Olive oil was a valuable medicine in the hands of ancient Greek doctors. The Greek physician Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, mentions 60 different diseases which could be treated with olive oil, such as skin infections, wounds and burns, gynecological ailments, ear infections.
Olives and Olive oil, the elixir of life
Considerable medical research attributes important health-giving benefits to the daily consumption of olive oil – especially, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and of olives.
The beneficial and therapeutic elements of olive oil, known and respected for thousands of years, are due to its high content of mono-unsaturated fatty acids and its high content of anti-oxidative substances.
Olive oil constitutes basic product of the Mediterranean diet pyramid, which is based on the dietary traditions of Crete and southern Italy in the 1960s.
The importance of the Mediterranean diet consists in the fact that there is a general consensus among health professionals that this diet is healthy and leads to notably low incidence of chronic diseases and to high life expectancy rates. The diet is characterized by abundant plant foods (fruits, mainly as typical daily desserts, vegetables, bread, other forms of cereals, beans, nuts, and seeds). It also includes olive oil as the principal source of fat, moderate amounts of dairy products (principally cheese and yogurt), low to moderate amounts of fish and poultry, red meat in low amounts, and wine consumed in low to moderate quantities, normally with meals.
The Mediterranean dietary pattern is characterized as rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids, a balanced ratio of essential fatty acids, and high amounts of fiber and antioxidants, such as vitamins E and C, polyphenols, selenium, and glutathione. Greater adherence to the traditional Mediterranean diet has been associated with a significant reduction in total mortality and improvement in longevity as well as lower incidence of atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and biochemical indicators of insulin resistance, inflammation, or cardiovascular disease risk.
Olive oil and Cardiovascular Disease
The consumption of olive oil contributes to the decrease or elimination of the appearance of coronary disease and other cardiovascular diseases. It has been proved that the appearance of such diseases is relevant to hyperlipidemia, high blood pressure and smoking. The increased cholesterol of blood plays important role to the appearance of coronary disease. Consequently, the nutrition is vital to the prevention of such diseases. The low density cholesterol of those who follow the Mediterranean nutrition and thus consume a great quantity of olive oil is in lower levels, while the high density cholesterol (the good cholesterol) is higher.
Studies have shown that people who consumed about 2 tablespoons of Virgin Olive Oil daily for 1 week showed less oxidation of LDL cholesterol and higher levels of antioxidant compounds, particularly phenols, in the blood. But while all types of olive oil are sources of mono - unsaturated fat, Extra Virgin Olive Oil contains higher levels of antioxidants, particularly vitamin E and phenols, because it is less processed.
Olive oil and Cancer
It is widely believed that olive oil provides protection against cancer and especially against some particular types, such as the breast cancer.
A study published in “The Archives of Internal Medicine” finds that the consumption of olive oil helps reduce women's chances of developing breast cancer. The decrease of the appearance of such cancer due to the consumption of olive oil varies from 30% to 50%. According to Dr. Dimitrios Trichopoulos, chairman of the Department of Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, “American women might actually experience as much as 50% reduction in breast cancer risk, if they consumed more olive oil” instead of other fats in their diet. Dr. Trichopoulos adds that “even though diet does not go to the root of the breast cancer problem, the findings of various studies indicate that a prudent diet containing plenty of vegetables with olive oil may lower the risk of their disease”.
Besides, according to recent research, the olive oil protects against other types of cancer as well, namely endometrial, gonads, prostate, stomach, colon, liver and pancreas cancer.
The consumption of olive oil diminishes the metastatic phenomenon, i.e. the ability of cancer to make metastasis.
Olive oil and Gastrointestinal System
Olive oil can be digested more easily than any other edible fat or oil. It also has protective action, as, according to recent research, its consumption leads to the decrease of stomach cancer, and, in cases of gastric ulcer, olive oil is very beneficial, because it decreases the excretion of gastric acid.
Thus, the olive oil supports the normal function of the digestive system, reducing to minimum the chances of ulcer creation and other related diseases, and it is the best natural medicament for the fight against constipation.
It also increases the absorption of calcium and protects women against osteoporosis.
Olive oil consumption is also very important for the liver, as it contributes to the normal function of hepatic shells, it diminishes the production of low density (“bad”) cholesterol, and augments the production of high density (“good”) cholesterol.
Olive oil and Urinary System
The olive oil consumption protects the kidneys from the toxic action of other fat or medicines, and, therefore, diminishes the occasion of nephric deficiency.
