Celebrate the Hanukkah Miracle and Good Health with Olive Oil
During Hanukkah we remember the miracle of the menorah, when one small flask of olive oil burned for eight days. One way to honor and celebrate this miracle is to use olive oil in many of the dishes that are prepared
It is common knowledge today that olive oil is not only a delicious way to celebrate Hanukkah, it is also one of the healthiest oils available for cooking. Let’s take a look at this special oil to learn more.
What is Olive Oil
Simply stated, olive oil is derived from olives. It can be consumed without any processing at all; just pressed from the olive. If you took a handful of olives and squeezed them, you would get olive oil. No other vegetable oil can claim that distinction. In its most natural form, olive oil is resplendent in flavor and nutrition.
Of course, refining the process has created many other varieties of olive oil. We have listed some general categories of olive oil, but each category will also contain other variations. Here are the basics you would find in a grocery store:
- Extra Virgin – This oil is from the first pressing of the olives and is not processed or refined, and is probably unfiltered. You will notice a very ‘olive’ taste and a rich color.
- Virgin – This olive oil would be from the second pressing and is most likely filtered, and may be somewhat processed.
- Pure – You will find this oil to have less flavor and will be lighter in color since it has been through more filtering and refining. If you don’t want an olive taste to your olive oil, this is probably what you would want to use.
- Extra Light – This category encompasses a great deal of processing, refining, and blending. You will find most olive oil with this label to be a mix of highly processed olive oil and a vegetable oil. Some people like this variety for cooking.
Now that you are familiar with the varieties of olive oil, let’s take a look at some of the health benefits. This may give you even more reason to olive oil in celebration of Hanukkah.
Health Benefits of Olive Oil
All olive oil contains those desirable mono-unsaturated omega-9 fatty acids and are rich in antioxidants. However, if you want the greatest boost of antioxidants, choose extra virgin olive oil. This is the oil that is from the first pressing of the olives so it is loaded with the most concentrated amounts of phyto-nutrients, which are known for having anti-inflammatory properties.
Olive oil has been shown to help lower LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff) while raising HDL cholesterol (the good stuff). This benefit helps protect against heart disease by regulating cholesterol levels. In addition, further studies show the mono-unsaturated fatty acid of olive oil also helps lower blood pressure. Extra virgin olive oil provides high concentrations of vitamin E and beta-carotene, keeping the circulatory system healthy and pumping strong.
Although studies regarding the role of olive oil in reducing cancer are inconclusive, there are interesting data. Research has shown some effects of reducing risks in the development of cancers of the digestive tract, respiratory tract, and breasts when subjects use olive oil routinely in their diet. These regular olive oil eaters are compared to non-olive oil eaters and people who more often consume saturated fat and butter. There could be other risk factors involved so the results of the studies are still mixed, although promising.
Other benefits associated with consuming olive oil include naturally healing stomach ulcers, gastritis, and other digestive tract disorders. Still more studies are starting to uncover a possible connection between olive oil consumption and improved blood calcium levels. This could point to the eventual link between overall bone health and olive oil consumption.
Still more research has provoked interest in the link between cognitive health and the use of olive oil. In older adults, both visual and verbal responses improved after the subjects increased their olive oil intake aggressively throughout the day. Laboratory research is also being done which is showing increased cognitive activity when animals are fed olive oil. The ability to protect the brain during times of stress may be one of the most amazing benefits this delicious oil has to offer.
Which brings us back to Hanukkah and the tradition of olive oil. The health benefits of olive oil are so expansive, it is hard to believe that the use of olive oil during Hanukkah ever strayed so far from what most of us would consider healthy foods.
Now we have the wisdom to know better! You do not have to indulge in fat soaked donuts and latkes to celebrate the miracle of the oil. Instead, pay homage to the true miracle – the olive oil that has been revered through the ages is the same olive oil that is today known as one of the healthiest foods for your body, which is even more reason to celebrate.