Dip Bread Appetizers

Dip Bread Appetizers

The Role of Olive Oil In The Mediterranean Diet

The traditional Mediterranean diet makes good use of canola oil, olive oil, nuts and other seeds that are very rich in monounsaturated fatty acids. Nutrition experts believe that monounsaturated fat plays a very important role in maintaining health and well-being. It has been proven during studies and clinical trials that monounsaturated fatty acids significantly reduce the low-density lipoproteins (LDLs which is known as bad cholesterol) without affecting LDL or good cholesterol levels. This makes it an ideal choice for people suffering from any heart-related complications. The overall cholesterol level in your body depends on the diet and sources of fat. The medical fraternity and nutrition experts recommend a cholesterol level of less than 200 mg /dl for maintaining good health. Total cholesterol level in the range of 200-239 mg /dl is considered to be the borderline-high while more than 240 mg /dl cholesterol levels increase the heart-related complications like arteriosclerosis and coronary heart disease. During the 1960s, studies conducted in the Mediterranean region revealed less than 200 mg /dl cholesterol levels among the local residents. The report surprised researchers as Mediterranean diet consisted very rich sources of fat, particularly on the Isle of Crete. However, further research on the Mediterranean diet solved this mystery as olive oil and other monounsaturated fats were found to be the primary source of their fat intake. The use of animal foods and other saturated fats remained limited. The healthy monounsaturated fat sources provided a dominant role in contributing to the good health effects of the traditional Mediterranean diet.

A simple blood test can be performed to determine your total cholesterol level. The low-cost cholesterol screening devices that are displayed in shopping malls and free tests to promote them provide only total cholesterol level. The physicians perform more detailed and accurate tests that reveal a complete picture of your lipid profile, including LDLs, HDLs and their ratios. Although some researchers believe that 150 mg /dl cholesterol level can be more effective in preventing heart-related complications, the medical fraternity and researchers at Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute unanimously recommend a cholesterol level of 200 mg /dl to be ideal for maintaining good health. Cholesterol levels in the range of 200 – 239 mg /dl is considered high enough for prescribing medications and other preventive measures to effectively lower your blood cholesterol. If your cholesterol level rises to more than 240 mg /dl, it puts you under the high-risk category for heart-related compilations.  So, include olive oil in your diet that has been proven to sustain the health effects of the Mediterranean diet. It will help you in reducing your LDLs (bad cholesterol) to less than 130 mg /dl while keeping the HDLs (good cholesterol) at more than 35 mg /dl as recommended by medical and nutrition experts.

Feel confused about “good” and “bad” cholesterol?  Actually, cholesterol has been broadly categorized as High-density lipoproteins and Low-density lipoproteins.  Low-density lipoproteins are called bad cholesterol because of their sticky nature. They cling to the artery walls and cause arteriosclerosis. The High-density lipoproteins are called good cholesterol because they pick up these sticky LDLs and carry them to the liver where they are recycled.  Improvements in HDLs significantly reduce the chances of heart-related complications. Olive oil is considered a very good source of monounsaturated fats that increase good cholesterol while lowering the bad ones. It’s the olive oil in the Mediterranean diet that promoted good health among locals, even though they consumed very fat rich food. You should include olive oil in your diet to increase the proportion of monounsaturated fat intake in your overall fat consumption.

Low-density lipoproteins or LDLs are called bad cholesterol and create risks for heart-related complications don’t mean that they are not useful for our body. In fact, our body needs cholesterol for making hormones and normal functioning of various body parameters. Low-density lipoproteins are produced in the liver and get dispersed throughout the body to promote cholesterol availability. Unfortunately, low-density lipoproteins or LDLs are quickly oxidized (we will talk about it later). When LDLs are oxidized, they stick to the artery walls.  These fatty deposits of oxidized LDL or o-LDLs are called plaques that keep on accumulating within the artery walls. The plaque deposition or arteriosclerosis hardens the artery walls and reduces their blood flow capacity. Heart attack or strokes occur when the plaques completely block the blood flow. Saturated fat is not considered healthy simply because it increases the low-density lipoproteins. Polyunsaturated fats lower the amount of LDL cholesterol, but they also reduce the amounts of high-density or good cholesterol. Monounsaturated fats are the best option for reducing LDL cholesterol without affecting the amount of high-density lipoproteins. Olive oil is a good choice for keeping the arteries clean and flexible. You can keep your LDLs within the healthy range by substituting dairy and animal products with olive oil. Plant foods are healthier than animal fat.

When plant foods dominate your diet, you don’t need any special efforts to control your intake of saturated fat. You should incorporate whole-grain foods and bean dishes in your diet with sufficient amounts of fruits and vegetables. When fruits, vegetables and whole-grains are the main sources of your diet, there would be hardly any room for unsustainable amounts of high-fat foods. However, meat and dairy products can be enjoyed occasionally for a change of taste. The research on canola and olive oil in Meditation diet has proven that these sources of monounsaturated fat are the perfect substitute of saturated fat like butter, cocoa butter, shortening and lard. In fact, traditional American recipes provide enough room to use olive oil rather than saturate fat for producing equally mouth watering dishes. You can also use it for baking as well.

In a nutshell, olive oil is the perfect source of monounsaturated fat that allows you to enjoy fat-rich delicacies as long as you can incorporate plant food in your diet, eat moderate amounts of fat and keep your weight under control. So, substitute your saturated and trans-fatty acids with olive oil and reduce the intake of high-fat food for a healthier life.

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