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Olive Oil's extraordinary uses and benefits
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Earlier this year, we mentioned that olive oil was an integral part of one of the healthiest eating patterns in the world: the Mediterranean diet. Today, we will take a closer look into olive oil: its different types, its health and beauty benefits, and its many uses in the kitchen and even around the house! Read on to discover the full benefits of this versatile and delicious ingredient.

Types of olive oil

With olive oil, it is worth investing in the highest quality variant in order to reap its full benefits.

Here is a quick guide on how to choose olive oil.

Olive oil is extracted by pressing or crushing olives. It is categorized depending on the amount of processing involved. Varieties include:

Virgin olive oil - Arises from the second pressing. It is more processed and has a slightly inferior taste.

Pure olive oil - Undergoes some processing, such as filtering and refining. It is of inferior quality as it usually involves a blend of refines and virgin production oil. It lacks strong flavor.

Light olive oil - Undergoes considerable processing and only retains a very
mild olive flavor.

To help protect the fragile environments of the Mediterranean and elsewhere, as well as reaping the most possible nutritional benefits without ingesting any harmful chemicals or genetically modified organisms, it is best to buy organic olive oil. It also will tend to be of best quality and flavor.

Health benefits

It has long been reported that there are a number of health benefits of olive oil. These are due to both its high content of monounsaturated fatty acids and its high content of antioxidant substances. This is truest of extra virgin olive oil, which retains most of its natural properties thanks to its low level of processing.

- Heart disease prevention: Olive oil controls LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels while raising HDL ("good") levels, thus providing great protection against heart disease. Extra virgin olive oil also contains high levels of vitamin E, a nutrient with potent cardioprotective effects.

- Digestive health aid: Olive oil is known to be gentle on the digestive system. In fact, its protective function has a beneficial effect on ulcers and gastritis. Olive oil activates the secretion of bile and pancreatic hormones much more naturally than prescribed drugs. Consequently, it lowers the incidence of gallstone formation.

- Cancer prevention: Olive oil's is loaded with antioxidants, which many believe help protect the body from cancer by neutralizing damaging free radicals. In particular, studies have shown that regular intake of olive oil helps reduce chances of contracting skin and colon cancers.

- Curing earaches: A number of people swear by olive oil as a natural remedy for earaches; they simply apply some heated or ambient-temperature oil to the ear that hurts for relief and regulation of excess wax.

- Soothing the throat and easing snoring: Many people believe that taking a sip of olive oil before heading to bed can help lubricate your throat muscles, thus cutting down on snoring. Others have noted that downing a teaspoon of olive oil can help soothe a scratchy or ticklish throat.

- Fun fact: Cats benefit from the lubricant properties of olive oil too! Adding a teaspoon of olive oil to cat food helps prevent hairballs, as well as promoting a shiny, healthy coat. Olive oil is likely to be gentler on a cat's system than petroleum-based anti-hairball lubricants.

Beauty benefits

Healthy Skin
• Moisturizing: People have used olive oil for centuries for skincare. It is a great skin moisturizer, in part because it contains linoleic acid, a compound not made by the body, but which prevents water from evaporating. It can be applied directly to the skin as a moisturizer, or added to a warm bath for a good healthy soak.
• Olive oil can provide a safe and natural lubricant for a close shave, and a soothing aftershave lotion. In fact, some mainstream shaving products are based on olive oil.
• Also, olive oil can be used to soothe chapped lips or soften cuticles before a manicure.
• Protecting from UV damage: As mentioned above, olive oil is also thought to help prevent skin cancer cause by exposure to UV light.

Healthy Hair
• Olive oil's moisturizing properties also have benefits for hair.

Combing small quantities through dry or frizzy hair helps tame and moisturize locks, especially on humid days. Olive oil can also provide some relief for damaged hair.

Uses in cooking

Olive oil is a highly versatile ingredient which can be used for many an occasion. Here are a few examples of how to prepare and enjoy olive oil:
- As a dip for fresh baguette bread: simple and delicious indulgence
- On its own or together with a combination of other condiments for salad dressing
- Drizzled on pasta after cooking to avoid sticking and increase flavor
- For oven-roasting vegetables
- In the bottom of pans to ensure a non-stick surface and add flavor to the dish. Note: olive oil cannot be exposed to high heating/frying cooking methods.

Other uses

The wonders of olive oil do not stop at the kitchen or on the bathroom shelves... Many people find it to be a highly useful product around the house too. It may be used to polish wooden furniture, condition leather, or even as a lubricant for squeaky doors and stuck zippers!

How to care for your olive oil

Light and heat are oil's worst enemy, so olive oil should be kept in a cool and dark place, tightly sealed, for best conservation.

Sources: http://www.healingdaily.com & http://www.thedailygreen.com

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