Olive oil is the primary fat of the Mediterranean diet. This diet is well-known to improve health and wellness.
It is similar to vegetarian or vegan-style diets with a very high intake of plant-based foods; the primary difference between the Mediterranean diet and these other very low-fat diets is the number of fats allowed to be eaten.
The primary fat eaten in the Mediterranean diet is olive oil, this is followed by the fats found in seafood. In general, then, the dietary fat intake of a traditional Mediterranean diet consists of omega-9 MUFAs and omega-3 PUFAs.
THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF OLIVE OIL
The oil from the olive is simply a healthy juice in a way. It is replete with massive amounts of phenolic compounds that maintain a high antioxidant value to the oil.
Olive oil is also very high in oleic acid; this is one of the primary MUFAs utilized in the body.
Nonetheless, one of the main differentiators of the predominant oil of the Mediterranean diet is the number of micronutrients found in this oil.
The benefits of oleic acid with regard to cholesterol metabolism have been demonstrated in many studies. In 2004 the FDA allowed that olive oil reduces the risk of coronary heart disease.
In addition to the MUFA oleic acid, olive oil is also comprised of oleuropein. This is a glycoside and is the reason that unprocessed olives have a bitter taste. It has beneficial effects on human health.
Oleuropein is antioxidant, antiatherogenic, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial. It is cardioprotective and neuroprotective. Levels of oleuropein drop as olives mature into darker and even black olives.
This substance is able to scavenge free radicals, inhibit LCL oxidation and to increase inducible nitric oxide synthase expression. Along with this glycoside, there are high levels of phenols and secoiridoids, lignans, and squalene. All of these are beneficial to health.
WHAT ARE MONOSATURATED FATTY ACIDS (MUFAS)?
MUFAs have also been associated with a reduction in the incidence of insulin resistance. Saturated fats have a poor effect on lipoproteins and also on insulin sensitivity. Unsaturated fats do not; they have a beneficial effect.
Although there is still no consensus, studies seem to demonstrate that MUFA-rich diets improve peripheral insulin sensitivity both in those with diabetes and in patients who are healthy.
There is also a study that compared the effects of a MUFA diet, carbohydrate-rich diet, and saturated fat diet.
This study showed the MUFA diet to be the best at preventing central fat redistribution.
This distribution of fat is highly associated with insulin resistance.
In short, there is abundant and growing evidence that MUFA-rich diets are beneficial. A diet rich in extra virgin olive oil provides not just MUFA and its benefits, but also a large number of phenols, glycosides, minerals, and other molecules helpful to better health.
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