olive-treeThe olive tree is perhaps more closely associated with history and the growth of civilization than any other ancient tree.

According to Greek mythology, the Goddess Athena created the first olive tree during her battle with Poseidon, the Greek God of the sea. She won the competition and planted an olive tree at the Acropolis, providing the city of Athens with food, oil, shelter and wood.

Cultivation of olives began after 2000 B.C. in Crete. Producing and exporting olive oil to the rest of the Mediterranean, North Africa and Asia was crucial to the Greek island’s economy.

Homer referred to olive oil as “liquid gold”. To the ancient people in the Mediterranean, olive oil has always been used for more than just cooking food…it remains a key part of a healthy diet with its proven life-enhancing benefits.

Olive oil is still used in certain religious ceremonies. The Greek Orthodox Church uses it during baptisms.

At the first Olympic Games in 776 B.C., a wreath of olive branches was awarded to the winners.

The olive branch, a universal symbol of peace, was adopted by the UN for its iconic emblem.

Olive Oil: What are the health benefits?

Answer

from Donald Hensrud, M.D. – Mayo Clinic preventive medicine specialist

The main type of fat found in all kinds of olive oil is monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs). MUFAs are actually considered a healthy dietary fat. If your diet emphasizes unsaturated fats, such as MUFAs and polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs), instead of saturated fats and trans fats, you may gain certain health benefits.

MUFAs and PUFAs may help lower your risk of heart disease by improving related risk factors. For instance, MUFAs may lower your total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. MUFAs may also help normalize blood clotting. And some research shows that MUFAs may also benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control, which can be especially helpful if you have type 2 diabetes.

But even healthier fats like olive oil are high in calories, so use them only in moderation. Choose MUFA-rich foods such as olive oil instead of other fatty foods — particularly butter and stick margarine — not in addition to them. And remember that you can’t make unhealthy foods healthier simply by adding olive oil to them.

Youth in a Bottle

Make the Switch! Substitute Olive Oil for Butter or Margarine

This chart displays substitution information for switching 100% extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) for butter or margarine in your favorite recipes.

Butter or MargarineOlive Oil
1 teaspoon3/4 teaspoon
1 tablespoon2 1/4 teaspoons
1/4 cup3 tablespoons
1/3 cup1/4 cup
1/2 cup1/4 cup + 2 tbsp
2/3 cup1/2 cup
3/4 cup1/2 cup + 1 tbsp
1 cup3/4 cup