Top Pick Of The Week

June 16, 2009
Updated May 2011

. .

Olive Oil

Olive oil isn’t just a “healthy fat”—it’s a beneficial fat. Photo by Tinka | CSP.

WHAT IT IS: Infused olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
WHY IT’S DIFFERENT: Fresh, vibrant flavors of infused oils make you think you just squeezed the fruit (or infused the herb) into them.
WHY WE LOVE IT: It turns every dish into a holiday of flavor, for no extra calories. And, for those who drink olive oil daily for health, it’s a taste treat.

Sonoma Farm Olive Oil
Page 4: Olive Oil Health Benefits

This is Page 4 of a four-page review. See the article index below.

Olive Oil Health Benefits

Much has been written about the health benefits of olive oil. The hype is true. While eating chocolate bars every day won’t prolong your life, the FDA has reviewed the research and opines that two tablespoons of olive oil a day will help keep the doctor away (or at least, will help keep your ticker ticking). The key health benefit of olive oil is that its particular fats reduce bad cholesterol and fight a variety of heart disease problems. That’s why it’s called a “heart-healthy oil.” You don’t have to be older to start worrying about heart disease; in fact, if you’re a twenty-something with a daily burger-and-fries habit, start drinking EVOO by the shot glass.

First, a quickie fat primer:

Types Of Fat

  • Monounsaturated Fat. The healthiest type of fat—it’s actually beneficial fat. It promotes heart health and might help prevent cancer and a slew of other ailments. It’s best known for lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol levels without negatively affecting the “good,” artery-clearing HDL cholesterol. Avocado oil, canola oil, olive oil and peanut oil are rich in monounsaturated fat. Whatever fats you’re using now (other oils, butter, lard): switch over as much as you can to monounsaturated fat.

Types Of Fat continues below.



Types Of Fat (Continued)

  • Polyunsaturated Fat. A moderately healthy fat, it lowers LDL cholesterol but also reduces levels of HDL cholesterol. Polyunsaturated fat is the predominant type of fat in corn oil, safflower oil and soybean oil, among other vegetable oils. If you use these oils, trade up to a monounsaturated fat.
  • Saturated Fat. An unhealthy fat; the body converts it into artery-clogging cholesterol, which greases the path to heart disease. Saturated fat is mostly found in animal products and is solid at room temperature. It is the white fat you see along the edge or marbled throughout a piece of meat and is the fat in the skin of poultry—so when you look at that beautiful marbled steak, recall that beauty is more than just skin deep—in this case, it can go deep enough to kill you. Saturated fat is also in “healthy” animal products like milk (except for 0% fat milk) and foods made from milk (cheese, ice cream), as well as in tropical oils such as coconut oil. One should limit one’s intake of saturated fat; unfortunately, the American diet is full of it.

  • Trans Fat. Is there anyone who hasn’t heard that trans fat is the worst type of fat? A problem created by Big Manufacturing (and now being corrected by food manufacturers, in response to consumer demand and local government mandate), most trans fat is produced by forcing hydrogen into liquid polyunsaturated fat (the process is called hydrogenation). Margarine was traditionally made this way. The process gives the fats a longer shelf life and helps stabilize their flavors. But the original polyunsaturated fat is O.K., when hydrogenated, the trans fat it becomes is recognized by the body as a saturated fat. What does it do next? It converts it to cholesterol, which raises LDL levels and lowers HDL levels. What’s worse, researchers have discovered that unlike regular saturated fat, trans fat disrupts cell membranes, upsetting the flow of nutrients and waste products into and out of the cell, and may be linked to reduced immune function and possibly cancer.

Healthy Olive Oil

Olive oil contains a group of potent phytochemicals* called phenolic compounds. Studies have shown that:

  • A phytochemical called hydroxytyrosol thins the blood.
  • Other phytochemicals reduce inflammation of the blood vessels and prevent oxidation of fats in the bloodstream.
  • The polyphenolic compounds (types of phytochemicals) in olive oil appear to play a big part in protecting blood vessels. Three polyphenols, oleuropein, tyrosol and hydroxytyrosol, are believed to be particularly helpful in protecting blood vessel walls and dilating the blood vessels for improved circulation.

*Substances in plants that may have health benefits for people.

Results from these studies indicate that adding a small amount of olive oil to one’s daily diet (or, ideally, substituting olive oil for the harmful saturated fats in a typical American diet) can make a significant impact on reducing atherosclerosis and “the cascade of events that lead to heart disease.”

. Cheese Fries
If you currently cook with a polyunsaturated fat such as corn oil, safflower oil or soybean oil, trade up to a healthier fat: avocado oil, canola oil, olive oil or peanut oil. Every little bit helps, even with cheese fries. If you currently use a saturated fat like lard: Danger, Will Robinson! Photo courtesy Dairy Council Of California.

The researchers who studied the immediate impact of olive oil on the conditions above identified the findings as especially important because, in other studies, meals high in saturated fat, such as America’s favorite hamburgers and french fries, have been shown to create the opposite effect. Such meals inhibit the normal and healthy function of blood vessels and constrict blood flow.

Alas, you can’t offset the burger and fries with a dose of olive oil, but the FDA does recommend two tablespoons of quality olive oil taken a day as a prophylactic against heart disease. With the rest of the other healthy diet and exercise prescription, of course.

Sipping those two tablespoons of Sonoma Farm infused olive oil is no “medicine”; it’s pure pleasure.

— Karen Hochman

Sonoma Farm Olive Oil

Infused Flavors: Blood Orange, Fresh Garlic, Hot Pepper, Lemon, Lime, Rosemary and Basil; Garlic-Basil Infused Dipping Oil; Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil

  • 6.8-Ounce Bottle Infused Extra Virgin
    Olive Oil

  • 16.9-Ounce Bottle Infused Extra Virgin
    Olive Oil

  • 16.9-Ounce Bottle Organic Extra
    Virgin Olive Oil

  • 16.9-Ounce Bottle Balsamic Vinegar
    Regular $12.99
    Strawberry $13.99

Purchase online* at

*Prices and product availability are verified at publication but are subject to change. Shipping is additional. These items are offered by a third party and THE NIBBLE has no relationship with them. Purchase information is provided as a reader convenience.

Go To The Article Index Above

Garlic Basic Dipping Oil
Garlic Basil Dipping Oil. Photo by Corey Lugg | THE NIBBLE.
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