The cheaper forms of olive oil (those labelled regular or virgin) didn’t show any benefit – it had to be extra virgin. The difference between the grades of oil lies not just in the lower acidity, freshness and richer taste but in the number of chemicals released called polyphenols. High grade extra virgin oil, especially if cold extracted, has around 30 polyphenols that act as antioxidants, which reduce inflammation and also help reduce the effects of aging particularly on the heart and brain.
Doctors and medical professionals in United States are increasingly advocating a Mediterranean diet plan as research uncovers its many health benefits. A groundbreaking 2013 study by the University of Barcelona made the connection between the Mediterranean diet and cardiovascular health strikingly clear. Over 7,000 Spanish participants—many of whom were overweight, smokers, or diabetic—adopted a Mediterranean-style diet rich in healthy fats (olive oil or nuts) for nearly five years. After a comprehensive follow-up, surprised researchers ended the study early after observing a sharp improvement in participants’ health. The findings showed an “absolute risk reduction,” or a 30% decrease of cardiovascular disease among these high-risk individuals. The results, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, made news across the U.S. as evidence enough that everyone, from high-risk to healthy individuals, can benefit by eating Mediterranean diet foods.
Most people in the Mediterranean eat a balanced breakfast within one to two hours of waking up, which starts their day right by balancing blood sugar when it’s at its lowest. They then typically eat three meals a day that are filling, with plenty of fiber and healthy fats. Many people choose to have their biggest meal mid-day as opposed to at night, which gives them the opportunity to use that food for energy while they’re still active.
Dr. Hallberg notes that it is easy to over-consume fat in liquids, especially full fat whipping cream. “Someone will come in and say they are in a weight loss plateau. We will look at their diet and see they are consuming six coffees, with two tablespoons of whipping cream in each one.” Cutting back on the whipping cream can get them out of a stall.
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The smoke point of EVOO is almost 400 degrees, which is much higher than other popular cooking oils like canola (200 degrees), or corn and non-virgin olive oils (around 320 degrees each). According to the Cleveland Clinic, “[H]eating oil above its smoke point—the temperature at which the oil begins to smoke—produces toxic fumes and harmful free radicals (the stuff we’re trying to prevent in the first place). A good rule of thumb: The more refined the oil, the higher its smoke point.”
The Mediterranean diet is most famous for its benefit to heart health, decreasing the risk of heart disease by, in part, lowering levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol, and reducing mortality from cardiovascular conditions. It’s also been credited with a lower likelihood of certain cancers, like breast cancer, as well as conditions like Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. (1)