If you follow my blog, I am almost certain that you have a bottle of extra virgin olive oil sitting in your kitchen right now. But how much do you really know about the olive oil you have bought?
Extra virgin olive oil is one of the healthiest foods you can eat, but not all extra virgin olive oils are created equal. Anyone who wants to get a better understanding of why it is important to buy olive oil which contains the optimal level of health benefits should read ‘The Olive Oil Diet‘ (available as a paperback or e-book on Amazon). Knowledge is power, and that is definitely the case when it comes to olive oil.
‘The Olive Oil Diet‘ is written by two experts who have a lot of experience with healthy eating. Dr Simon Poole is a General Practitioner who regularly writes and speaks about primary care in medicine and nutrition. Judy Ridgway is an international olive oil expert who frequently travels to olive oil producing regions to meet the growers and taste oils (she was the first non-Italian judge to sit on the judging panel of the prestigious Leone d’Oro international awards for olive oil). Judy also gives incredibly interesting olive oil tasting workshops, which I attended in London (we tasted 16 oils!).
‘The Olive Oil Diet‘ describes a diet for life which focuses on including a wide variety of foods in your day. In an age where people follow restrictive diets for a little while and then drop them for the next diet trend, the Olive Oil Diet describes a way of eating which is enjoyable, adaptable and can become a long-term sustainable part of your lifestyle. The authors stress that while a traditional Mediterranean diet naturally follows the principles of the Olive Oil Diet, the tenets of the diet can in fact be applied to cuisines from all over the world (yes, even curries, salsas and noodles).
The book assumes that the reader has limited prior knowledge about olive oil, so it is a wonderfully comprehensive introduction to the world of oils. Even for those who know quite a bit about olive oil, it’s a great refresher and handy reference book. The book is divided into four well-organised parts which are easy to understand and full of useful information. Most importantly, you will immediately be able to apply what you learn in the book the next time you buy olive oil.
Part 1 focuses on the health and nutrition aspects of olive oil based on research information published in peer-reviewed journals and scientific articles. A lot of people know that eating olive oil is not just delicious but also very healthy. Good quality olive oil is beneficial for inflammation, heart disease, insulin levels, cholesterol levels, weight and a host of other issues. The benefit of antioxidants in olive oil is explained in-depth as well as the role different fats plays in the Omega 6:Omega 3 balance. It is enlightening to read about the reasons behind the relatively new introduction of polyunsaturated seed oils (including canola/rapeseed, sunflower, safflower, corn and soybean oils to name a few) versus monounsaturated olive oil which has been used for thousands of years. Once you understand the science behind the health claims, it is much easier to make an educated decision about what type of oil you want to put in your body every day.
Part 2 is all about what to look for when you buy olive oil. It is important to pay attention to the type of container the oil is kept in as well as being able to decipher the real meaning of what is written on the label. Once you understand what clues to look for, you will know very quickly which olive oils to buy and which ones to walk away from for the sake of your health. A label of ‘extra virgin olive oil’ is not always a reliable indicator of the quality of the oil inside. Some companies have been found to mix their oil with other things so buyer beware!
Part 3 discusses the principles of the Olive Oil Diet. It is based on the inclusion of seven types of food (the Seven Pillars) which you should aim to eat every day. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the Olive Oil Diet is not simply limited to a traditional Mediterranean diet but can be applied to any type of cuisine in the world. The authors also address the commonly asked question of whether or not it is healthy to cook with extra virgin olive oil (you may be surprised at the answer and the reasons for it).
Part 4 is where you can experiment with your meals. It is filled with a wonderful collection of diverse recipes which use olive oil. For a sneak peak into what sort of recipes you can expect, I have listed a few below to show how varied they are:
- Mango chutney
- Aubergine Bruschetta
- Herring and Beetroot Salad
- Soupe au Pistou
- Cavatelli with Broad Beans and Peas
- Spicy Seafood Stir-Fry with Noodles
- Moorish Chicken with Orange and Lime and Coriander Bulgur
- Banana Pancakes
- Plums with Almond Crumble Topping
- Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Icing
I recommend ‘The Olive Oil Diet‘ to anyone who is looking for a long-term solution to optimise their health by following a delicious nutrient-rich and inclusive diet with olive oil at its heart. There is a lot about olive oil that the average consumer is not aware of and simply taking the time to educate yourself about olive oil is an easy investment you can make for the sake of your health. Knowledge is power and this book is an invaluable guide to help you make good decisions regarding what food you choose to put in your body.
Full Disclosure: I was given a copy of the book ‘The Olive Oil Diet’. All words and opinions are my own.