Oil is typically synonymous with fat, but not all oils are created equal. Olive oil has been touted for years as a healthy option for cooking and is even believed to be the secret ingredient behind the heart healthy Mediterranean diet.
What’s more, the ancient Greeks believed olive oil had supernatural powers and in folk medicine, olive oil has been used for every thing from curing hangovers to being used as a laxative.
The health benefits of olive oil—which is naturally cholesterol, sodium and carbohydrate-free—are endless. Studies have shown that olive oil can protect against bowel cancer, lower cholesterol, help lower your risk of heart disease, prevent age-related bone mass loss, protects the liver from oxidative stress, may help prevent a stroke in older people, and consuming extra virgin olive oil helps combat degenerative diseases like cancer.
It also doesn’t hurt that olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (the good fat). Additionally, a study published in the British Medical Journal found that eating food fried in olive oil is not linked to heart disease or premature death.
Skeptical? Consider this: Olive oil merely coats fried food instead of penetrating them and thus, is less greasy. If you’re looking to see how you can incorporate olive oil in your day-to-day cooking, then look no more!
Here are some quick easy ways to incorporate the oil in your food so you too can reap the health benefits of olive oil:
- Substitute one whole egg with one egg white and a teaspoon of olive oil in your favorite recipes for a low cholesterol alternative.
- Drizzle olive oil over salad, cooked pasta, or vegetables.
- Opt for olive oil instead of butter for your toast or mashed potatoes.
- When preparing marinades and sauces for meat, fish, poultry, and vegetables, opt for olive oil.
- Olive oil extends the shelf life and freshness of your baked goods, courtesy of its vitamin E content, so opt for extra virgin olive oil when your recipe calls for oil.
That said, if you need to cook with high heat, olive oil is not your best choice since it has a low smoke point—between 365° and 420°F—and as a result, the beneficial compounds in the oil degrade at its smoke point and higher temperatures.
To guarantee maximum nutrition and quality, opt for “Extra Virgin” olive oil which has the highest polyphenol levels, look for a recent harvest date on the label, and store the oil in a cool, dark place.