Food Item of the Week: Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Not only does it taste good, this oil has a plethora of health benefits. As a monounsaturated fat, olive oil is a wonderful source of omega-3’s, oleic acid, and phenols that are high in antioxidants. Monounsaturated fat has been proven to lower LDL cholesterol levels, raise HDL cholesterol levels, decreas blood pressure, and has even been said to decrease the risk of colon and bowel cancer.
Olive oil comes in various forms, but extra virgin has proved to be the healthiest. What does “extra virgin” really mean? It is the best kind of olive oil to have because it is the least processed. This entails the olives being organically hand-picked and then the oil is extracted from the remnants of the olives without the use of heat, hot water, or any solvents. Extra virgin indicates that it comes from this “first press” of the olives and is not refined. This lack of processing and refinement conserves the vitamins, essential fatty acids, antioxidants, and other nutrients. It is in its most pure form, which is the type of foods we want to stick with!
I use extra virgin olive oil in my homemade salad dressings, to grill veggies, and when cooking nearly anything in a pan. It is a wonderful heart-healthy cooking replacement for butter and a more natural one than margarine. Watch your serving sizes though folks, it has 120 calories/1 Tablespoon and, like most fats of any kind, should be used in moderation.