First Do No Harm

The Benefits of Olive Oil

Editor's Note: If you visit a market in the middle east or any of the Mediterranean countries, you'll see women leaving the market carrying gallons (and gallons) of olive oil. I made friends with a family from Morocco while living in Ashkelon, Israel and learned a lot about their cooking methods. It seems that a Moroccan recipe can call for anywhere between a half a cup of olive oil to half a swimming pool of olive oil.

While cooking eggplant one day, my friend told me this ancient story about eggplant and olive oil. It's cute . . . and followed by the benefits of olive oil.

Many years ago, in a Mediterranean country, there was a young couple about to marry. In those days, the father of the bride provided the new husband with a dowry. The father of this particular bride owned the largest olive oil factory in the area. The bride's dowry would be 100 barrels of oil; enough olive oil for at least 30 years of marriage. 

The couple married, went on their honeymoon, and returned home to start their new life together.

The wife loved to cook and serve her husband. Her husband enjoyed her cooking, especially her eggplant. He told her that he wanted her eggplant in every meal. He loved her Baba Ganoush, her fried eggplant, her eggplant salads. Much of the young wife's day was spent frying up eggplant for her husband.

When the couples wedding anniversary was just a few weeks away, the couple planned a large celebration. They invited their families and friends to come together to celebrate with them their first year of marriage. One day before the celebration, all the wives showed up at the young wife's kitchen and began cooking up the feast.

The celebration was pulled off without a problem. Everyone ate and drank their fill and wished the young couple 100 more anniversaries.

As the guests were leaving, the young couple stood in their doorway waving their good-byes. When the last was gone, the husband took his wife in his arms, hugging her sweetly, but then whispered into her ear, "My Darling, every day for the past year you have cooked for me your wonderful eggplant. We have had it at every meal. But today, for our celebration with our friends, there was no eggplant. Why is that?"

She looked her husband in the eyes, kissed him on his cheek, and said, "Do you remember my dowry of 100 barrels of olive oil?"

He nodded, yes.

"Well, my husband, we used up the last of it the day before yesterday."

The Mediterranean Diet

In our full article on the Mediterranean Diet, we claimed that the one thing that stood out and made the diet healthy was the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 (in the blood of those who followed this diet). We also pointed out that olive oil is the main oil of their diets.

The thing is, olive oil is not all that high in omega-3 essential fatty acids.

Many have asked, then how can this diet maintain that healthy ratio of fats?

Well, it's quite simple. Olive oil does not contain much omega-6, either. Olive oil is a monounsaturated fatty acid. In America, we get our omega-6s from polyunsaturated fatty acids. By not supplying much omega-6 via their olive oil, people who follow the Mediterranean diet get their omega-3s from other sources: meat, plants, fish, nuts, etc.

Monounsaturated Fatty Acids

Monounsaturated fatty acids does not oxidize in the body. Omega-3s, Omega-6s, and cholesterol all oxidize in the body. Olive oil just happens to be the oil highest in monounsaturated fatty acid. Canola oil comes in second, but I won't have canola oil in my kitchen. There are just too many negatives associated with canola oil.

One reason olive oil does not contribute to oxidative stress is that it is rich in antioxidants, especially vitamin E.

So, let's take a look at all of the benefits of olive oil:

Cooking With Olive Oil

Olive oil will smoke at a higher than most people think; somewhere after 380 degrees. Since I believe in low temp cooking, I keep my frying at or below 350 degrees.

The choice is up to you, but I prefer frying with coconut oil; in fact, I like to mix them together.

The Problem With Extra Virgin Olive Oil

If you've had your ear to the ground, you probably know that companies are ripping off the public claiming their oil to be extra virgin when it isn't.

My local co-op carries olive oil from trusted companies. Here are two trusted brands you can order online.



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