You're probably very familiar with the health benefits of olive oil. But did you know that all olive oils are not created equal?
If you really want to reap the health benefits of olive oil, it's crucial that you procure extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), the only form of olive oil that retains its natural phenols (antioxidants) and other active compounds. EVOO is minimally processed, whereas other oil grades, such as virgin, "pure," or "light," have been industrially refined and the healthful phenols destroyed.
But there's something else you need to know about EVOO's health-promoting properties — they have a relatively short shelf life. Recent studies have found that the potent phenols decline by 40% after only six months.
So how can you be sure you're getting the freshest, most healthful EVOO? Simply select EVOO from the most recent olive harvest. This is the best strategy for obtaining the highest-quality, highest-phenolic oil. This can be a little tricky to keep track of — I know I can't keep up with it. So here's a source — the only one I know of — that procures independently lab certified EVOO according to the global harvest schedule.
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With this type of "scheduled" olive oil, the many health benefits of olive oil are right at your fingertips — or at the tip of your tongue. To me, one of the most exciting benefits of olive oil is its ability to prevent type-2 diabetes, as has been shown in several studies. In the recent PREDIMED study (a long-term nutritional intervention study aimed to assess the efficacy of the Mediterranean diet), the group of people who ate an olive oil-rich Mediterranean diet reported 40% fewer cases of diabetes than the control group (who did not consume olive oil). In another study, which evaluated people at risk for diabetes, two tablespoons per day of EVOO, along with fiber, reduced fasting and 2-hour glucose (blood sugar) to normal, non-diabetic levels.
The reason this is exciting to me is because diabetes increases your risk for so many other health problems. This includes breast cancer, heart disease, dementia, and overall inflammation. We know that olive oil protects against breast cancer. A lower incidence of breast cancer in Mediterranean countries compared to other Western nations suggests that a diet rich in olive oil confers cancer-protective effects. Olive oil consumption is also inversely related to breast density: women who consume greater amounts of olive oil are less likely to have high breast density, a risk factor for breast cancer. And it helps breast-cancer survivors keep their weight down.
In addition, olive oil's ability to reduce the risk of heart disease is well documented. Just two tablespoons of EVOO per day can reduce your risk of heart disease by improving blood cholesterol levels: lowering LDL ("bad") cholesterol, and increasing HDL ("good") cholesterol. The EVOO also reduces inflammation. Combined, this reduces your risk of blood clots, stroke, and dementia.
Many of these benefits come from olive oil's anti-diabetic and anti-inflammatory effects. To experience these and other therapeutic effects of olive oil, remember to buy certified extra virgin olive oil from the latest harvest. The freshest EVOO has a higher phenolic content — and offers greater health benefits.
Your insider for better health,
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Steve Kroening is the editor of Nutrient Insider, a twice-a-week email newsletter that brings you the latest healing breakthroughs from the world of nutrition and dietary supplements. For over 20 years, Steve has worked hand-in-hand with some of the nation's top doctors, including Drs. Robert Rowen, Frank Shallenberger, Nan Fuchs, William Campbell Douglass, and best-selling author James Balch. Steve is the author of the book Practical Guide to Home Remedies. As a health journalist, Steve's articles have appeared in countless magazines, blogs, and websites.