Olive oil and Diabetes
Greek traditional nutrition is considered the ideal model against diabetes. In cases of diabetes type II, most dietitians consult patients to cover 30% - 40% of daily calories with olive oil.
Additionally, it has been proved that the use of olive oil in nutrition helps to sustain human metabolism at a good balance, and body’s and bone growth at a good level.
Olive oil contains antioxidants, which help protect the body from free radicals, and delay the change of cellular structure which accelerates the aging process.
One more unique property of olive oil is that it dissolves useful substances coming from food, which cannot be absorbed by the human body.
Besides, as rich source of vitamin E, which improves sexual life, olive oil can be considered a very good aphrodisiac.
Olive Oil and Cosmetology
Olive oil skin care is an ancient beauty secret. In pre-historic Greece, olive oil was one of the most important elements for the face and body treatment, as it promotes a smooth, radiant complexion, helps maintain elasticity of skin, adds shine to hair and heals dry nails.
Olive oil has also been used in soap making for thousands of years. Olive oil, like all fats and oils, is transformed into soap by adding lye. Over the centuries, the process of making soap from olive oil was improved, different oils were mixed with olive oil, and additives – from algae to minerals – were utilized.
Olive oil soap has the property, when mixed with water, to remove the dirt form clothes and body. The olive oil soap has either green or white color, and is pure and friendly to the skin, while at the same time it hydrates and protects the skin. Being non toxic, friendly to the environment and very effective, the olive oil soap is highly recommended for the body care and for the washing of clothes.
In Greece, soap making became an important industry on the islands of Crete and Lesvos, and in the city of Volos, in the 18th and 19th centuries, with major exports of soap from these regions.
There were 45 soap factories in Crete, using 2,200,000 okes (a unit measuring 1280gr) of olive oil per year. Large ships of 150-170 tons were built in Crete to transport soap to Constantinople, Thessaloniki, Smyrna and Syria.
A visitor to Heraklion, Crete in 1881 writes: “The Heraklion Soap Factory produces excellent scented soap. Linen washed with Heraklion soap is not only cleaner than using any other soap, but also gives off a pleasant scent, even if the soap is not mixed with any perfume”.
Greek Healthy Nutrition for children
Greek Healthy Nutrition for Children is a modern nutritional recommendation inspired by the traditional dietary pattern of Greece and specifically the Greek islands, mainly of Crete, based on the same principles as the nutrition for adults.
Healthy food can stabilize children's energy, sharpen their minds, out their moods, and more importantly prevent childhood obesity which can lead to weight related problems in adulthood, as well as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Children can easily develop a preference for junk food because it is yummy. It is the parents’ role to introduce them to better tasty choices. It is common knowledge that food preferences are developed early in life. Teaching them how to eat right in childhood creates a life-long pattern in one’s relationship with food. Setting the good example is also very important as ‘kids do as you do’. In order to make a point, parents should first eat healthy themselves.
Children should have regular family meals at home because the family gathering is a festivity, amusement, enjoyment, communication, discussion, lesson of life, a small happy world every day. Cooking at home is healthier and a great example for kids. Let them share buying food with you or participating at cooking. Present food as a game. They are going to love it!
Avoid junk food, sugar-sweetened sodas and empty calorie snacks; skip the doubtful-oil- quality salty fries, limit beverages, sugar and salt. Persuade children to eat more fruits, unsalted nuts, salads with fresh vegetables, spinach, fresh fruit juices, whole grains; encourage them to drink milk, eat low- fat diary products mainly cheese & yoghurt, lean meat and poultry, eggs, fish and pulses, mainly beans & lentils.
Always cook with OLIVE OIL. Avoid hydrogenated vegetable oils. Even french fries are healthier with olive oil. I strongly recommend though baking, broiling and grilling instead of frying. So, why don’t you try baked potatoes instead? The beneficial and therapeutic elements of olive oil, namely its anti-inflammatory and anti-hypertensive effects, create a protective shield against many diseases. OLIVE OIL IS THE MAIN COMPONENT OF LONGEVITY, IT'S THE ELIXIR OF LIFE!
My recipes here consist a sample of Greek healthy food for children and I believe that children are going to like them as my son George - Angelos does. I completely support the First Lady Michel Obama's initiative to the schools, and I fully agree with Cat Cora's position that children's problem among others is the family education!
The physical and emotional health of our children depends largely on a healthy nutrition. Childhood obesity must be dealt seriously. We need common sense. We need more healthy calories. Make kids like fresh products from Mother Nature. That's the incomparable advantage of the healthy Greek diet! Let's lead our children to a healthier life, a better life-style!