A Star of Global Cuisine One of the first crops cultivated in the world, the olive produces excellent oil that has been treasured since antiquity for its rich flavor and versatile uses. In recent years, olive oil has become increasingly popular in global cuisine. New research has focused a considerable amount of attention on the significant health benefits of extra virgin olive oil. Olive oil may help decrease the risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and Alzheimer’s disease. A study from Spain has shown that higher olive oil consumption was associated with leaner body weight. Exciting Potential Benefits Research indicates the health benefits of olive oil can be traced to two main factors: 1. Oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid, which is highly concentrated in olive oil. Consumption of oleic acid may be associated with: Reduction of total cholesterol and an increase in the high-density cholesterol (HDL-C), which has a protective effect on blood vessels. Improved sensitivity of cells to insulin, which helps to prevent diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. Decreased risk of heart disease. Decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Decreased risk of breast cancer. 2. Phenolic compounds, which are potent antioxidants found in virgin and extra virgin olive oil. These compounds give unrefined olive oils their distinctive flavors and high degree of stability. Studies indicate these compounds may help to: Turn off the activity of genes that produce the kind of inflammation that causes coronary heart disease. Decrease production of inflammatory chemicals. Decrease the production of the most damaging form of cholesterol, oxidized LDL cholesterol. Extra Virgin Olive Oil Recent research has identified the antioxidant called oleocanthal, which is only found in extra-virgin olive oil. Oleocanthal is a natural inflammation-fighting compound with potency strikingly similar to that of the drug ibuprofen in inhibiting an enzyme that causes pain and inflammation. A Delicious Oil for Kitchen and Table The amount of olive oil associated with protection against inflammation is only two teaspoons a day, which is easy to achieve. We prefer to buy organic olive oil, because pesticides can accumulate in oils. A sprinkle of olive oil makes a simple salad dressing, and a little oil can be used for dipping bread, instead of butter.