people who have olive oil in their diet.? Published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, this study used a free radical generating chemical to subject red blood cells to oxidative stress and then compared the effects that four related antioxidants had on those cells.
The antioxidant component DHPEA-EDA proved to be the most effective, even at low concentrations protected red blood cells. According to researchers this is the first evidence that this compound is the major source of olive oil?s health benefit. In fact, it could make up as much as half of the total antioxidant component in virgin olive oil. Dr. Palli explained to Reuters Health that studies, like the one in Portugal, on the ?Mediterranean Diet? were what his study on olive oil and leafy greens confirmed. ?Probably the mechanisms responsible for the protective effect of plant-origin foods on cardiovascular diseases involve micronutrients such as folate, antioxidant vitamins and potassium, all present in green leafy vegetables.?
Natural News stated that in addition to improving cardiac health, a green vegetable and olive oil rich diet has been shown to reduce breast cancer risk, help with prostate cancer, and also help those with type-2 diabetes. Lower inflammation, serum protein levels, and oxidative stress are promoted by the Mediterranean Diet. That means that your risk of high blood pressure, stroke, dyslipidemia, and coronary heart disease is decreased. Including olive oil and leafy green vegetables in your diet will help to maintain a healthy weight and lessen the chance for obesity, and provide the health benefits that can possibly stop and help Alzheimer?s disease and other forms of dementia, and even lengthen lifespan.
It seems we are still learning from the ancient Greeks and Romans, and how to improve our health is a great thing for us to learn. So what?s not to lose? Just be careful not to use this as an excuse to eat more pasta, because you might gain a few pounds that way.