The Good Oil

Healthy Taste of Life

Anyone coming from the Mediterranean region of the world – and our very own Waiheke Island olive growers – would tell you about the health benefits, as well as the wonderful flavour, of a good dose of olive oil on salads, pasta, fish and almost anything else.

Olive oil is made from crushing olives, removing the stone and turning the fruit into a paste. This is then churned and the oil in the olives is separated by rapidly spinning the mixture.

The main type of fat found in all kinds of olive oil is monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs). These are actually considered a healthy dietary fat.

Recent studies have shown that by increasing olive oil intake while reducing fatty, fried foods can reduce blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels and help to decrease the risk of stroke.

Controlling cholesterol is something we all need to do for a healthy heart but the misconception that, ultimately, cholesterol is bad for us is wrong.

Cholesterol is an essential component in the body. It is found in all the cells of the body, particularly in the brain and nervous system. Body cells are continually dying and new ones are being made. Cholesterol is a major building block from which cell walls are constructed.

Pharmaceutical medicines called statins form part of the treatment to lower cholesterol in patients with high levels. Although effective, they can come with side-effects such as muscle pain, tenderness or weakness.

The good news is that dietary cholesterol is found only in animal products and is not present in plant-based foods unless it has been added during preparation. The catch-cry of “cholesterol-free” olive oil then becomes obvious. The cholesterol hasn’t been removed; it was never there in the first place.

For people who have been advised to lower their cholesterol within three months, policosanols may help achieve this rapidly.

A naturally derived plant wax, policosanols have been shown to assist in the maintenance of healthy cholesterol levels and improve the ratio of good to bad cholesterol by influencing the liver’s synthesis of cholesterol, the same pathway which statins affect.

But even healthier fats like olive oil are high in calories, so use them in moderation. And remember that you can’t make unhealthy foods healthier simply by adding olive oil to them.

Although most people are aware of the health benefits of garlic, you may still have debated whether to increase your dietary intake of garlic in order to improve your health. If you’ve every wondered whether it’s worth the odour; yes, it is.

The aroma of garlic is due to a component called allicin, which is responsible for lowering cholesterol levels, improving cardiovascular health and boosting the immune system. When garlic is dried or powdered the allicin is lost in processing.

Garlic oil capsules retain the allicin or you could try roasting a whole head of garlic. You do not have to peel the garlic before placing it on a baking tray and gently roasting it at 180 degrees Celsius for one hour. The inside of each clove becomes soft and mellow in flavour and can be spread directly on bread or through pasta – not forgetting the olive oil – making the perfect cholesterol-busting dinner.