As I’ve written about in the past, the 90’s completely screwed up our concept of what constitutes healthy foods. An entire population was brainwashed with the idea that fat = fattening. Researchers at the time the USDA’s food guide pyramid was released (allocating fats and oils – use sparingly – at the top) were concerned about increased rates of most chronic diseases. Unfortunately, they were correct.
This study, among many others, continues to prove just how errant this thinking was. This particular study finds that those consuming high amounts of olive oil had a 41% lower risk of stroke. Considering that some of the most popular diets, such as Weight Watchers, promote the replacement of olive oil based dressings with “low fat” dressings. These low fat dressings replace olive oil with high fructose corn syrup. Clearly a health devastating tradeoff, and yet one that remains a popular choice among those trying to lose weight or maintain an otherwise healthy lifestyle.
Well—in case there is any question in your mind that avoiding olive oil because it is high in fat—dispel it now. Olive oil, especially as a component of a Mediterranean type diet,has numerous health benefits. It aids in the absorption of certain fat soluble nutrients like the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, K as well as other phytonutrients like the fat soluble carotenoids. Lycopene, in particular, is high in Mediterranean diets because of the tomato intake.
Olive oil itself, particularly the cold pressed extra virgin forms, are very high in their own polyphenols that confer very high levels of protection.
A little tip when it comes to olive oil. There is no doubt that the less processed, the more virgin, the oil, the better it protects. So, these means the more expensive olive oils really are better for us. BUT…most of these polyphenols are destroyed by heat. This means that cooking with olive oil is likely to reduce the protective benefit of the expensive oils. It does still retain the benefits of the oil itself, however.
Bottom line is to keep two olive oils at the house. A more expensive one for the dips and dressings, and a less expensive oil for cooking. It’ll be a better use of your money.