Adding olive oil to your food can be a real health kick. Karen Fittall discovers why it’s so powerful and how to maximise its benefits.
Olive Oil Health Benefits
It’s no secret that olive oil is good for you. Rich in ‘healthy’ monounsaturated fat, it also contains antioxidant compounds called phenolics which have free-radical-scavenging properties so may be able to reduce oxidative damage to DNA. But what does that really mean for you? The latest research shows that olive oil can help your health in a host of different ways. Read on to discover just how.
Protects Against Breast Cancer
Stick to a Mediterranean diet supplemented with olive oil and your risk of breast cancer falls by 68 per cent.
The same diet supplemented with nuts doesn’t have the same effect. The reason? Olive oil suppresses the activity of genes and proteins that play a role in cancer development and growth.
Reduces Your Stroke Risk
Eat olive oil regularly and you’ll be 41 per cent less likely to have a stroke. One explanation is that olive oil’s antioxidants reduce levels of oxidised LDL, or ‘bad’, cholesterol – and the more LDL you have, the higher your stroke risk is.
Lowers Your Blood Pressure
Mix olive oil with vegetables that are rich in compounds called nitrites and nitrates (like spinach, celery and carrots), and the oil’s unsaturated fat combines with the compounds to form nitro fatty acids. Studies show that those acids lower blood pressure.
Cuts Your Risk Of Alzheimer’s
Olive oil contains oleocanthal, a phenolic compound that boosts the production of proteins and enzymes that remove beta-amyloid from the brain. Beta-amyloid is a protein that amyloid is a protein that creates plaques in the brain which cause Alzheimer’s disease.
Curbs Your Appetite
Eat a meal that contains olive oil and you’ll consume 700 fewer kilojoules during the rest of the day, because you’ll feel fuller for longer. Compared to other oils, olive oil triggers a bigger release of a satiety hormone and contains compounds that slow down how quickly food affects blood sugar levels, which is key to
How To Get The Biggest Benefit
Including more olive oil in your diet is good for your health, as long as you know how to choose, use and store it properly. Make sure you…
– Extra virgin olive oil. Because it’s made from fresh olive juice, it’s the highest and most nutrient-rich grade of olive oil, which means it offers the greatest health benefits. “If you see words like ‘pure olive oil’ or ‘light’ and ‘extra light’ on the label, it means the olive oil is refined, and is a much lower quality than extra virgin olive oil,” says dietitian Lisa Renn.
– An Australian-grown oil. According to tests commissioned by the Australian Olive Association (AOA), 85 per cent of the olive oils labelled as ‘extra virgin’ that are imported into Australia don’t meet Australian standards. Half of them failed because they tasted rancid or musty, while others were refined olive oil, not extra virgin.
AOA’s chief executive officer Lisa Rowntree says it means buying Australian grown oils is a smart move.
“Consumers can trust Australian extra virgin olive oil. Australian farmers use modern harvesting equipment, which means the olives are picked and pressed in the shortest amount of time, to maximise quality, flavour and antioxidant content.” To make sure you’re buying the best quality olive oil, look for the triangle-shaped Australian extra virgin certified trademark – certified oils undergo regular taste and chemical testings.
– An oil that’s as fresh as possible. Olive oil gets worse, not better, with age. “It is at its peak just a few months after pressing, and the nutrient content degrades over time,” says Renn. “So the fresher the oil, the greater the health benefits – and the better the taste.”
Check the label for the harvest and best-before dates. Choose an oil with a best-before date that’s at least 12 months away (but no greater than 24 months from the harvest date), and try to consume it within one year of harvest.
Once the bottle is opened, use the oil within four to six weeks. That will ensure it has the best flavour and health benefits. To achieve that, only buy as much oil as you need for the next few weeks.
– It in a cool, dark place. Three things cause olive oil to deteriorate: light, heat and air. “So we don’t recommend putting your bottle of extra virgin olive oil next to the oven,” says Rowntree. “Store it in a dark glass bottle in your pantry, and replace the lid as quickly as possible after you’ve used it, to avoid as much exposure to air as possible.”
– It for every type of cooking. You can use the same extra virgin olive oil to barbecue, roast, fry and dress a salad. “The ideal temperature for deep-frying food is 180°C, and a good-quality extra virgin olive oil has a high smoke point of 210°C, so you can definitely fry with it,” says Rowntree. In fact, research proves, compared to several other seed-based oils, olive oil is more stable at high temperatures, which helps to maintain the nutritional value of the food being cooked.
Pack your pantry with these Australian-grown extra virgin olive oils.
Cobram Estate Everyday Essentials range (375ml, $6.99). Comes in light, classic and robust, so you can mix and match depending on the dish you’re cooking.
The OliveTree Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil Fruity (500ml, $4.69). An olive oil with a fruity peppery flavour – ideal for dipping with crusty bread.
Red Island Australian ExtraVirgin Olive Oil Spray (150g, $3.99). Packed in a spray bottle, this is a good choice when you want lighter coverage.
Pukara Estate Truffle ExtraVirgin Olive Oil (500ml, $28.50). An earthy truffle flavour makes this oil a great match for mushroom dishes and risottos.
Grampians Olive Co Lemon Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil (375ml, $20). Australian lemons are cold pressed with organic olives to produce a bolder lemon flavour than infused oils.