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Wellbody Recipe: Olive Oil Elixir; Egyptian Dip Recipe
An elixir of good health, extra-virgin olive oil has been shown to reduce risk of stroke, heart disease, breast cancer, high cholesterol, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes and ulcerative colitis.
But not all olive oils are equal.
Keep reading to find out which olive oils are healthiest and why — and learn how to make dukkha, a tasty Egyptian dip.
Over the years, numerous scientific studies have attributed myriad health benefits to olive oil, including notable research published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine that found a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil decreased heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease in people at high risk by a whopping 30 percent.
Here’s a summary in the New York Times and here’s the link to the original article in the New England Journal. For a detailed roundup of other studies about extra-virgin olive oil’s benefits—from preventing skin cancer to easing depression—check out this post in Olive Oil Times. Since it’s written by the olive-oil industry, you’ll want to read with a grain of salt (or drop of olive oil!), but it includes references to the original studies so you can cross-check the primary sources and judge for yourself.
The bulk of the health benefits stem from the monounsaturated fats and polyphenols found in extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO). Monounsaturated fats help prevent heart disease by reducing levels of artery-clogging lipids in the blood. Polyphenols help calm inflammation in your body by neutralizing free radicals that are caused by environmental stress and normal aging. Inflammation is at the core of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, arthritis and many other ills, so if you prevent inflammation, you can side-step a large number of health problems.
(Other plants are also excellent sources of polyphenols; a recent study found that seven servings of fruits and vegetables a day helps stave off death.)
How much olive oil do you need to derive health benefits?
Recommendations vary, but most suggest 2 – 4 tablespoons a day. And not just any olive oil will do. It needs to be extra-virgin olive oil. That’s the oil derived from the first press of the olives, and it contains the most polyphenols and other beneficial compounds. (After extra-virgin olive oil is pressed out, producers use a chemical process on the leftovers to extract more liquid that's also sold as plain olive oil (not extra-virgin). The chemically extracted oil doesn’t contain as many polyphenols; plus, the chemicals used for extraction aren’t particularly healthy.
Another salient fact is that the olive oil industry is not well regulated in the U.S. That means that even if the bottle says it’s extra-virgin olive oil, it actually may not be. Or, it may be so old that that the polyphenols have broken down. For the most health benefit, choose fresh, extra-virgin olive oil pressed no more than 18 months earlier. Most reputable producers will stamp the date the batch was made on the label.
Adding Olive Oil To Your Diet
If you haven’t already adopted a Mediterranean diet, two to four tablespoons of EVOO per day may seem like a lot of olive oil! Here are suggestions from Rick Martin, founder of Seattle’s 11 Olives, on incorporating EVOO into your diet. (Longevity, 11 Olives’ signature extra-virgin olive oil blend, was recently award a gold medal at the California Olive Council’s 2014 Competition.)
Please note that it’s best to replace other fats, oils and toppings with EVOO rather than adding it to the fats you’re already consuming.
Try extra-virgin olive oil on:
corn on the cob
eggs (instead of ketchup)
tacos (instead of salty additives)
soup (drizzle on top or stir it in)
popcorn (drizzle on top)
hummus (drizzle on top and stir it in)
meats and fish (as a marinade)
You can cook w/olive oil except in recipes that call for searing with high heat. Because the smoke point is lower than other oils, EVOO is also not recommended to grease waffle irons, but OK to use it in the batter.
Here’s a fun recipe from 11 Olives. Kids love it because it involves lots of dipping!
Egyptian Dukkha Recipe
Dip bread or vegetables into your favorite extra virgin olive oil and/or balsamic, then press the bread/vegetable into this exotic nut and spice mixture for a delicious treat!
1/2 cup pistachio nut meat
3/4 cup hazelnuts or almonds
1/2 cup sesame seeds
2 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp flaked or kosher salt
Heat oven to 350, and roast the nuts until toasted, about 5 minutes, then pour into a food processor. In a skillet over medium heat, toast the spices, stirring constantly, until fragrant and beginning to pop, about 3 minutes. Add them to the food process and chop with the nuts until all is finely ground. Pour into a bowl, add the salt and set aside. In the skillet still over medium heat, toast the sesame seeds until golden and add to the bowl. Toss well and serve.