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Many of Jamie Oliver’s recipes prescribe “a lug” (or more) of olive oil. And apart from the Naked Chef’s proclivity towards using generous dollops of olive oil, the fact is that olive oil is the healthiest cooking oil. This is because compared to other cooking oils, it contains the highest level of oleic acid, (a monounsaturated fatty acid) and Omega-3 fatty acids (both of which are good for the heart), as well as vitamin E and more than 30 phenolic compounds, which have antioxidising properties.

Due to the presence of these nutrients, olive oil is believed to:

1. Improve lipid profiles by decreasing LDL-cholesterol (bad cholesterol) levels and increasing HDL-cholesterol (good cholesterol) levels

2. Lower blood pressure

3. Reduce the risks of heart-related diseases

4. Decrease levels of thromboxane B2, which inhibits the adverse effects of thrombosis (blood clotting) and prevents strokes in the process

5. Control lipid peroxidation, which leads to the hardening of arteries
6. Reduce age-related cognitive disorders

7. Metabolise glucose efficiently in healthy people, and reduce glucose and insulin levels in diabetics

8. Inhibit progression of breast, colorectal and prostate cancer, as well as Alzheimer’s disease

9. Prevent the formation of ulcers

There are several grades of olive oil available in the market, with the healthiest one being ‘extra virgin’. This comes from the first pressing of the olive and is extracted without using heat (a cold press) or chemicals.

Remember, the less the olive oil is processed and the closer to its natural state it is, the better the quality, and the healthier it is.

– Dr Rashida Ali
The writer is adjunct professor and consultant, Department of Food Science and Technology and ICCBS, University of Karachi and English Biscuit Manufacturers.