One of the reasons researchers believe the Mediterranean diet is so protective of health is due to the high consumption of olive oil in that region of the world. Studies have linked olive oil consumption to numerous health benefits, such as improved LDL cholesterol levels, better bone health, improved brain health, and potentially even anti-cancer effects. Many of the benefits are believed to be from olive oil’s high content of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) like oleic acid and phenolic compounds such as oleocanthal, which has been noted for its anti-inflammatory properties, as well as oleacein, hydroxytyrosol, and oleuropein, to name a few.
Olive oil is also incredibly versatile in the kitchen. While you will retain more of the active compounds called polyphenols when consuming extra virgin olive oil without heating it, even when cooked, it is still a very rich source of MUFAs. And yes, you can cook with it! Studies have shown that because of the molecular structure of MUFAs, olive oil is actually quite stable when heated in cooking and is safe to use in all kinds of cooking methods.
Here are 12 ways to enjoy extra virgin olive oil as part of your day to day diet.
1. Salad dressing
An EVOO-based dressing adds rich flavor to salads and boosts absorption of certain nutrients in the vegetables (like fat soluble vitamins and antioxidant lycopene. To make, whisk together extra virgin olive oil with red wine vinegar or lemon juice, finely diced shallots and/or minced garlic, sea salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Feel free to mix up the spices or add fresh herbs. While this is best enjoyed within 24 hours, when sealed tightly in the fridge, leftovers will keep for up to 4 days. Omitting the shallots and garlic will extend that time to a week.
2. Cucumber yogurt dip
Making your own yogurt-based dip is so easy and a healthy and delicious alternative to store-bought dips that may contain preservatives, less healthy oils, and minimal protein. To make, combine plain whole milk Greek yogurt, EVOO, grated cucumber (wrap in a clean dish towel and squeeze out excess moisture before adding), salt, pepper, garlic powder, and lemon juice. Serve with raw or cooked vegetables, whole grain crackers or pita chips, or as a dip for cooked poultry, meat, or fish.
3. Drizzle on sliced tomatoes
The fat in the olive oil helps boost absorption of an antioxidant found in certain red and pink fruits and vegetables called lycopene. Its health benefits include TK. If desired, add a touch of sea salt and pepper and garnish with fresh basil leaves and good quality balsamic vinegar.
4. Serve with bread
Instead of butter, serve EVOO with bread to easily incorporate for healthy fats into your day. Pour the olive oil into a small, shallow bowl and add a touch of sea salt and pepper, plus savory spices like rosemary, oregano, or thyme.
5. Add to hummus
Olive oil adds rich flavor to homemade hummus. You can also drizzle some olive oil on top of store-bought hummus for an instant upgrade.
6. Marinated Cheese and Olives
For an easy, elevated appetizer, marinate cubes of feta and your favorite olive in extra virgin olive oil. Add dried spices like rosemary, oregano, and red pepper flakes.
7. Use in a marinade
Whisk together olive oil, lemon or lime juice, and spices to make a marinade for vegetables, chicken, fish, or meat.
8. Drizzle over ice cream
While it may sound unusual, extra virgin olive oil pairs beautifully with vanilla ice cream for a sweet treat. Try our Olive Oil Magic Shell Recipe!
9. Roasted (or grilled) vegetables
Cut vegetables in 1-inch cubes and toss with olive oil, sea salt, and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet and roast at 400 degrees F until the vegetables have begun to caramelize. Alternatively, heat up the grill and throw your favorite seasoned veggies (or stone fruit for a delicious stone fruit salad) on the grill!
10. Substitute for other oils in cooking
You can use olive for all different kinds of cooking. Use it for sautéing, grilling, roasting, and poaching. Use oil instead of butter when cooking eggs for more flavor and healthier fat profile. You can also substitute olive oil for vegetable oil in savory baked goods for a richer flavor.
11. Blend it into your coffee
Add extra nutrients to your morning brew by adding a tablespoon of EVOO to black coffee or latte and then blend using a handheld frother.
12. Simply do a shot of olive oil
A great time of day to do this is when you take your vitamins, as the fat in the oil will enhance the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Drizzle olive oil over yogurt and homemade granola for a delicious and flavorful breakfast packed with healthy fats, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory nutrients.
As you can see, it’s incredibly easy to work olive oil into your daily diet to help you reap the benefits. This list is just a small sampling of all the things you can do with olive oil. Who knew that taking care of yourself could be so delicious?
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