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What's So Great About Olive Oil?

by: Judy Feder

There’s probably no one out there reading this blog right now who is not aware of the many benefits of the Mediterranean diet and its heart healthy basis—which is olive oil.  This “liquid gold” has long been hailed for its ability to increase the good HDL cholesterol in your blood, protecting you against heart diseases. 

Now, scientists seem to have figured out what constituent of olive oil gives us this greatest protection from heart attack and stroke. In a study of the major antioxidants in olive oil, Portuguese researchers showed that one antioxidant in particular, called DHPEA-EDA, protects red blood cells from damage more than any other part of olive oil.  We know that heart disease is caused partly by reactive oxygen, including free radicals, which affect LDL or "bad" cholesterol and result in hardened arteries.

Our red blood cells are particularly susceptible to oxidative damage because they are our body's oxygen carriers.  Now we’ve all heard the abbreviation EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) amongst all the big chefs out there and now the researchers are saying that the study provides the first evidence that this antioxidant compound is most associated with virgin olive oils, which contain increased levels of DHPEA-EDA compared to other oils. Yes, in virgin olive oils, DHPEA-EDA may make up as much as half the total antioxidant component of the oil. 

Of course these findings will likely lead to the production of "functional" olive oils specifically designed to reduce the risk of heart disease, but in the meantime, pick up a good bottle of extra-virgin olive oil for your salad dressings and foods to be eaten cold (as its strong flavor is able to stick out while not being compromised by heat). EVOO is also great when used for sauteeing ingredients.  Remember, the higher the temperature to which the olive oil is heated, the more one should prefer the use of refined olive oils. Refined olive oils are perfectly suited for deep frying foods and should be replaced after six uses.

Judy feder is a health and nutrition specialist. To read more of her articles, visit her online at

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