Olive Oil Brings More than Flavor to Your Diet!
Antioxidants work by neutralizing highly reactive, destructive compounds called free radicals. Free radical production is actually a normal part of life, part of the equation of simply breathing in oxygen. Usually, the body's natural defense systems neutralize free radicals that develop, rendering them harmless.
However, environmental assaults on the body, such as UV-radiation, pollutants and alcohol, can overpower the body's ability to neutralize free radicals, allowing them to cause damage to the structure and function of the body's cells. There is good evidence that this damage contributes to aging and leads to a host of illnesses, including cancer and heart disease.
Consuming more antioxidants helps provide the body with tools to neutralize harmful free radicals. It is estimated that there are more than 4,000 compounds in food that act as antioxidants. They are present in foods as vitamins, minerals, carotenoids, and polyphenols, among others.
An antioxidant is a molecule capable of slowing or preventing the oxidation of other molecules. Oxidation reactions can produce free radicals, which start chain reactions that damage cells. Antioxidants terminate these chain reactions by removing free radical intermediates, and inhibit other oxidation reactions by being oxidized themselves.
Why is it important to consume antioxidants?
Antioxidants are associated with several health benefits in humans. Extra virgin olive oil is an important source of antioxidants. The most important are polyphenols antioxidants and tocopherols (vitamins E).
There are as many as 5.5 mg of polyphenols antioxidant and 1.6 mg of vitamins E in every tablespoon of olive oil.
The FDA recommends 120 mg of antioxidants each day for a 25-year-old male. That means that extra virgin olive oil could be 12% of the daily source of antioxidants in your diet if you just use two tablespoons of it in your salads. And it could be almost 30% if you drizzled it over fish or meat or roasted vegetables or used it as a dipping oil with bread. If you do the same with refined vegetable oils, there is no antioxidant intake.
Olive oil is rich in oleic acid, a monosaturated fatty acid, and the phytochemicals oleurpein and hydrooxylorosol, both of which are potent anti-oxidants.
Olive oil has been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol (commonly known as "bad cholesterol"), while raising the level of HDL ("good") cholesterol in the blood. A person's "good" cholesterol helps to keep LDL cholesterol from being converted into the fatty plaque that can clog arteries.
Olive oil can also reduce blood pressure and help regulate blood sugar levels. Also, the anti-oxidants oleurpein and hydrooxylorosol in olive oil both help to fight cancer, especially breast cancer.
Olive polyphenols have been demonstrated to inhibit or delay the rate of growth of bacteria, such as Salmonella, Cholera, Staphylococcus, Pseudomonas, and Influenza in vitro.
Vitamin E may help prevent or delay coronary heart disease by limiting the oxidation of LDL-cholesterol. It may also help prevent the formation of blood clots.
Recent studies have shown that the abundant phenolic antioxidant fractions of olive oil have a potent inhibitory ability on reactive oxygen species associated with colon and breast pathologies. Some polyphenol antioxidants, such as resveratrol, inhibit occurrence and/or growth of mammalian tumors.
Skin Damage and Photoprotection
Polyphenolic components of olive oil have been compared to traditional antioxidants used by the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry to prevent skin damage. Results show polyphenols as having the highest activity as radical scavengers. Another beneficial health effect attributed to consumption of foods rich in polyphenolic antioxidants are anti-aging consequences such as slowing the process of skin wrinkling.