Why olive oil is a remarkable superfood and you should forget the misleading headlines about it

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Professor Robert Thomas is a huge advocate of olive oil and explains why you should be too

Olive oil is a remarkable superfood that we should include more of in our daily dietary choices. This ancient staple is an ideal source of slow release energy, packed fullof nutrients which enhance our current health, protect us from premature aging and future chronic disease. Recent reports suggesting that it's not as miraculous as we thought, based a tiny minority of fanatics who guzzle cups of it every day, are deliberately misleading the public, in order to grab a sensational headline.

Anyone with an ounce of common sense will know that eating too much of anything, with a high calorific value, irrelevant of the other healthy properties, will contribute to a high cholesterol and weight gain. Being overweight is linked to numerous health issues so if you are struggling with your weight, reducing oils, fats and carbohydrates and particularly sugar is clearly prudent. That said, chastising Dua Lipa, one of the most beautiful women in the World,for drizzling olive oil on her ice cream is clearly misplaced.

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What make olive oil so god for us

As well as its wonderful taste and aroma, olive oil is rich in two vital nutritional components - omega fats and natural chemicals called phytochemicals. The healthy fats in olive oil are mainly the unsaturated varieties which are also found in other plants such avocado, macadamia nuts, legumes and fruit. Of the two types of unsaturated fats, olive oil is rich in those called monounsaturated fatty acids, particularly omega 9, otherwise known as oleic acid. There are some omega 7, and polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega 3 and 6) with a little saturated fat, which, as it is plant based is stillhealthy.

These fats cannot be made by the body so have to be ingested. They are essential for the formation of cell walls, brain development and smooth running of the bodies enzymatic and hormones. These fats help us to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. They are an excellent source of slow-release energy, as they have a low glycaemic index, which helps avoid peaks and troughs in blood sugar. This explains why it is recommended by the diabetic association and that studies have shown it helps to increase insulin levels and lower blood sugar.

Other studies have shown that people who eat a lot of olive oil, as their main fat source, such as in the Mediterranean diet tend to have higher "goodcholesterol" levels (HDL) and lower "bad cholesterol" (LDL) levels as well as a lower incidence of heart attacks or strokes. The phytochemicals, particularly the polyphenols, in olive oil vary with the variety and quality of the plant and the way it is processed and filtered. Andrea Diforte from one of the UK's major importer of cold pressed olive oil from Sicily explains: "Cold pressed extraction means that the temperature never rises above 27oC so the delicate chemicals and fats are preserved in their natural form"

These polyphenols have multiple mechanisms of benefit. They help feed the healthy bacteria in the gut, improving gut wall integrity; they improve anti-oxidant pathways which protect us from ingested andenvironmental toxins; they have direct anti-inflammatory which explain why studies have shown it prevents premature aging, reduces the risks of arthritis, dementia, and cancer. One study has even shown it can directly inhibit the expression of a gene linked to breast cancer called HER2.

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The king of olive oils, according to Andrea Diforte, are the cold pressed, unfiltered varieties: Although unfiltered olive oil can look bit cloudy, it contains more of the pulp from the olive, maintaining a deeper green colour,stronger aroma and above all a powerful robust taste" This rustic, slightly bitter taste is a result of the higher concentration of the beneficial polyphenols. The pulp also contains fibre and prebiotic lignans which are rocket fuel for the favourable gut bacteria. Both cold extraction and infiltering, however, does make the manufacturingprocess more complex and significantly shortens the shelf life - both factors making it more expensive for consumers. The trick therefore, would be to go for a smaller amounts of a good quality brand rather than a higher quantity of a processed oil which has the goodnessremoved yet the calories remaining.

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